How to Wash Towels to Keep Them Soft & Luxurious

There's nothing like stepping out of a hot shower and wrapping yourself up in a clean, fluffy towel. Preserve your towels' softness by cleaning them properly.

Published November 28, 2022
young woman smelling clean laundry at home

You step out of the shower, reach for a new towel you bought a few weeks ago, and it feels a little rough. Why can't your towels feel like the ones at a luxury hotel? Good news, they can if you know how to wash towels correctly.

With a few simple tricks and a bit of white vinegar, you can make your towels so soft and fluffy that they feel delightful against your skin. Bring back the fluff with easy techniques and, as an added bonus, you'll never have to worry about that mildew smell again.

How to Wash Towels for Softness

Your towels aren't even close to those amazing plush towels you enjoyed on spa day. But why? Washing towels should be rather simple, and it is! But to achieve that plush spa-quality towel feeling, you need a few things.

Separating Towels

The first to do is separate all your towels and washcloths from any other clothing. Next, create a light and dark-colored pile. This prevents any discoloration.

Load the Washer

Fluffy towels need a little space to get clean. So, when you load the washer, don't overload it. Wash about seven towels at a time, max. That is, if you have a front loader. A top loader can handle a few more, so you can pack in about 10.

Choose the Right Temperature

Your water temp depends on the colors you're washing. For the light towels, go with hot water. For colored towels, use warm or cold water. Warm water will help with removing bacteria, but either works.

Select Your Cycle

controls on washing machine

Wash towels on a normal cycle. Opt for the extra spin cycle if your washer has that available, but typically, a normal wash cycle is all you need to get your towels feeling fresh and clean.

Add Detergent

Detergent is important, and the amount is more so. It means the difference between nice and fluffy or stiff and scratchy. Use liquid detergent (avoid pods or powder), and only use half the detergent you normally would. So, if you use the cap, fill it halfway for a normal load. If you use the detergent drawer on your machine, only fill it halfway. Too much detergent makes your towels stiff.

Bleach to Brighten Towels

You can also add oxygen bleach to the load to help kill germs and brighten your colors. Make sure to follow the instructions on the package for how much to use. You might also use chlorine bleach with white-only towels.

Avoid Fabric Softener

Typically, you can nix the fabric softener when washing towels. Fabric softener creates a waxy build-up on towels, making them less absorbent. If you are worried about static cling, you can add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse.

If you can't live without your Downy, then you can still use it. Just don't add it to every wash. Only add fabric softener every three or so washes.

How to Wash New Towels

Orange Towel In Washing Machine

Those new towels you just bought have been sitting on a store shelf. They have also been touched by a lot of different people. So, you don't want to put them on your body without giving them a good wash. However, you aren't going to wash them the same way you would your run-of-the-mill towels. Fresh-bought towels have been doused in fabric softener to make them feel great on the shelf, and you need to remove some of it with their first wash.

  1. Add your new towels to the washer.
  2. On a normal cycle, wash them in hot water with a cup of white vinegar.
  3. Dry as normal.

How to Clean Stiff, Musty Towels

Are your towels crunchy? Do they have that musty smell from sitting in the hamper for too long? It's time to get rid of the nasty. You can use white vinegar and baking soda to refresh your towels and get rid of the crunch. It's a one-two punch to add fluff and freshness back to your towels.

  1. Add your towels.
  2. Fill your washer with water.
  3. Add a cup of white vinegar.
  4. For the front loader, add white vinegar to the fabric softener compartment.
  5. Wash towels on normal setting with hot water.
  6. Leave the towels in the machine and wash them a second time with ½ cup of baking soda.
  7. It can be helpful to add a bit of water to the baking soda to make it liquidy when adding it to the clothing.
  8. Wash on normal in hot water.

If you find that your towels are still a bit stiff after giving them a white vinegar and baking soda refresh, you might want to try stripping them. The stripping process uses a few harsher chemicals, like washing soda and borax, to strip built-up residue from the towels.

The Perfect Way to Dry Towels

You don't just throw towels into the dryer if you want that fluffy, luxurious feeling. There's a bit of an art to it. Learn how to dry towels for that perfect fluff.

  1. Before you put the towels into the dryer, snap them out. It fluffs them and prevents wrinkles.
  2. Load the towels into the dryer.
  3. Dry them on a normal cycle with high heat.
  4. You can also air-dry them flat.
  5. If you choose to air dry, throw them in the dryer with no heat to fluff them up.
  6. Make sure they are completely dry before folding and putting them away.

Remember, damp towels will smell musty, which is what you don't want.

How Often Should You Wash Towels?

Everyone has their own thoughts on washing towels. While towels are drying off clean bodies, everyone has bacteria on their skin. Typically, you'll want to wash your towels every three uses. But there are a few tips for keeping your towels fresh, because how often you wash them depends on how you treat them.

  • Only reuse your own towel.
  • Hang up towels to completely dry after using them.
  • Wash towels after every use when someone is sick.
  • Wash towels immediately that have been left on the floor.

How to Store Towels

Linen Closet

You've done it - you have nice, fluffy towels to delight in after your next shower. But should you store them in the bathroom? The short answer is no. Remember that whole wet musty smell thing? Well, your bathroom during a shower is nothing but water vapor, which will inevitably find its way to your towels. Damp towels equal a musty smell. Plus, there's the whole toilet flushing germ gem. It's a vicious cycle.

So, you'll want to store your towels in a linen closet outside of the bathroom. If you have to store your towels in the bathroom, put them in a sealed container or covered area that bacteria and dampness can't get to.

Tips to Keep Towels Fluffy

Towels have a lot of do and don'ts to keep them fresh. Take the crunch out of your towels with these tips.

  • Don't let towels sit in the hamper.
  • Wash towels twice a week.
  • Use a light hand with detergent.
  • Snap towels before putting them in the dryer.
  • Hang towels after using them.
  • Add tennis balls or wooly balls to the dryer to fluff them.
  • Don't let towels sit in the washer.
  • Don't iron towels.
  • Use decorative towels as decorations only.
  • Fold towels after completely dry to keep fluffiness.

When to Replace Towels

Like anything else in your house, towels are going to wear out. When the fluff doesn't come back despite your best efforts, it might be time to invest in some new ones. You'll also notice that older towels will start to get threadbare, meaning their time in the bathroom has come to an end.

How to Perfectly Wash Towels Every Time

Washing towels should be easy, but there are a few tricks to make sure your towels don't feel like sandpaper when you dry off. Just watch your detergent, invest in some white vinegar, and keep those tennis balls handy. You'll be golden.

How to Wash Towels to Keep Them Soft & Luxurious