How to keep towels fluffy?

How Do I Keep Towels Soft?

Posted on December 4, 2013 / in Towel Care / 36 Comments

It’s a hard life, being a towel. All that hard water and friction can really wear a fabric down. Not to mention regular exposure to oil and soil. Even our fluffy, luxurious Turkish towels need a little TLC now and then, to keep them feeling their best.

If you’ve ever asked the question ‘How do I keep towels soft?’ we can help. We’ve put together some tips to get your towels as good as new.

Cut back on detergent.

Towels feel stiff because they start to build up soapy residue. By using a little less detergent than suggested, your machine’s rinse cycle will have an easier time washing out those last pesky bits of soap.

Wash in warm water.

Warmer water (around body temperature is best) absorbs detergent better, leaving less buildup on your towels. You can also let detergent dissolve in the washer before adding towels – just start the wash cycle, add soap and wait a minute or two before adding your towels.

Replace fabric softeners with vinegar.

Fabric softeners contain silicon that will make towels water repellent, so they won’t get as good a wash. Instead, soften your towels by using one cup of white vinegar about every six weeks; this will remove the soapy residue that makes towels feel rough, bringing back softness while restoring them to full absorbency. Simply run the towels through a regular washing cycle, then redo them using vinegar instead of soap.

Use baking soda.

This will help loosen up fibers and clean off any chemicals or grime, making your towels softer. Just mix half a cup of baking soda with your normal amount of detergent. As an added bonus, baking soda naturally eliminates musty odors that may have built up – say, if you left damp towels lying around in a gym bag or in a pile on the bathroom floor.

Lighten your load.

Don’t put too many towels in your washer at once. Not only will it strain the machine, it won’t allow enough room to rinse out all the dirt and detergent from your towels. The same goes for your dryer; if you overload it, there won’t be enough air in the dryer to properly fluff the fabric. So you’ll get stiff, matted towels, instead of soft, fluffy ones. For most standard machines, try two or three bath towels at a time, along with hand towels and washcloths.

Toss in a tennis ball or dryer ball.

Having a few unused tennis balls or dryer balls bouncing around in the dryer helps remove lumps while softening and fluffing your towels.

Go easy on the tumble drying.

True, it makes towels fluffier, but heat from the dryer can damage the integrity of the Turkish cotton. So use a lower setting, or alternate between air drying and tumble drying. You can also partially dry towels on the line and then finish them up in the dryer. If you prefer line drying, shake the towels out afterwards to fluff up the fibers, or toss them in the dryer on a cool setting for additional softness.

There you have it – the answer to the age-old question ‘How do I keep towels soft?’ Follow these self-help tips and your towels will stay plush and fluffy their whole lives. For more advice, visit our towel care section.

How to Soften Towels in the Wash

This post may contain affiliate links.

Everyone wants to have soft towels, but at times that seems like an unrealistic goal. I mean, just how do hotels keep their towels so white and soft? Many people want to know why their bathroom towels are so stiff after washing. I have rounded up some of my favorite bathroom towel washing and drying hacks so that you can learn how to effectively soften towels in the wash.

Towels actually don’t need as much laundry detergent to clean them as your other laundry does. Try regularly washing only your towels together and using half the amount of your normal laundry detergent.

In addition to using half the laundry detergent, use one of the methods below monthly to help keep your bath towels soft.

Tip: You can get rid of the lint on bath towels by “shaving” it off with a disposable razor, yes it will take a while but it is well worth it if you don’t like lint on your towels or other items. For just over $10 you can get this fabric defuzzer thing that shaves the fuzz right off of new towels!

How to Wash Bath Towels with Vinegar

If you want to soften your towels naturally, then might want to give vinegar a try. Many people use white vinegar as a substitute for laundry softener. In fact, commercial laundry softener can actually build up on your towels, leaving a residue on them that can contribute to them feeling stiff. Vinegar breaks down and removes that laundry softener build up.

To remove fabric softener build up on your bath towels, about once a month replace your normal fabric softener with one cup of white vinegar. Add the vinegar to your washing machine during the second rinse. Dry as usual.

