How to Keep Your Towels Soft, Fluffy and Fresh

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Never reach for a stinky, scratchy towel again. That'll be a thing of the past when you use these simple solutions for superb softness.

You wrap up your shower, turn off the water and open the curtain. Nothing can bring you down! Except, maybe, a rough, lifeless, mildew-y towel. There’s hope, friends. It’s easy to keep your towels in tiptop shape. All you have to do is stop washing them like any other laundry and you’re on your way to feeling fresh, clean and comfy.

How to Make Towels Soft Again

Wash Towels with Vinegar

It’s easy to freshen up your towels. Start with a hot water cycle (for whites) or warm cycle (colors) and add about half the detergent you’d use for clothes. To clean musty towels or strip old fabric softener away, add 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar to your rinse cycle. Don’t worry—they won’t come out smelling like vinegar.

Using vinegar every other wash or so can also help prevent the musty smell, but you can treat extra-stinky towels by using baking soda too. Super-scratchy towels might benefit from this occasional treatment: one hot cycle with only vinegar (no detergent) followed by one hot cycle with only baking soda.

Wash Towels Separately

Freshly Washed And Folded TowelsSolStock/Getty Images

Since bath towels generally stay pretty clean (you’re clean when you use them, right?), they don’t require as much soap as clothes do. Plus, excess soap can build up on your towels and dull their softness. Liquid fabric softener is a definite no-no, as it coats towels’ fibers and can prevent them from absorbing moisture.

A clean machine goes a long way for clean towels, too. Follow this guide to clean your washer.

Stop Using Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets can impart the same absorption-blocking buildup that liquid fabric softener can. You can use them every now and then, but they’re not crucial for keeping towels soft. What is? Giving your wet towels a shake before drying, then pulling them out as soon as they’re dry. Shaking helps fluff out the fibers for maximum absorption and more efficient drying. Overdrying (along with using too much soap) is one of the cardinal sins of scratchiness. If towels are still a little damp when the dryer finishes, err on the side of caution and hang them up to finish.

Keep the dryer sheets for non-laundry uses, though!

Hang Towels After Using

You don’t need to wash towels after every use. You’re off the hook as long as your towels are on one. Just dry off, then hang that bad boy up right away. (If you don’t have enough, it’s easy to add a few more towel hooks to your bathroom).

Also, keep towels off the floor and you can go at least three uses before washing, so you only have to worry about the rest of these tips once a week or so.

Try out these tips on your towels—then, once you’ve mastered the art of towel maintenance, you can feel a little better singing in the shower and splurging on Turkish cotton towels knowing that, with proper care, you’ll get years of dry, comfy softness out of them.

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Elizabeth Harris
Liz is an unapologetic homebody who loves bowling and beers almost as much as food and fitness. The highlight of her week is making cheesy popcorn for her family on movie night. She's been hooked on Taste of Home since interning for the magazine in 2010.