How Do I Keep Towels Soft?

It’s a hard life, being a towel. All that hard water and friction can really wear a fabric down. Not to mention regular exposure to oil and soil. Even our fluffy, luxurious Turkish towels need a little TLC now and then, to keep them feeling their best.

If you’ve ever asked the question ‘How do I keep towels soft?’ we can help. We’ve put together some tips to get your towels as good as new.

Cut back on detergent.

Towels feel stiff because they start to build up soapy residue. By using a little less detergent than suggested, your machine’s rinse cycle will have an easier time washing out those last pesky bits of soap.

Wash in warm water.

Warmer water (around body temperature is best) absorbs detergent better, leaving less buildup on your towels. You can also let detergent dissolve in the washer before adding towels – just start the wash cycle, add soap and wait a minute or two before adding your towels.

Replace fabric softeners with vinegar.

Fabric softeners contain silicon that will make towels water repellent, so they won’t get as good a wash. Instead, soften your towels by using one cup of white vinegar about every six weeks; this will remove the soapy residue that makes towels feel rough, bringing back softness while restoring them to full absorbency. Simply run the towels through a regular washing cycle, then redo them using vinegar instead of soap.

Use baking soda.

This will help loosen up fibers and clean off any chemicals or grime, making your towels softer. Just mix half a cup of baking soda with your normal amount of detergent. As an added bonus, baking soda naturally eliminates musty odors that may have built up – say, if you left damp towels lying around in a gym bag or in a pile on the bathroom floor.

Lighten your load.

Don’t put too many towels in your washer at once. Not only will it strain the machine, it won’t allow enough room to rinse out all the dirt and detergent from your towels. The same goes for your dryer; if you overload it, there won’t be enough air in the dryer to properly fluff the fabric. So you’ll get stiff, matted towels, instead of soft, fluffy ones. For most standard machines, try two or three bath towels at a time, along with hand towels and washcloths.

Toss in a tennis ball or dryer ball.

Having a few unused tennis balls or dryer balls bouncing around in the dryer helps remove lumps while softening and fluffing your towels.

Go easy on the tumble drying.

True, it makes towels fluffier, but heat from the dryer can damage the integrity of the Turkish cotton. So use a lower setting, or alternate between air drying and tumble drying. You can also partially dry towels on the line and then finish them up in the dryer. If you prefer line drying, shake the towels out afterwards to fluff up the fibers, or toss them in the dryer on a cool setting for additional softness.

There you have it – the answer to the age-old question ‘How do I keep towels soft?’ Follow these self-help tips and your towels will stay plush and fluffy their whole lives. For more advice, visit our towel care section.



  1. Dorothy Hunter

    I have tried less soap powder and using vinegar instead of conditioner but they are still hard I would appreciate some advice,thank you.

    1. Rita Goff

      Have very expensive towels (a gift) have tried the no soap approach and the white vinegar but still very scratchy towels now.Help

    2. robert hender

      i, like your obove clients have uded vinega , white distilled, every which way.
      towels still scratchy, something wrong, advise correct procedure.
      yours rob.

  2. Pam Austin

    I do not have a tumble drier so what is best way to dry towels after treating with vinegar and baking soda? Thanks

  3. Sheila

    Thanks for the tips for soft towels. Ours get so hard and rough its like drying yourself with sand paper. Will give these a try and let you know the results. Thanks

  4. Marj

    What could be used, if not using fabric softener, to give towels a fresh, fragrant smell. I wouldn’t want to smell vinegar in my towel.

    1. charlotte

      @Eric — Some washing machines have a pause function, where you can pause the wash cycle within 5 minutes to add or remove clothing.

  5. Teresa Hempen

    I red that to get my towels soft again .. Use vinegar and baking soda but I need to know about how much to use could you please send me amounts?
    thank you

    1. charlotte

      Hi Teresa,
      Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the laundry when you add your regular liquid detergent. Baking soda helps whiten whites, brighten brights, and ensure odor-free clothing. If you would prefer to use vinegar, use the same amount — 1/2 cup per load.

      1. Chris

        I’ve just inherited an newish front loader when my long term top loader finally died. Towels that used to be quite soft from the top loader are now really hard from the front loader. Vinegar doesn’t make any difference. Any ideas?

        1. charlotte

          Hi Chris — hard/crunchy towels are usually caused by too much detergent. (And, never use fabric softener, as it coats the fibers of the towel and builds up over time.) Try washing them with in warm water with just vinegar or baking soda. That should strip any residue. Front-loading washers use much less water, and need less detergent. (I found this out recently too with the switch to a new front-loading machine.) Also, look for an HE (High Efficiency) detergent that is made for a front-loading machine. Good luck! Check out our towel care tips here: https://turkishtowelcompany.com/about/towel-care/

  6. Joyce

    Hi Chris, I’m sad to report that this seems to be a common problem with front loading washing machines. If anyone has one that doesn’t harden towels I’d be interested to know the brand.
    I use vinegar in my rinse water all of the time adding a few drops of lavender oil.
    I’ve experimented with the different cycles. The kids clothes cycle runs a longer rinse time so I use that. I cut the heat back to 20 and reduce the spin cycle. Improved but not perfect

    1. Yvonne Bekvalac

      Advice here sounds effective, especially the use of Sodium Bicarbonate dose 1/2 cup per small load. Vinegar could affect any rubber on door seal. A good machine brand is Siemens much like Bosch only better price. I got a replacement machine and these were recommend by visiting engineer. Best washes nowadays.

  7. Linzi

    I have a septic tank so wanted to use less chemicals. I use Dripak liquid soap flakes with a heaped tablespoon of washing soda and white vinegar as conditioner. I am in a medium-hard water area. I air dry outside when poss. Othereise indoors on a rack or over the Aga. All my washing incl. towels is actually softer than with commercial products. No vinegar smell!

  8. Debbie

    Just tried using white vinegar and towels have come out much softer (softer than they’ve been for ages),was worried about them smelling of vinegar, instead they smell really fresh – thank you for this tip