How to soften towels and keep them soft – for luxury every day (2023)

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Knowing how to soften towels will allow you to create the wonderful feel they had when they were brand new, restoring the pile that spells luxury after a bath or shower.

Regular washing and drying can make the fibers of towels stiff and scratchy, but knowing which washing temperatures to use, how to load the washing machine, and which products to opt for can restore softness to towels, and keep them that way.

Good laundry room ideas will create a space with everything you need to soften towels and keep them soft for a spa feel at home, and our guide will give you the lowdown.

How to soften towels and keep them soft

Knowing how to soften towels that are no longer a pleasure to use and the methods for retaining their fluffiness will make them kinder on the whole family’s skin. Do bear in mind also that learning how to use towels correctly and buying good quality versions in the first place is important.

‘Choose high quality cotton towels to provide absorbency, durability and that coveted cozy texture,' says Lucy Ackroyd, head of design at Christy, inventors of the towel as we know it today.

(Video) Here’s What Happens to Your Bath Towel After a Few Days! Dr. Mandell

'The higher the weight, the more opulent they will feel. I would suggest choosing a towel with a weight of at least 500gsm (grams per sq metre) for the ultimate luxury experience.

'The most important factor for luxuriously soft towels is the yarn used and you ideally want a high quality cotton spun from long silky fibers. This is why yarns like Egyptian cotton and Supima cotton are so sought after as they guarantee long fibers and, therefore, high quality.

1. Soften towels with vinegar

How to soften towels and keep them soft – for luxury every day (1)

(Image credit: Future / Carolyn Barber)

The expert-recommended way to soften towels that have become scratchy is to use vinegar. ‘Throw a cup of white vinegar in your next wash,’ advises textiles expert and CEO of New Sega Home, Brian Delp.

The towels have likely become stiff and scratchy because of the use of fabric softener. While adding this to the wash might seem like a sound idea, it actually has an adverse effect on towels. ‘The fabric softener can actually build up residue over time. This prevents their absorbency and can cause them to dry out as well as preventing their natural softening from use,’ Brian explains.

Don’t worry if this treatment doesn’t work after just one wash. ‘Depending on how extensive the buildup is, you may have to repeat this step,’ he says.

2. Allow time to soften towels

Fabrics soften over time, and towels are no different, so be patient. ‘Your favorite worn-out T-shirt wasn’t as soft on day one as it is today,’ says Brian Delp. ‘Assuming that your towels are cotton, linen, or some other natural fiber, they will get softer with each wash.’

3. How to use the washing machine to keep towels soft

In order to keep them soft, it’s important to wash towels the right way. The general rule? ‘Make sure to wash your towels separately to your other laundry to avoid any color or fibers transferring on to your beautiful pristine towels,’ says Lucy Ackroyd.

Want to wash towels with clothes or wash sheets and towels together? It is possible to create a mixed load if you need to in order to save energy, but to keep towels at their fluffiest, keeping them separate is the best strategy.

(Video) Laundry Hacks - How to Get Fluffy Towels | This Morning

Bear in mind, too, that new towels shouldn’t be washed with those you already own. ‘Mixing brand new and seasoned towels can lead to the transfer of color between different fabrics,’ says Lily Cameron, cleaning supervisor at Fantastic Cleaners.

To keep towels soft, it’s also crucial not to overload the washing machine. ‘The towels need plenty of room within the drum to breathe and circulate, allowing them to be rinsed and fluffed up properly,’ says Lucy. ‘If you try to stuff too many in, you’ll end up with a clumped-together heap with moisture pockets throughout, leading to scratchy, stiff towels.’

How much is too much? ‘A typical front-loading washing machine can hold around seven bath towels, and a top-loading machine can hold around 10,’ says Bonnie Fisher of Better World Apparel, which works to bring awareness about increasing products’ life cycles.

4. Use the right amount of detergent

Cleaning tips on keeping towels soft include not adding too much detergent to the wash, which can mean it’s not thoroughly removed during the rinse cycle. ‘Cut back on your detergent,’ says Jessica Samson from ‘Using too much detergent can stiffen your towels up and take away their softness.’

