How Can I Increase the Life of My Towels?

Towels would seem to be such a utilitarian object that they could never need any sort of optimization. As your towels age, however, their absorbency decreases. Boost them back to their glory days with this simple hack. If you’re in the habit of using the amount of detergent recommended on the bottle, which is almost always way more than you need, and then hitting towels with fabric softener or dryer sheets you’re setting yourself up for towels that lose their absorbency and can even begin to stink.

That’s right, most of the time stinky towels aren’t a result of failing to wash your towels enough but using too much detergent and fabric softener. The short of it is this: more isn’t better and over time soap residue can accumulate within the fibers of the towels ensuring that not only do they fail to absorb as much water as they can but they also don’t dry as effectively as they should. When your towels seem to get a funky smell immediately upon getting wet again, failure to dry completely thanks to soap residue is usually the culprit.

What can you do? Saving your towels is as simple as running them through two hot loads. Skip the detergent on both loads, run them through once with hot water and a cup of vinegar and then again with hot water and a half cup of baking soda. Your goal, whether washing brand new towels or old towels, is to strip the softener and detergent residue from the fibers of the towel and get them as absorbent as possible.

Use Vinegar and Baking Soda to Recharge Your Towels

Step 1

Wash each towel in hot water before use. Some people run their towels through twice (without drying). The hot water wash will remove extra dye and any coatings (for example, fabric softener) left behind from the manufacturing process. Don’t wash anything else with them because colored towels might bleed; also, towels tend to leave residual fluff on other fabric items.

Step 2

Add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. Dilute the vinegar first or wait until the water level is high enough to dilute it instantly; otherwise, it might discolor your towels. The second wash cycle can include 1/2 cup of baking soda, but don’t use baking soda and vinegar in the same rinse. If your washer has a liquid fabric softener dispenser, put the vinegar in that. Note that these are time-proven folk remedies. When the vinegar (an acid) or the baking soda (an alkaline or base) dissociate (chemically come apart) the atoms are free to recombine with the minerals, salts and other chemicals that have accumulated informs that more readily rinse away.

Step 3

Avoid using fabric softener of any kind. Fabric softeners coat the surface of the fabric with a thin layer of chemicals (oils) that makes the fibers hydrophobic (oil and water don’t mix). If you can’t stand how towels feel without fabric softener, use amidoamine softeners if available but the vinegar should help soften them anyway.
Don’t despair if you’ve already used fabric softener. It can be stripped to help increase absorbency by doing the following: Place 1/2 cup baking soda in the washing powder and add to the washing machine. Then, add 1/2 cup vinegar to the rinse slot.

Step 4

Done. You should now be the owner of some slightly more comfortable, more absorbent towels!