How To Wash Towels With Vinegar (soft & fresh towels again!)

Vinegar has become a staple item in my cleaning cupboard and also for my laundry. I love to use it in the rinse cycle to kill bacteria and keep my machine nice and sanitary. It also does wonders at softening fibers too. Towels come out lovely and soft.

Vinegar can also be used to strip towels and refresh them. Perhaps you have used a little too much detergent? Over time even a tiny bit too much can cause detergent buildup. Fabric softeners can buildup in the fibers too causing towels to smell.

If your towels have become rough, or they smell sour, you can get them back to their original softness and neutralize smells by washing your towels in a cup of vinegar.

Read on for the details:

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How to wash towels with vinegar

For washing your towels, I recommend using distilled white vinegar. It is colorless, plus I find the smell less pungent than other sorts of vinegar such as malt or apple cider. That could be just me. However, everyone I know recommends the white kind, and it is what I have always used.

You can buy distilled white vinegar in bulk online or at your supermarket. Here in the UK I usually find it in the condiments aisle.

If your towels are smelly or mildewy you will also want to use some baking soda or bicarbonate of soda in a second cycle.

You can usually buy baking soda or bicarb in your supermarket. I like to buy mine at Wilkos because they sell it in bigger boxes than at the supermarket.

wilko baking soda

What does washing towels in vinegar do?

Vinegar has high acidity, which means that it can dissolve grime and mineral deposits that may be present on your towels. It’s always difficult to judge how much detergent to use when washing towels. If you regularly use a little too much soap in your wash, you will find that it causes the towels to lose their softness due to old detergent residue.

Adding vinegar to your wash or washing your towels only with vinegar and water, can bring them back to their original softness.

It’s worth noting that brand new towels often have a coating on them to make them artificially soft. So you shouldn’t aim to get them back to the softness they had when you bought them as they won’t be absorbent.

New towels should always be washed before you use them for the first time so that you can remove the film and get rid of dust and debris as a result of the manufacturing process.

Here’s how to wash your towels with vinegar to get them soft again:

Step 1 – Wash your towels with one cup of vinegar

  1. Add your towels to the washing drum, taking care to keep similar colors together. Don’t overload the drum. The towels need room to agitate freely so that your machine can wash and rinse more effectively.
  2. Add one cup of vinegar directly into the drum.
  3. Set a hot washing cycle.

Step 2 – Wash with half a cup of baking soda

For the second wash, repeat the previous step, this time with a half cup of baking soda on a hot cycle. Baking soda is alkaline, so it will neutralize musty or sour odors in your towels.

Step 3 – Dry

towels drying on a washing line
Towels drying on a washing line

My preference is always to dry outside if you can. Hang your towels on the long edge so you don’t need to double them up. That way they dry quicker. I like to wrap my towels around my rotary washing line and they dry in no time at all.

Of course, it isn’t always possible to line dry. However, don’t be tempted to put your towel directly on a radiator, because it will stiffen the fibers and also stop the heat from going into your room, which is bad news if you are trying to reduce your heating bill.

To save energy whilst you dry, I recommend adding these dryer balls from EcoEgg. According to Ecoegg, they can reduce the drying time by up to 28% and they leave linens lovely and soft. Alternatively, try adding a couple of tennis balls.

Whichever method you use for drying your towels, always make sure they are thoroughly dry before you put them away. Damp towels will start to smell sour and you will have to rewash them.

Related reading:

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How to wash towels with vinegar for the first time

Before you use your new towels I always recommend you wash them.

Manufacturers usually add film to the fibers to make them softer to the touch (making you want to buy them!). Unfortunately, the film will stop them from absorbing water so well. Additionally, there will be dirt and debris accumulated from the manufacturing process which you will want to wash out before use.

Here’s a useful guide on how to wash your new towels for the first time.

How to wash towels with vinegar in a front loader

For a front loader or HE washer, put your vinegar directly in the drum before you start the wash. If you are using vinegar along with your regular washing powder, add it to the fabric softener compartment so that it gets added automatically to the rinse cycle.

How often should you wash your towels with vinegar?

You can add a cup of vinegar to the fabric softener compartment every time you run a wash. Vinegar is naturally antibacterial and also softens fibers, so there is no need for fabric softener.

Occasionally you may want to strip your towels with a vinegar-only wash. I recommend you do this every four to six weeks. However, if you use less detergent and add vinegar to the rinse cycle, you can get away with doing it less because there will be less detergent building up in the fibers.

Frequently asked questions

Can you wash towels with vinegar?

Yes, you can wash your towels with vinegar. Distilled white vinegar is the best kind to use. Either add a cup directly to the wash or add half to one cup to the rinse cycle. Vinegar is a natural fabric softener and sanitizer.

Can I wash towels with vinegar only?

If you have towels that have become rough, they probably have a buildup of old detergent in the fibers. Run a hot wash and add one cup of vinegar directly to the washing drum and then wash as normal. For extra power, run a second cycle with half a cup of baking soda.

Can you wash towels with vinegar and baking soda at the same time?

It isn’t a good idea to mix vinegar and baking soda because they produce a lot of bubbles as they react, which will reduce cleaning power and you could have problems with bubbles overflowing.

Also, vinegar is acid and baking soda is alkaline. When you mix the two chemicals they will cancel each other out, so you don’t get the benefit of either.

If you want to use both, use baking soda in the main wash and add vinegar to the rinse cycle.

How to clean mildewed towels with vinegar?

Do your towels smell of mildew? Perhaps they even have some mold marks on them?

Here’s how to get clean your smelly towels with vinegar:

Wash your smelly mildewed towels on their own along with one cup of distilled white vinegar. Use a hot wash. Follow with a second hot wash with a half cup of baking soda. The vinegar will kill bacteria and the baking soda will naturally neutralize smells.

How to hand wash towels with vinegar?

You can hand wash your towels with vinegar too! Simply run a bath of hot water and add one cup of distilled white vinegar. Let your towels soak and agitate them from time to time. Rinse and then dry.

No washing machine? Here’s how to keep your towels fluffy when you wash them by hand: How To Wash Towels By Hand.

How to wash towels with vinegar and detergent?

Distilled white vinegar pairs with detergent very well. I like to wash my towels with a very small amount of detergent, a tablespoon is usually enough. I also like to use my Ecogg because it leaves towels lovely and soft and there is no issue trying to work out how much detergent to use.

When you are using regular detergent or an Ecoegg, add the vinegar to the rinse cycle. This usually means adding it to the fabric softener compartment. Vinegar is great at killing bacteria and naturally softens fibers.

This article and its contents are owned by sparklingpenny.com and was first published on 9 May 2022.
Do you struggle to keep your home hair and odor-free with a dog in the house?
Find out how to achieve a hair-free and fragrant home 24/7 even when you have a smelly dog that drops hair constantly. All you need is a few minutes a day!

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Penny | SparklingPenny

Hi, I'm Penny. A busy mum of two boys and one dog, with the aim to enjoy life to the full.