Towels are something we use every day – which means they're the hardest working items to land in our laundry hampers. Whether it's kitchen towels used to dry dishes, hand towels hung beside the guest bathroom sink, bath towels used (sometimes by the entire family!) to dry off after daily showers or random towels used to clean up messes and generally maintain your home, these trusty rectangles of fabric can take a serious beating.
What’s worse is that the more you wash them, the poorer their condition seems to get a lot of the time.
For the sake of your pocketbook and the planet, try these eco-friendly laundry tips to bring your towel collection back to life.
How to wash towels like a pro
1. Towel issue: Scratchy or stiff
Laundry tip: As crazy as it sound, if your towels are stiff and scratchy, you’re probably using too much laundry detergent. More isn’t always a good thing. If you have a high-efficiency wash machine and are using too much detergent, it’s highly likely your towels aren’t getting rinsed thoroughly enough to remove all of the detergent during the washing cycle. Instead of running a second rinse and wasting water, try using half the amount of detergent that you usually do. In fact, you can even skip the detergent from time to time just to make sure the towels are getting rinsed completely clean. As long as you use hot water they will still come out nice and clean and maybe even better than before.
2. Towel issue: Dull and dingy
Laundry tip: Remember when you bought those beautiful sea foam green towels? They were so vibrant and fresh, they made your bathroom look like something from that Pinterest board you titled “My Dream Decor.” Except now they look like someone used them to wash their car in the middle of the desert during a sand storm. Towels in high-traffic places like the guest bathroom and kitchen can end up with a dirty or dingy appearance more quickly than towels used in other parts of your home. You may have tried to bleach them to death only to find the fabric a little worse for the wear but still looking just as soiled. Instead, run your towels through a long and hot wash cycle with no detergent and a cup of baking soda to freshen the look and feel of them.
3. Towel issue: Absorbency level = negative 100
Laundry tip: Here's another case of less is more. Or none, actually; none is great when it comes to fabric softeners and towels. Sure, you think if you add more fabric softener to the load your towels are going to come out thick and fluffy and soft just like a television commercial from the 1980s, but all it really does is coat the fibers of the fabric and make it harder for your towels to do their job, which is, you know, to absorb things. Skip the softener and if you really must use it, do it sparingly and only once every third or fourth wash.
4. Towel issue: Smelly and stinky
Laundry tip: Sure, we’ve all forgotten a load of laundry in the washing machine for a day (or two) and come back to find an odor most foul. Once that mildew sets in it can become a Herculean feat to get rid of it. Even with the hottest water and the most aggressive amount of detergent (which we already established is going to do more harm than good) sometimes that smell just…lingers. If you find yourself in this stinky situation, it’s time to strip your towels of all the old detergent and fabric softener residue along with anything else that might be lingering on them. First run them through the longest wash cycle on your machine with a cup of baking soda instead of detergent. Then, in a second cycle use a cup of white vinegar in place of detergent. Yes, you are running two full wash cycles but that’s better than having to buy all new towels. Then, of course, get them in the dryer as soon as possible and run it until they are completely dry. Not mostly dry. Completely.
5. Towel issue: They never dry in the dryer
Laundry tip: This one is much more simple than you think…oh, and it’s totally your fault, too. It’s actually the exact same reason your towels weren’t absorbing anything. Too much fabric softener. The same way the fabric softener coats the fibers and prevents moisture from being absorbed it also locks it into the fibers when it coats them! Frustrating, for sure, but the sure-fire way to combat this problem, again, is to skip the fabric softener all together and give them a good stripping in the wash with hot water and baking soda to get the fibers free from the fabric softener residue.