To keep towels fluffy, Lucy Ackroyd is a fan of eucalyptus-based detergent. ‘Not only will this leave them smelling super fresh, the eucalyptus will also protect the fibers of the towel and ensure the colors stay bright and fresh,’ she says.

Thinking of using bleach? ‘Yes, bleach can remove the stains on white towels, but it can also make the colors fade and even cause permanent damage to the fabrics, destroying the towels,’ says Lily Cameron.

5. Skip the fabric softener

Along with too much detergent, as we noted above, fabric softener can make towels scratchy so skip it entirely or cut back to keep towels feeling soft.

‘If you are using a fabric softener, only use a small amount as overuse of softeners and conditioners will build up over time, leaving towels feeling slick and non-absorbent,’ says Lucy Ackroyd.

6. Perfect the wash temperature

For soft, fluffy towels, pay attention to the wash temperature, checking the laundry symbols on the labels of all towels before they go into the machine. ‘Each towel is different and requires different treatment,’ says Jessica Samson. ‘Be sure to read the label before washing so that you can maximize the effectiveness of the wash and prevent ruining the towel.’

7. Shake towels out to maintain softness

How to soften towels and keep them soft – for luxury every day (2)

(Video) How To Wash Bath Towels To Keep Them Soft And Fluffy | Eco Friendly Towels | Fluffy towels 2023

(Image credit: Future / Jonathan Gooch)

Shaking your towels is a simple, quick step in your washing routine that can have a huge impact on their softness.

'First, before you put your towels in the washing machine, give them a good shake. This will open up the fibers slightly, allowing the detergent to sink inside every pore and make them super clean,’ says Lucy Ackroyd.

Shake again for maximum softness. ‘At the end of the drying cycle, or before hanging them outside if you are line drying, shake the towels a second time,’ says Lucy. ‘The act of shaking will loosen the fibers of the fabric, making your towels super plush and fluffy.’

8. Mix up your drying methods

How to soften towels and keep them soft – for luxury every day (3)

(Image credit: Future / Mark Luscombe-Whyte)

To keep towels soft don’t dry them on radiators if you heat your home this way; this will lead to a rough finish, exactly what you are trying to avoid.

‘Alternate between tumble drying and line drying,’ advises Lucy Ackroyd. ‘The best way to get super fluffy towels is tumble drying immediately after a wash, however overuse can make the fabric wear down over time.

'To combat the effect of the tumble dryer, line dry your towels occasionally. Not only does line drying leave your towels with a fresh natural scent, but the sunlight can also have a bleaching effect which is perfect if you have white towels. The UV rays can even help kill bacteria.’

9. Store for success

How to soften towels and keep them soft – for luxury every day (4)

(Video) How To Make Your Bath Towels Last Longer: Soft And Fluffy Towels

(Image credit: Future / Emma Lewis)

Once you’ve perfected the washing and drying routine, the final step in keeping towels soft is storing them correctly. When thinking about how to design a bathroom, factor in suitable storage for towels, such as shelving or cabinets. Or perhaps even a towel rack or rail.

To store, you can roll towels, which can be space saving, or fold towels. ‘Rather than folding your towels one on top of the other, as many people do, try neatly folding them side by side instead,’ suggests Lucy Ackroyd. ‘This simple storage hack will prevent the bottom towels from being crushed which can lead to them losing that plush, full effect that you have achieved.

‘If you prefer to store your towels on a towel rack or ladder shelf, you should also avoid placing them on top of each other. Again, this will flatten the bottom ones, leaving them stiff and flat.’

Add a few drops of lavender or other essential oil to towels before storing to keep them smelling gorgeous.

Why are my towels hard and scratchy?

A combination of factors makes towels hard and scratchy, including the use of fabric softeners, and an excess of detergent. But another reason could be the hard water in your area. ‘Hard water is water that contains minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, which makes cleaning your clothes more difficult,’ explains Corey Trojanowski of ARS/Rescue Rooter. And the same goes for towels.

A water softener can help – and prevent limescale buildup in the washing machine and other appliances – but otherwise, try using a cup of white vinegar in the washing machine to soften towels.

How do you soften towels after line drying?

To soften towels after line drying, put them into the dryer briefly. ‘We suggest tossing them in the dryer for a quick “no-heat” fluff if they feel a little stiff,’ says Bonnie Fisher. This will still bring the benefits of line drying and reduces energy bills compared to a full drying cycle.

