Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Use Fabric Softener on Towels

Fabric softener keeps clothes soft, fresh-smelling and static-free, but when it comes to washing towels, fabric softener should be given the boot.

Fabric softener is a popular laundry ingredient because they help keep clothes soft, fresh-smelling and static-free. It also helps clothing retain its shape and color. But when it comes to washing towels, fabric softener should be given the boot.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Fabric Softener on Towels

Is fabric softener bad? Not exactly, but it can be bad for your towels. Fabric softener is created from a silicone oil. During a wash cycle, this oil latches onto towel fibers and makes them slippery, greasy and less absorbent. Since the purpose of a towel is to absorb water, this is a problem.

Some experts say you don’t have to completely stop using fabric softener when you wash your towels. Instead, use a softener every other washing. But, many experts, such as The Turkish Towel Co., recommend omitting fabric softener altogether when it comes to your towels.

How Can I Keep My Towels Soft?

You can still keep your towels soft and fluffy, even if you don’t use fabric softener. Instead, add distilled vinegar to your washing machine. Vinegar will remove any soap residue from your towels, which is what makes them feel rough and reduces their absorbency. Add a quarter- to half-cup of vinegar to your machine during the wash cycle, or wash your towels a second time using one cup of vinegar instead of soap.

Dryer Sheets vs. Liquid Fabric Softener

Like fabric softener, dryer sheets contain oils that can coat towel fibers and destroy their absorbency. So, don’t use them when drying your towels. Instead, create three-inch balls from aluminum foil and toss them in the dryer with your towels. They’ll reduce static electricity and help soften your towels—and they’re more effective than dryer balls that you can buy.

Miss the fresh scent of fabric softener and dryer sheets? Then grab an old washcloth, dampen it and add three to five drops of essential oil. Toss the washcloth in the dryer with your towels, and your towels will come out fluffy and smelling great.

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Melanie Radzicki McManus
Melanie Radzicki McManus is an outdoors enthusiast specializing in travel. She has won many awards for her writing, most notably four prestigious Lowell Thomas Awards, considered the Pultizers of travel writing. McManus is the author of "Thousand-Miler: Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail." Her work has appeared in Backpacker, the Chicago Tribune, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, How Stuff Works and dozens of other publications.