This big laundry mistake could be ruining your towels

Person kneeling and loading a washing machine
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Most of us have done the wash so many times that we barely notice loading and running the washing machine. However, there are certain rules which, if not followed, will damage your laundry, even if you own one of the best washing machines. There’s the basic fundamentals, such as separating whites and washing jeans individually for the first time, but the rule we’re talking about is a little less known. 

You might be breaking this rule already and feeling the effects, but unaware of what’s causing it. It’s such a common habit that most will either ignore the damage or replace the items and start over again. Here, we reveal what’s being damaged in your washing machine and why. Also check out our how to wash towels, 5 tips to freshen up your towels and how to make your towels feel soft and fluffy again.

Signs that your towels are damaged 

The items in question we’re talking about are towels. Towels need to be durable and absorbent to keep up with our demands. Most of us use our towels quite aggressively on a daily basis — scrubbing our bodies with them and leaving them to air-dry between uses. When it comes to cleaning our towels, we tend to chuck them in with the rest of the load, but this is where you can make a mistake and end up damaging them. 

A hand feeling the texture of a brown towel

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So what does this damage look like? Essentially, you’re more likely to feel it than see it. Your towels will lose their absorbency, and won’t dry like they used to. It’s worth mentioning that when towels are brand new, they come with a pretreatment to make them feel soft and fluffy before washing for the first time. This will naturally wash off and shouldn’t be confused.   

What’s damaging your towels? 

If you add fabric softener to every wash, you will be damaging your towels. This is because fabric softener is created from a silicone oil, which coats your laundry in a waxy substance during the wash to make it feel softer. However, this coating naturally needs to be water-resistant to survive the wash, which is why it affects the absorbancy of any towels. The towel’s fibers end up coated from the fabric softener and can’t absorb as they should. 

It’s worth flagging that dryer sheets also contain oils that have the same effect, so these too should be avoided when washing and drying towels. 

Some claim you can still use fabric softener every other wash, while some argue you should never use it. We suggest trying an alternative, such as the following.

A person measuring out fabric softener in front of a loaded washing machine

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How to make your towels soft without damaging them  

You don’t need to use fabric softener to keep your towels soft. Instead, wash your towels with a cup of white distilled vinegar once every month in place of detergent. It will remove any soapy residue which is making them feel rough and will reestablish the absorbancy. In the future, try cutting back on the detergent when washing towels, so less soap is retained. You can also wash on as high a temperature as the towels allow to thoroughly clean them.  

If you still want to use fabric softener on the rest of your load, you can — you just need to separate your towels for their own wash, although watch you don’t overload the machine. Remember to never mix distilled white vinegar with bleach — this creates a lethal chlorine gas.  

Katie Mortram
Homes Editor

Katie looks after everything homes-related, from kitchen appliances to gardening tools. She also covers smart home products too, so is the best point of contact for any household advice! She has tested and reviewed appliances for over 6 years, so she knows what to look for when finding the best. Her favorite thing to test has to be air purifiers, as the information provided and the difference between performances is extensive.