New towels are just gorgeous, aren’t they? They feel so lovely and soft and luxurious in the shop and you can’t wait to get them home and use them for the first time!
But wait up!
Brand new towels might feel super-soft to the touch. But it is artificial. Manufacturers add a chemical film to make them feel soft, but unfortunately, it renders them pretty useless for drying your body.
Before you use your new towels for the first time you must wash out the chemical film and get rid of general dust and dirt that probably collected on them in the factory or shop.
If you follow this guide your new towels will be soft, have great absorbency and will smell lovely too.
No time to read? Here’s the quick answer, read on for the detail:
Wash your towels on a regular cycle with one cup of white distilled vinegar (no detergent). Run a second cycle using baking soda along with a couple of drops of your favourite essential oil. Shake out and then line dry or tumble dry on a low to medium setting.
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Why wash your new towels before use?
New towels often feel gorgeous in the shop, don’t they?
That’s because they usually have a special finish on them which makes them feel nice but it stops them from absorbing moisture, which is the very reason you bought them!
Always wash your newly purchased towels before you use them for the first time. Here’s why:
- Removes the chemical finish added during manufacturing.
- Removes dirt, dust and bacteria from the factory and shop.
- Removes the lint.
- Expands the fibres that have become compressed during manufacture and storage.
- Helps to set the color to prevent fading.
- Creates absorbency.
- Makes them smell fresh.
How to wash new towels for the first time
My husband bought some thick and sumptuous white Turkish cotton bath towels a while back similar to these:
He proceeded to use them straightaway without washing them first. At the time he had a bit of beard stubble. He came out of the shower complaining about all the white lint caught on his chin! Plus he was still wet!
Well, I can tell you that all of the above would have been avoided if he had washed his new Turkish cotton towels before he used them for the first time. When you wash your new towels, the absorbency can be restored and the lint problem alleviated. If you have colored towels you can seal in the color too which means they won’t fade so much over time.
What you will need to wash your new towels for the first time
- Distilled white vinegar
- Baking soda
- Your favourite essential oil
- Washing machine
Step 1 – Check the label
To begin, check the label of your new towels. Do not exceed the recommended washing temperature.
Step 2 – Load the machine
Wash your towels in their own load. They should not be mixed with other types of laundry as new towels will shed a lot of lint that you won’t want to be deposited on anything else.
Step 3 – Run a cycle with vinegar
- Select a regular wash at a warm temperature.
- Add one cup of distilled white vinegar to the detergent compartment or add it directly to the washing machine drum.
- Do not add detergent.
- Do not add fabric softener.
Vinegar will help to sanitize the towels and set the color so it is less likely to fade going forward.
Step 4 – Run a second cycle with baking soda
Now we run a second cycle with baking soda. This cycle will neutralize the vinegar wash and thoroughly clean your towels.
- Do not remove the towels, you can run this second cycle immediately.
- Add half a cup of baking soda to the detergent compartment or directly to the washing drum.
- Add a couple of drops of your favourite essential oil (mine’s lavender). This will give them a lovely fresh smell.
- Select a warm regular wash.
- Do not add detergent or fabric softener.
Step 5 – Shake out and dry
When the second cycle has finished, remove your towel from the drum and give it a good shake out.
Read on for my tips on the best ways to dry your new towels whilst maintaining softness and keeping them sanitary.
How to dry your new towels for the first time
If you are wondering what the best way to dry your towels are, the ideal way is to line dry them on a sunny and windy day with low humidity. The sun will help to sanitize them and the wind will soften them as they blow around. If you can, peg them out along one edge only they will dry very quickly in that kind of environment.
Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of ideal drying weather every day! And if you don’t have anywhere outside to dry your towels, inside is the only option.
If you don’t have an outdoor drying space or it’s raining outside, let’s look at the best options for drying your new towels indoors:
1. In the tumble dryer
- Remove your towels from the washing machine and shake them well.
- Add them to the tumble dryer and select medium or low heat.
- Remove as soon as they are fully dry to avoid wrinkles.
2. Using tennis balls
Put your dryer on medium heat and add a couple of tennis balls. The tennis balls will help to soften the fibres.
3. Using Ecoegg Dryer Eggs
Ecoegg Dryer Eggs can help to reduce the drying time of your towels by up to 28%. They also help to soften fibres.
How not to dry your towels
If you can, line dry your towels on a windy day for maximum softness. The next best option is the tumble dryer.
Check out my guide on how to dry your towels without a tumble dryer for loads of tips on the best ways to dry.