How to Soften Towels with Baking Soda

Baking soda is another naturally effective way to soften your bath towels. Just add 1/2 cup of baking soda along with your normal amount of detergent in the wash. Like vinegar, baking soda will also help remove build up from your towels, making your towels softer.

Adding baking soda to your towels when washing them also helps to remove musty odors that bath towels often seem to have and that are really hard to get rid of.

Note: do not use vinegar and baking soda in the wash together. They need to be used separately to be the most effective.

How to Soften Towels with Ammonia

If you don’t have any baking soda or vinegar on hand, ammonia will also work to remove laundry detergent or fabric softener residue from towels. Just add 1 cup of ammonia in with your normal laundry detergent.

Some people soften their new towels by soaking them overnight in the washing machine in water and a cup of ammonia then washing as usual.

How to Keep Towels Soft While Line Drying

If you like to dry your clothes on a clothesline, then you are probably wondering how to keep towels soft while line drying.

There are a couple different methods you can try to keep your line dried clothes from becoming stiff. Some people think that laundry softeners have been designed to be activated by the high heat of dryers, so fabric softener will not be very effective when line drying towels.

Try using half the amount of laundry detergent that you normally use for washing towels. Use a cup of vinegar in the wash to help soften the towels, or use no fabric softener at all, and hang the towels on the line to dry to see if this results in less stiff towels.

A compromise that I often use is drying my towels on the clothesline and then putting them in the dryer for 10 minutes or so with a fabric softener sheet to help soften them and fluff them up. Then you are still saving money on electricity, while also getting the benefit of using the dryer.

How Do You Keep Towels Soft Without a Dryer

If you don’t have a dryer, and you want your bath towels to be softer when they dry, then wash the towels with half the normal laundry detergent, add a cup of ammonia or white vinegar, and dry the towels on a clothesline.

If you aren’t able to use an outdoor clothesline, there are many drying racks you can purchase to easily dry towels or clothing indoors. Here is an example of an inexpensive folding clothes drying rack. Here is a stainless steel high capacity indoor clothes drying rack.

Personally I love my outdoors clothesline. Here is an inexpensive retractable clothes line you can use to hang your clothing and towels outside to dry.

Follow my cleaning hacks board on Pinterest.

Related Laundry Hacks

  • How to Clean Dingy Kitchen Towels
  • How to Get New Towels to Stop Shedding
  • Removing Lint from Bath Towels
  • How to Remove the Odor from Smelly Towels
  • How to Get Your White Towels Whiter
  • Towels Smell Bad Even After Washing
  • How to Make Towels Fluffy

7 Simple Laundry Tricks That’ll Keep Your Bath Towels Soft Forever

If your towels are hard and scratchy then you’ll find helpful tips in this post that will show you how to make them soft and keep them that way for a long time.

How to Soften Rough Towels

Affiliate links included. Full disclosure here.

Having rough and scratchy towels in your home is never fun.

But I have good news! Instead of throwing your tired and stiff towels away, you can actually save them with these simple laundry tips.

By altering the way that you wash and dry your towels, you can keep them “hotel” soft for a very long time.

By doing these 7 things every time you wash your towels, you can keep more money in your pocket and enjoy fluffy towels again.

How to Keep Your Towels Soft and Fluffy

Use warm water to wash towels.

Warm water will dissolve your detergent better creating less build up on your towels. If possible, try adding your towels to the washer a few minutes after starting the cycle to ensure that detergent has fully absorbed.

Add baking soda to your laundry detergent.

Before washing your towels, add 1/2 cup of baking soda to your washing cycle. This will help to soften and remove any residue from the fibers of your towel.

Only wash 2-3 towels during each load.

Too many towels in your washer at one time can can greatly decrease your washers ability to freely clean and remove dirt from them. Make sure to keep your laundry loads light, only adding 2-3 towels per load.

Wash towels with white vinegar every 6 weeks.

Adding a few cups of vinegar to your washing cycle every couple of weeks will remove residual build-up on your towels created from your body oils, dirt and laundry detergent.

