How to wash towels and keep them fluffy

Women holding pile of towels
Women holding pile of towels (Image credit: Shutterstock)

We all enjoy the feeling of stepping out of the shower into a plush, bath towel to keep us cozy. But, once they start losing their softness, and become scratchy on the skin, you’ll need to know how to wash towels and keep them fluffy. 

Often, our laundry habits can cause damage to the towel fibers, reducing their absorbency and softness over time. The simple task of knowing how to wash towels the right way will ensure they remain soft and fluffy for long. You don’t want to spend a fortune on Egyptian cotton towels, only to ruin them on laundry day.

So before you make this biggest laundry mistake, here’s how to wash towels and keep them fluffy for the longest time. 

Plus, if your towels are feeling quite rough as of late, here's how to make your towels feel soft and fluffy again. Want to make them look good? Here's how to fold towels.

1. Separate towels from other laundry 

Loading white towels into washing machine

Loading white towels into washing machine (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Always wash towels separately from other laundry items to avoid the risk of color run or fibers transferring to your expensive towels. Similarly, wash colored towels with similar shades.

TIP: Never wash brand new towels with old ones to avoid any color run between the fabrics.

2. Don’t overload your machine 

Packed washing machine with white towels

Packed washing machine with white towels (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Don’t overfill the washing machine, as thick or large-sized towels need ample space to move around the drum. This will ensure a proper clean, rinse and ventilation. If you pack too many towels inside, this can result in moisture pockets throughout the fabrics, which can lead to scratchy and stiff towels.

TIP: Always wash brand new bath towels before using them. New towels are often coated with silicone or other finishes that block absorbency. So washing before use will removes any fabric coatings, and allow the best absorbency. 

3. Use the correct amount of detergent 

Pouring laundry detergent

Pouring laundry detergent (Image credit: Shutterstock)

While you may think that adding a little extra will make your towels cleaner, always stick to the right amount of washing detergent. If you use excess detergent, this starts to build up soapy residue that can make the towels less absorbent and stiff. Experts recommend using about half the suggested amount of detergent when washing towels to keep them soft and fluffy. 

TIP: Never use bleach-based products, even for removing stains. Not only can this fade the colors but destroy the fabric, making it lose its softness.

4. Skip the fabric conditioner 

Adding white vinegar into laundry tray

Adding white vinegar into laundry tray (Image credit: Shutterstock)

We all want our laundry to smell fragrant after washing, but you shouldn't use fabric conditioner when washing towels. Similar to detergent, fabric conditioner contains oils and other chemicals causing a waxy build-up, reducing absorbency and softness. Instead, you can add ½  to one cup of white vinegar during the final rinse cycle. Distilled white vinegar is a great, natural fabric softener and will remove soapy residue on laundry. Remember to never mix distilled white vinegar with bleach though as this creates a lethal chlorine gas. 

TIP: If you want your towels to smell fresh, add a few drops of essential oils to the vinegar, like peppermint or lavender.

5. Wash at the right temperature 

Setting washing cycle temperature

Setting washing cycle temperature (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Always read the care labels on towels and check for specific washing temperature before throwing them into the machine. The ideal temperature to wash towels is around 40 degrees to ensure your towels stay fresh and feeling soft for longer. But a 60 degree wash will be better at killing germs and bacteria. If possible, use a cycle specifically for towels or a normal/regular cycle is just as good. 

TIP: Try to alternate between a 40-degree and 60-degree wash to ensure your towel is thoroughly clean and germ-free.  That way you're not washing towels on hot all the time, which may ruin the fabric and feel.

6. Give the towels a shake 

Pile of towels

Pile of towels (Image credit: Shutterstock)

It may seem simple but giving your towels a good shake before and after washing can make all the difference to the softness. By shaking them out before washing, this will open up the fibers more, to allow the detergent to reach every spot, giving them an effective clean.  Shake again at the end of the drying cycle or before hanging them out to dry. This will loosen the fibers, and make the towels soft and fluffy. 

TIP: Never dry towels on radiators. The harsh heat will create a rough finish to your towels and make them stiff.  

How often should you wash your bath towels? 

Towels stored in bathroom

Towels stored in bathroom (Image credit: Shutterstock)

The general rule of thumb is to wash bath towels (or change to a fresh one) at least once a week. This will prevent any germs or bacteria growing on your towel, and is more hygienic. After washing a towel, always let it fully dry before using again.  

When should you buy new towels?

If you have scratchy or non-absorbent towels, you’re probably best to throw those out. After all, they won’t dry properly and won’t feel super soft. Experts suggest you should buy new towels every two years.  

If you want more laundry tips, check out how to clean a washing machine for best performance. Or else you’ll end up wondering how to fix a shaky washing machine from wear and tear. If you do need to change or upgrade your washing machine though, be sure to check out the best washing machines or decide whether front load or top load would be suitable for your household.  

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!