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How to Make Towels Soft Again

Posted by Nicholas Crusie on

There's nothing quite like the feeling of hopping out of your shower all warm and clean, and being greeted by your soft, fluffy, cozy towel. 

It really is the only thing that makes hopping out into the cold air worth it. Wrapping up in a soft towel is especially comforting on cold fall or winter days--you know, when the windows are all fogged up and the tree branches are empty. These moments are the little joys in life that tend to get overlooked. If taking a warm pie out of the oven could have a feeling, this is what it would be. 

Even though we know them for their softness, towels actually have a pretty tough life. With the amount of friction, harsh chemicals, and other mysterious goopy products they deal with, it's not surprising that towels eventually begin to lose the plush-like properties that made us fall in love with them in the first place. Even the highest-quality towels from the best bath companies need some TLC every now and again to help bring them back to life. 

Is your towel looking or feeling like it needs a little pick me up? It very well may be - and we're here to help. Here's how towels can be made soft again.

Start off strong

And by starting off strong, we also mean starting out soft. 

Maintaining softness begins with starting with the best towel possible, right off the bat. 

When towel shopping, look for towels that:

  • Are dense

  • Are made up of high-quality cotton

These two pointers actually go hand in hand. Higher grade cotton is naturally denser, meaning it will be thicker and better able to absorb more water--two very important towel qualities, if you ask us. 

When choosing between towels, prioritize the heavier options to ensure you're maximizing the absorbency potential. A denser towel is also likely to feel more plush and cushiony - all the better for hugging you after your shower. It's sort of like we're aiming for properties similar to that of a weighted blanket. 

Have you ever been a guest in someone else's home and had to use an old, paper-thin towel? Very unsatisfying. Starting out with a high-quality towel will give your towel a longer and happier shelf life. 

Why did my towel lose its softness?

The main culprit for towels losing their magical softness is residue from detergents and body oils that build up within the fabric. This buildup of left-over products will cause stiffness and a rough, crackly feeling. These remnants from products also diminish your towel's ability to absorb moisture. So, what can we do about it?

Prevention and Proper Care

Maybe your towel isn't a complete lost cause yet, or maybe you just got a new towel (yay, you!). Here are some things to keep in mind that can help preserve its softness!

Cut back on the amount of detergent you use.

  • A buildup of excess laundry detergent is the main offender for towels losing their softness

  • Many people use the recommended amount, or more than that, because it isn't too crazy to think that more soap = more clean. Think again.

  • Err on the lighter side of the suggested amount of detergent. Your laundry machine will have an easier time rinsing it all out, meaning your towels won't end up carrying around any excess. No excess detergent = no residue that can harden and stiffen up your towel. 

Do you have a hard water system?

  • "Hard water" is water that is dense in minerals, specifically high amounts of calcium and magnesium. Hard water is created by deposits of limestone, chalk, or gypsum.

  • Hard water makes up about 85% of America's water, so there's a high probability that this is the type of water that is in your home's system. 

  • When water is especially high in minerals, it will appear slightly murky. Definitely not like the crystal-clear image we think of when we imagine a fresh, crisp glass of water.

Use the right cleaning solution. 

  • Use a liquid detergent rather than a powered one. Powdered detergents attach easily to the minerals in the water, making the detergent less available to clean the actual laundry (your towels).

  • Add ½ cup of Borax to help soften the water in the load. The Borax will counteract the calcium that absorbs detergent. 

Wash towels, and only towels, together. 

  • By washing similar items together, it ensures that they all wash and dry evenly.

  • Keeping towels separate from the rest of your laundry means that your towels won't be rubbing up against rougher items, like jeans. Less rough housing in the laundry machine means softer towels for longer. 

Don't overload each wash. 

  • Not only is a full-to-the-top load strenuous on your machine, but it makes it difficult for your washer to do a proper job of rinsing out all the soap and any other products that you may use.

  • Remember that excess product is the main culprit for towels building up residue and becoming stiff and crusty. Lightening the load may be the easiest way to help prevent towels from losing their softness.

Avoid using liquid fabric softener. 

  • Wait, what? This may sound counter-intuitive, but hear us out. 

  • Liquid fabric softeners contain oils and other additives that can create a coating over the fabric of your towels. This filmy coating may also make you feel like washing the towels more often - your towel will become worn-down more quickly. 

  • An alternative to fabric softeners? Vinegar. Use one cup of vinegar instead of detergent in a wash load every six weeks. Vinegar will act to reverse any silicone-y coating that your towels may have built up. Vinegar will also help bring back any softness that has already been lost and can even help recover some of our towel's absorbency potential. 

We definitely don't give household vinegar the appreciation it deserves. Seriously, what an underdog. 

But, back to business. Make sure to take these steps to make sure your new or current towels stay soft for as long as possible. But what if your towel is already stiff, crusty, and rather tree bark-like? We have solutions for that too. 

How to make towels soft again

Add baking soda

  • Add ½ cup of baking soda along with your regular wash load to help bring towels back to life.

  • On top of baking soda's softening properties, it also helps eliminate odors - yay!

  • (Ok, baking soda needs some more appreciation too.)

Use a tennis ball or dryer ball

  • Adding a tennis or dryer ball into the dryer will help prevent the bumps and lumps that tend to develop throughout the cycle. 

  • By softening out these bumps while the dryer is still going, it's kind of like straightening hair, except, you're straightening your towel. 

Use white vinegar instead of fabric softener 

  • We already told you how fabric softeners can actually do the opposite of their intended use, so avoiding using them in the first place is a good start.

  • On top of preventing crustiness, white vinegar can also help reverse it. 

  • Try swapping out the fabric softener for 1 cup of white vinegar in its place. You can go ahead and pour it right into the fabric softener compartment. **For this load, don't use any detergent, just the vinegar. 

  • Bonus - white vinegar also helps combat bacterial growth. 

Soft towels are important!

It's a harsh world out there--we don't need to be stepping out of our showers into harsh towels. A super plush, super soft towel is what everyone deserves. We would never want you stepping out of the shower to be greeted by anything less!


Sources:

https://www.thespruce.com/solving-hard-water-laundry-problems-2146651

https://www.healthline.com/health/is-borax-safe 

https://cleanmama.com/keep-towels-soft-fluffy/ 

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