Skip the fabric softener.

Most fabric softeners contain silicones that will coat your towels’ fibers decreasing their ability to absorb water and eventually making them stiff. When washing towels, fabric softener isn’t necessary and should be avoided.

Tumble dry your towels.

Many hotel’s keep their towels nice and fluffy by simply tumble drying their towels on low heat. For a more cost-effective measure, you can also try line drying your towels outside for the same if not better effect.

Shake out towels before adding to the dryer.

Shaking your towels before adding them to dryer will help loosen the fibers which could have been matted while in the washer. Adding a few wool dryer balls to the drying cycle will help to soften and fluff towels even further.

I really hope you enjoyed this post! As always, Happy Cleaning! Feel free to leave any comments or questions below.

You might enjoy: 6 Genius Ironing Hacks That’ll Help You Iron Clothes Faster

Make crusty towels feel new again with this simple trick

Get the fluff back with vinegar and baking soda.

Alina Bradford/CNET

Eventually even the best towels can become stiff, scratchy and not very absorbent. It happens when fabric softeners and residue from dryer sheets build up on the fibers.

But even the crustiest of towels can feel like new by washing them with this simple trick.

First, load your washer with towels (clean or dirty, doesn’t matter) and set your washer’s temperature to hot water or the sanitize cycle. Then add a cup of vinegar by pouring it in the area where you normally pour the laundry soap. If your washer doesn’t have a special place to pour the laundry soap, just add it to the drum before adding the towels.

Don’t add fabric softener or laundry soap, but continue to run the wash, rinse and spin cycle like you normally would.

When the towels are done, run the load again, but this time add a cup of baking soda to the load the same way you added the vinegar. Once again, don’t add fabric softener or laundry soap, then run the wash, rinse and spin cycle as you normally would, this time with hot water or on the sanitize mode. Dry the towels using the sanitize or high heat option.

The baking soda and vinegar will strip the residue from the towels, leaving them fluffy and absorbent again. My towels were getting so bad I was going to buy new ones, but this trick saved them from the rag pile.

If your towels are really coated with residue you may need to repeat these steps one more time. To keep your towels fresh, give your towels this treatment once a month or whenever they start to feel crunchy.

The most likely reason they’re losing their softness is because you’re overdosing with detergent when you put them in the wash. It can be tempting to pour a little extra when you want to get something really, really clean. But this tactic is pointless, as too much detergent means it won’t have a chance to dissolve and leaves towels stiff.

Fabric conditioner isn’t recommended for every wash, either, as it could settle in the towel’s fibres and render it less absorbent.


The build-up of limescale, particularly in hard-water areas, can also affect towel softness and give towels a musty fragrance. Regularly running the machine on empty, using the hottest cycle, with a cup of distilled white wine vinegar in the detergent drawer, should sort it out. It’s also worth buying a proprietary machine descaler, like Dr Beckmann Service-it Power Descaler, for a deep-clean.


Line-drying towels outdoors is a good way to keep them fluffy, as is using a tumble dryer. Ensure you give them a good shake before you toss them in the tumble dryer, too, and make sure you take them out before they’re bone dry, as a little moisture should be left in them, which is why radiators aren’t ideal as they can over-dry. If you do wash them outside, avoid direct sunlight as the UV rays can fade the towels.

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They recommend avoiding silicone-based fabric softeners and conditioners as these will repel water and will reduce the absorbency of fluffy towels.

To protect the fibres, they say to use a gentle eucalyptus-based washing detergent for superior colour retention, so they look beautiful and softer for longer.


How often should towels be washed?

How often you clean your towels is a personal preference, but under normal circumstances, a towel can be used three or four times (not days) before it needs to be washed.

Sheridan recommends the occasional deep wash on a warm to hot cycle in the front loader to remove any bacteria, oils and smells at 40 – 60 degrees.

When doing a towel load of washing, don’t overcrowd the machine so they have plenty of water around them to soak and wash.

How to dry towels?