Otherwise, you actually need to take action before putting the towels on the line. Shake them first, which will keep the towels softer by loosening the fibers before they begin drying.


How to soften towels and keep them soft – for luxury every day? ›

Mix up your drying methods

'Alternate between tumble drying and line drying,' advises Lucy Ackroyd. 'The best way to get super fluffy towels is tumble drying immediately after a wash, however overuse can make the fabric wear down over time. 'To combat the effect of the tumble dryer, line dry your towels occasionally.

What is the best way to keep towels soft and fluffy? ›

Mix up your drying methods

'Alternate between tumble drying and line drying,' advises Lucy Ackroyd. 'The best way to get super fluffy towels is tumble drying immediately after a wash, however overuse can make the fabric wear down over time. 'To combat the effect of the tumble dryer, line dry your towels occasionally.

What is the best product for softening towels? ›

Another great tip is to use dryer balls. You don't need to buy specific dryer balls; a tennis ball will do. Throw one or two in the dryer with your towels. It will help them dry quicker and agitate the fibres, further helping soften up your towels.

Why are my towels so hard and stiff? ›

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 leftover products will cause stiffness and a rough, crackly feeling. These remnants from products also diminish your towel's ability to absorb moisture.

How do hotels make towels fluffy? ›

High-end hotels prefer to use Egyptian cotton, which is softer, fluffier, and cozier than regular cotton. Such that, even Mizu Towels use this fabric to make their luxury towels. Although it is lighter than Egyptian cotton, some hotels also use Turkish cotton in their towels.

Why does vinegar make towels softer? ›

The vinegar will help strip away the residue left in the towels that is causing them to feel stiff.

What towels do celebrities use? ›

They are also eco-friendly, as they are made of natural materials such as cotton and are free of synthetic fibers. Despite having access to other luxury options, celebrities choose to use Hammam towels because they provide a practical solution for their needs, while also being stylish and fashionable.

Can you make hard towels soft again? ›

“The first time with one cup of white vinegar diluted with hot water in the drawer. “The second time, use one cup of baking soda diluted with hot water. “You will be left with fresh soft towels.” Bicarbonate of soda also works to remove any nasty smells from towels.

What makes towels stiff after washing? ›

Towels are hard after washing because they build up soapy residue and are over-dried. Here's the good news: With a few simple tricks, you can restore your towels to their original softness and help ensure that they never go scratchy again. Use warm water.

Why do hotel towels feel so dry? ›

The main reason is that they wash their towels in hot water 40-50c with commercial detergent and no fabric softener. Fabric softener can really reduce the absorbency of your towels,which leave a waxy residue on towels, for example. Also, cotton gets more absorbent with use, and hotel towels are well-used.

How do you rejuvenate hard towels? ›

Try washing your towels in warm water—or incorporate vinegar, baking soda, or fabric softener. To soften towels through drying, try air drying, tumble drying on low heat, or adding dryer balls in with your load. Using too much detergent or overfilling your washing machine can lead to stiff towels.

Can you wash towels with vinegar and baking soda at the same time? ›

Once the washer is filled, before the wash cycle starts, drop in a cup of vinegar. Let it dilute for a moment, then add a half of a cup of baking soda. Run the washer, and dry as normal. Your towels will be recharged and like new, or better than ever!

How do I make my towels soft and absorbent again? ›

Start a hot-water rinse cycle and let it fill up completely. The hot water helps break down chemicals and contaminants on the towels. Add about a cup of white vinegar to the mix, which will further help break down any chemicals that have made your towels less absorbent.

Why are my towels so hard after washing? ›

Cotton naturally retains water, and it is this 'residual water' that binds the cotton fibres together. Hence towels often feel stiff after they have been washed. Even when cotton feels dry to the touch, the individual microscopic cotton fibres still have a thin broken film of water covering them.

How do you soften and refresh towels? ›

Run them through a cycle alone with baking soda and vinegar. Then, dry them with a dryer sheet or dryer ball to encourage maximum fluffiness and prevent any kind of shedding. By starting your towels off with this type of freshening up "bath," you can rid them of any type of residual odors.


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