Here are the worst ways to dry your towels:
- On a radiator. The constant heat from a radiator can damage the fibres of towels. Plus it will block the heat going into the room, which isn’t recommended especially if you are trying to reduce your heating bill.
- In a badly ventilated area. Always dry your laundry in an area where air can circulate otherwise the drying time will be too long and your laundry could end up smelling musty.
- In a humid area. If it is too humid outside avoid line drying your towels. They will take too long to dry and bacteria will grow faster on them.
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How to keep your new towels soft and fluffy going forward
If you washed your new towels in the recommended way as above they should be fluffy, absorbent and fresh smelling.
So how do you keep new towels fluffy forever? Here are some tips:
- Use half the amount of detergent.
- Add a cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle.
- Avoid using fabric softeners.
- Avoid using dryer sheets.
- Do not wash at high temperatures.
- Avoid high heat in the tumble dryer.
- Don’t let damp dirty towels hang around, wash them as soon as you can.
No washing machine? Here is how to keep them fluffy when you wash them by hand: How To Wash Towels By Hand.
How to strip old towels in the washing machine
If your towels have lost their softness it could be that there is a buildup of washing detergent in them. If you think that is the case, try washing your towels in just water. If you see suds in the drum then you know that it is too much washing detergent that is causing the issue.
Going forward try reducing the amount of detergent you use by half or consider using an Ecoegg instead. The Ecoegg does not create suds, and there is no guesswork as to how much detergent to use, so your towels will always remain soft.
Another good option for getting rid of detergent buildup and making your towels soft again is to strip them.
How to strip towels and remove detergent buildup:
- Add hot water to your bathtub or sink.
- Add your towels to the drum along with 1/4 cup of borax, 1/4 cup of washing soda crystals and 1/2 cup laundry detergent. If you don’t have borax double up on washing soda instead. Use a smaller amount of each ingredient if you are only using a sink for this.
- Soak the towels in this mixture until the water has cooled. Agitate occasionally. The water should go a murky grey colour.
- Drain the water.
- Transfer to your washing machine and run a rinse cycle.
- Dry in your tumble dryer or line dry.
Frequently asked questions
Do you have to wash new towels before using them?
Towels usually come out of the manufacturing process with some sort of silicon or waxy finish which helps them to appear softer to the touch. New towels may also have dirt and dust on them from the factory and from the shop you purchased them at.
You can remove the chemical finish, dust and dirt from towels, by laundering them before you use them for the first time.
Washing your new towels for the first time with vinegar and baking soda will help to remove the silicon finish and set the color on colored towels.
Should you wash bath towels after each use?
There is no need to wash your bath towel after each use. The general guidance is to wash them after three or four uses.
Should you wash new bath towels before using them?
Yes, always wash your new bath towels before you use them for the first time. Doing so will make them more absorbent, reduce lint.
Washing your new towels will remove dirt and dust as a result of the manufacturing process. The last thing you want is to rub dirt back onto your body after your shower!
Can you wash new towels with salt?
Adding a cup of salt to your washing machine when you wash your towels can help to set the color.
If you are finding that the color is bleeding out of your towel when you use it, try this:
- Make up a solution of a few tablespoons of salt and water.
- Let your towel soak in the solution for a couple of hours or overnight.
- Rinse and then wash as normal.
Can you use fabric softener on towels?
It isn’t a good idea to use fabric softener on your towels because the towels will become less absorbent.
Which laundry detergent is best for washing towels?
There is no hard and fast rule as to what is the best detergent to use for washing your towels.
Whichever laundry detergent you choose whether it is store-bought or homemade, make sure not to use too much because doing so can cause a build-up of soap in the fibres and your towels will lose softness.
Try using half the amount of detergent that you would normally use for your other laundry. I also recommend Ecoegg because there is no problem guessing the dosage, just add it to your wash and your towels will come out clean and soft.
How often should you wash towels?
There are different opinions on this, but as long as you can dry your towels between uses you can make them last for three to four uses.
What temperature should you wash your new towels at?
It is tricky to choose the right washing temperature for your towels. On the one hand, high temperatures can damage the fibres and fade colored towels over time. On the other hand, you will want to kill bacteria in your wash which calls for high heat!
My preference is to always wash on cold, even for towels. Washing at cold temperatures saves electricity and it is kinder to fabrics. For better sanitization, I recommend adding some distilled white vinegar into the conditioner compartment because it will help to kill bacteria and soften fibres at the same time.