After taking out your towels from the washing machine, give them a shake to open up their fibres and stick them in the tumble dryer on medium heat. This will give them that lovely and soft feeling, just like the towels you get at a hotel.

But line drying your towels in the shade is ideal for energy saving, while tumble drying your towels for a few minutes when they are almost dry off the line will help with that softness.

However, Ms Stewert believes that line drying your towels makes the fibers very stiff and scratchy, like sandpaper.

Ensure that towels are completely dry before folding them and placing them in your linen cupboard so as to avoid any bacterial growth and musty smells.

Trick: Toss in a tennis ball or dryer ball in the tumble dryer which will help speed up drying.


How long should one expect towels to last in good condition?

Some say 5 to 10 years, others say no more than two years if you want completely absorbent, soft towels. Only you can tell when your towels need to be replaced.

A good trick when investing in new towels is to always opt for lighter colours. Lighter towels have less dye than darker towels, which helps them to stay fluffy and absorbent for a longer time. Plus lighter colours are less likely to fade, so look newer.

Also, always follow care instructions to make your towels last longer.

Avoid decorative edges

Not all fabrics are made the same and that should be kept in mind while washing towels. Many high-quality towels feature decorative trims to add a soft design element amid the hard, shiny surfaces of the bathroom. If possible, use towels with specialty trims as accents only, so you can limit their laundering and reduce the wear on ribbon, rickrack, lace, or other decorative elements.

One Trick for Extra-Soft Towels

No one likes stepping out of the shower and wrapping up in a scratchy, stiff towel. And you’re probably wondering how your once-plush towels got to feeling so coarse in the first place. The most likely culprit? Residue from your laundry detergent. Adding too much detergent for the amount of laundry in the load is a very common mistake, says Marlowe Leverette, the laundry expert for Here’s the trick to help break down all that leftover gunk: Add a cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle. This simple step will restore the softness to your towels. Also, when you’re washing, aim for a full load of just towels. It uses less water and energy, and you won’t coat the other clothes with lint.

A few other tricks can keep your towels from getting rough again. Don’t just dump a scoop of detergent into the machine willy-nilly. Make sure to read the back of the detergent packaging and follow the recommended amounts for the size of your load to a T. Using hot water when washing towels also helps dissolve the detergent so it won’t settle into the fibers of the towels. And this may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s best to skip the liquid fabric softener, says Leverette.

Are your towels soft but smelling musty? That unpleasant odor is the smell of bacteria breeding. According to Steve Boorstein, a coauthor of The Clothing Doctor’s 99 Secrets of Cleaning and Clothing Care ($5,, you should start by sanitizing the washing machine to stop bacteria. “People shed about 1 billion dead skin cells every day, much of which ends up in your clothes, towels, and washing machine,” says Boorstein. “Before washing your towels, do your whites, if you use bleach. Or run an empty load with ¼ cup bleach to disinfect the interior.” Then, wash stinky towels in small loads on a hot water setting. And make sure to get them in the dryer quickly after washing or bacteria will start breeding (thanks to the damp washer environment) within one to two hours.

How to Keep Towels Soft + Fluffy

March 3, 2017

Soft and fluffy towels are the best, aren’t they? What happens to make them veer away from that wonderful state? Real life. Towels absorb water, aren’t hung up optimally, remain damp and get stinky. Hampers and baskets are full, towels get stuffed into the washing machine and never get fully clean. Then they get over-stuffed into the dryer and don’t get completely dry or get dry but aren’t folded right away leaving them wrinkled and crunchy.

It’s much easier than you might think to keep those towels looking and feeling like new.

De-stink your towels

First things first, let’s start with a couple ‘rules’ to help keep your towels smelling good:

  • Make sure your towel storage method is optimal for non-stinky towels.
  • Use bath towels no more than twice before washing and make sure that they are able to fully dry in between uses and before tossing them in a hamper or laundry basket.
  • Change your hand towels often – daily is optimal.
  • Never leave your towels (or any laundry) longer than a couple hours in the washing machine. The wet towels and closed space are breeding grounds for bacteria to build up.
  • Never over-fill your washing machine or dryer as you want adequate water flow in the wash and air flow in the dryer to clean and dry your towels (and any laundry).
  • If you notice on my cleaning routine I wash sheets and towels on Saturdays. This works really well to keep the towels clean and put away on schedule.
  • If you have some extra stinky towels use 1/2 cup baking soda in a wash and then re-wash the towels with your favorite detergent.

