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At some point, you may notice that your once soft and fluffy towels are starting to feel rough and stiff after washing. If this is the case for you, don’t panic! It's a common occurrence, but there are effective ways to help them feel just as plush as they did the day you bought them.

In this guide, we'll explain why towels lose their softness, share how to make towels soft again, and offer tips to help you keep them that way. Click on one of the sections below to jump to it.

  1. Why Are Towels Hard After Washing?
  2. How to Wash Towels with Vinegar
  3. How to Keep Towels Soft
  4. Additional Tips to Keep Towels Looking Their Best

Why Are Towels Hard After Washing?

Ever pulled your towels out of the dryer, only to find that they’ve lost their softness and feel stiff and scratchy? There are several potential causes, including detergent residue, mineral buildup, and friction during the washing process. Towels are absorbent, which means they’re especially prone to collecting soap and fabric softener residue that doesn’t properly rinse out in the wash. This can accumulate over time, leading to reduced absorbency and a rough, scratchy texture. To prevent this, it’s important to understand the right techniques for washing and maintaining your towels. If you follow the right steps, you can extend their lifespan and keep them feeling soft and cozy for years to come!

Note: Towels don’t last forever, as much as we’d like them to. Typically, they last somewhere between two and three years. If your towels are older than that, and feeling a little scratchy and worn-out, it might just be time to replace them.

How to Wash Towels with Vinegar

You might notice that we recommend vinegar often when it comes to taking care of your towels. Versatile and affordable, it really is a game changer for many household tasks. Follow these steps for washing towels with vinegar to help soften them.

  1. Preparation: Start by washing your towels with hot water and no detergent. This will help eliminate any existing residue that might be lurking in the fibers of your towels, so you can start from a clean slate with the vinegar treatment.
  2. Vinegar Soak: Place your towels in the washing machine and add one cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. The vinegar will break down mineral buildup and soap residue that can contribute to fabric stiffness.
  3. Extra Rinse: After the vinegar cycle is complete, run an additional rinse cycle to ensure any remaining vinegar is thoroughly washed out.
  4. Drying: Dry your towels as usual, either in the dryer on low heat (high heat can damage the fabric) or on a clothesline. You’ll be amazed at how soft and fluffy they feel! Additionally, we recommend skipping the dryer sheets. Dryer sheets contain a softening agent that can cause buildup on your towels over time, making them less absorbent. Instead of dryer sheets, try using a dryer ball. You can add your favorite essential oil to the dryer ball prior to use (make sure you let it dry completely), leaving your clothes soft and fragrant without any residue.

Utilizing vinegar as part of your towel care routine is incredibly effective, but it’s also environmentally friendly, nontoxic, and cost-effective. It works as a natural alternative to commercial fabric softeners, which often contain chemicals that can harm your towels and the environment.

How to Keep Towels Soft

Keeping your towels feeling soft and luxurious is not a one-time fix. Long term, we recommend adhering to a basic maintenance plan. Here are a few guidelines:

  1. Proper Washing: Avoid using too much detergent, since excess soap can lead to buildup that makes your towels feel scratchy over time. Try using a mild detergent, and make sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for how much to use.
  2. Avoid Fabric Softeners: These provide a temporary feeling of softness due to the residue they leave on fabric, but can cause damage over time and drastically reduce the lifespan of your towels.
  3. Avoid Overloading: Don’t overcrowd your washing machine. Giving your towels enough space allows them to be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed. A good rule of thumb is never to fill your washer more than about three-quarters full.
  4. Regular Maintenance: Every few months, give your towels a vinegar soak to prevent mineral buildup from hard water and maintain their softness. Doing this even a few times a year will help keep your towels soft all year long.
  5. Drying Habits: Using high heat or leaving your towels in the dryer too long can make them rough. Ideally, you should dry your towels fully on low heat. When air drying, hang towels spread out and with space between them to allow air to circulate properly. If you keep towels folded up when they’re still damp, or hang them to dry too close to one another, you might start to notice an unpleasant mildew smell.

Bonus Towel Care Tips

Those are the most important steps around how to soften towels, but here are a few more tips to extend their lifespan:

  1. Rotate Your Towels: If you have multiple sets of towels, rotate them out. This prevents excessive wear and tear on any set, and helps them all stay soft longer. Towels are not supposed to last forever! Towels used everyday should be replaced every two to three years.
  2. Shake Before Drying: Before you place your towels in the dryer, give them a good shake. This helps to pre-fluff the fibers, which promotes better drying.
  3. Use Baking Soda: Occasionally adding a half-cup of baking soda to your laundry can help to neutralize odors and maintain towel freshness.

By adjusting your towel care habits, you can continue to #enjoythestay for years to come. If you have any questions, reach out via email at or text us at 470-999-6551.

About the Author

Liz Eichholz

Liz Eichholz

Co-Founder & Creative Director
University of Georgia, BFA, Graphic Design
11 years of experience