Stop using liquid fabric softener

Fabric softener coats the fibers and can keep your towels from getting fully clean – not to mention it’s full of chemicals that you don’t need in your home. You can use white vinegar as a softener (1/4 cup/load) and bonus, it’ll freshen up your towels too. Simply pour the vinegar in the softener dispenser on your washing machine. If you’re a fabric softener junkie check out this post for 4 ways to naturally soften and freshen your laundry.

Switch to white towels

If you’re looking to simplify your laundry, I also suggest switching to white towels. Why? You can wash them all at once, they can be washed on hot or sanitize when needed without fading. Wash them with bleach alternative to remove stains without any spotting or fading. And best of all? White towels add a spa-like look to your bathrooms and they match with just about any color or decor.

Purchase new towels

If your towels have seen better days and they’re showing signs of wear, you might need some new towels. Donate old towels to your local animal shelter or donation spot. I keep a stack of old, worn towels on hand for bathing the dog and when the kids are sick and need a path to the bathroom. I love Home Goods, Costco, and Target for high quality towels at low prices.

Have a soft + fluffy towel tip? Share it in the comments!

My book Simply Clean is full of tips, tricks and ideas for keeping your home clean with minimal time and effort. Go here to check it out!

The life of a towel is really hard.

Just think – all of that detergent, softener and rough use, and then at the end of the day, they’re moping the floor and being rolled around like a football. Not to mention those occasional hair oils and stickiness that get stuck to towels like a magnet. Even the best fluffy, squishy, cloudy towels need some TLC once in a while in order to be their best.

Ways to Make Your Towels Soft Again

The single question that keeps on reappearing in every towel user’s mind is, how do I keep my towel soft and fluffy? Here we have enlisted some of the ways in which you can keep your towels feeling soft as new.

1. Lower the amount of detergent

The type of detergent you’re using is very important. Using generic laundry detergent will result in the improper cleaning of your towels. To achieve the best result, invest in detergent that is specifically designed for towels. These sorts of detergents keep towels soft and plush. However, keep the proportion of detergent small so that it gets rinsed completely without any residue. For white towels, use non-chlorine bleach if necessary.

2. Warm water is preferred over cool water

The temperature of the water matters when you are cleaning dirty towels. Experts say that at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, most germs and microorganisms can be killed. When washing towels in the washing machine, wash on hot or sanitize to ensure proper cleaning of the towel.

3. Use vinegar in place of fabric softeners

Avoid using fabric softener or any chemicals that make a towel smell fresh. Remember, these chemicals clog the pores of towels, which attract dust and debris. This blocks the towel’s ability to absorb liquid. Basically, it hampers all the purposes of using a towel.

However, if you really want something extra, you can add 1/4th cup of white vinegar to the washing machine to set the color of the towel and help remove any excess detergent residue. This will bring back the suppleness of the towel while restoring its full absorbency.

Remember that this vinegar cleaning method is only applicable for an occasional treatment (preferably every 6 weeks); it is not a replacement for a regular cleaning method.

4. Keep the load light

Don’t put too many towels into the wash in one go. This will not only stress the machine but also hinder space for each towel to wash out all of the dirt, grime, and detergent. The same thing is applicable to the dryer when you overload it: the dryer struggles to fluff each and every towel equally. Thus, you will end up with a matted, hard, and stiff towel in place of the fluffy, soft towel that you need. So, lower the load to let the towels breathe. Phew!

Final Words

There are some solutions to keep your towel soft and squishy. Follow the steps, refrain from using in excess (such as adding few more tablespoons of detergent, a heaping spoon of fabric softener, etc.), and you will find that your towels remain fluffy for a long period of time.