How To Make Bath Towels Soft Again

There’s nothing better than wrapping yourself in a plush, soft bath towel after a shower or bath. But over time, even the plushest towels can start to feel stiff, and scratchy and lose their fluffiness.

How To Make Bath Towels Soft Again

Don’t throw away your towels just yet! With a little TLC, you can restore them to their original soft and absorbent state.

This post covers everything you need to know to make your bath towels soft again. We’ll look at:

  • Why do towels get stiff and scratchy?
  • Washing tips to keep towels soft
  • How to soften stiff towels
  • Storing towels correctly
  • When to replace towels

Follow these tips and your towels will be back to their luxuriously soft selves in no time.

Why Do Towels Get Stiff and Scratchy?

There are a few key reasons why bath towels lose their softness:

Detergent and Fabric Softener Buildup

Using too much laundry detergent can leave a residue in the fibers that makes towels feel stiff. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets also coat the fibers, reducing absorption.

Hard Water

Washing towels in hard water causes mineral deposits to build up on the fibers. The higher the mineral content, the stiffer the towels feel.

Heat Damage

Excessive tumble drying, especially on high heat, can damage towel fibers, making them crispy. Drying on radiators has the same effect.


Repeated rubbing against the skin roughens up the fibers over time.

Tips to Keep Towels Soft When Washing

Washing towels properly is key to keeping them soft and fluffy. Follow these tips:

Use Less Detergent

Cut back to about half the recommended amount of laundry detergent. Excess suds leave a residue that contributes to stiffness.

Wash Towels Separately

Wash towels on their own to avoid transfer of lint and dye from other fabrics. This preserves quality.

Skip the Fabric Softener

Fabric softener coats towel fibers, reducing absorption. Use distilled white vinegar in the rinse instead.

Shake Out Towels

Before washing, shake towels to open up the fibers for deep cleaning. Do this again before drying.

Wash in Warm Water

Warm water helps detergent dissolve fully. But first, let the machine fill partially before adding detergent.

Don’t Overload the Washer

Leave room for towels to circulate and rinse properly. Overcrowding causes texture problems.

Line Dry When Possible

Occasionally line dry towels to avoid heat damage from machines. Finish damp items in the dryer briefly.

How to Soften Stiff, Scratchy Towels

If your towels have already hardened, don’t worry. You can restore softness with a few simple laundry treatments:

Wash with Vinegar

White vinegar removes residue that causes scratchiness. Add 1-2 cups to the detergent dispenser and wash towels in warm or hot water.

Use Baking Soda

Baking soda dissolves oils and chemicals that make towels stiff. Add 1/2 cup per load along with detergent and wash in warm water.

Deep Clean with Vinegar and Baking Soda

For extreme buildup, wash first with vinegar only, then repeat with baking soda only. Use hot water and no detergent for both washes.

Install a Water Softener

If you have hard water, a water softener prevents mineral deposits from stiffening fibers over time.

Brush Dry Towels

Using a hairbrush on dry towels loosens threads and fluffs up the pile. Focus on scratchy spots.

Dry Towels Completely

Remove towels from the dryer immediately and shake them out for maximum fluff. Even slightly damp towels feel stiff.

Repeat treatments as needed until towels are restored to softness. It may take a few washes to fully remove the buildup.

Proper Towel Storage

Storing towels correctly after washing helps maintain softness. Follow these tips:

Hang Towels to Dry

Let towels dry completely on hooks between uses. This prevents mildew and musty smells that rough up fibers.

Fold Flat Without Creaking

Fold towels loosely, not creased. Stacking tightly causes the bottom towels to flatten.

Store Towels Vertically

Stand towels upright rather than stacking them to keep their loft. Use open shelves or folding towel racks.

Add Cedar

Place cedar boards or sachets in linen closets to repel moisture and prevent musty odors.

Proper storage keeps your freshly softened towels feeling great wash after wash.

When to Replace Old Towels

No amount of revitalizing can restore towels that are too far gone. Here are signs it’s time to replace them:

  • Towels stay scratchy and harsh even after multiple treatments
  • Musty, mildewy odors you can’t eliminate
  • Visible holes, tears, thinning, fraying
  • Permanent stains that don’t wash out fully
  • Towels no longer absorb water well

For the best results, buy high-quality 100% cotton towels with a weight of at least 500 GSM. With proper care, premium towels can last years.


Still, have questions about keeping your towels lush? Here are answers to some common queries:

How often should you wash bath towels?

Wash towels after 3 uses or whenever they start to smell musty. Washing too frequently causes extra wear.

Should you use fabric softener on towels?

Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets as they reduce absorbency. Use distilled white vinegar instead for softness.

How do you dry towels without a dryer?

Hang towels outdoors or indoors on drying racks. Make sure they dry fully before storing to prevent stiffness.

What temperature should you wash towels?

Wash towels in warm or hot water to optimize cleaning and rinsing. Check labels for guidelines specific to your towels.

Why do my new towels feel scratchy?

New towels are often coated to feel extra soft in stores. Wash before first use to remove the coating and improve absorbency.


There’s no need to live with scratchy towels when a few simple laundry tweaks can restore their softness. Now that you know how to keep bath towels fluffy and prevent them from stiffening, you can enjoy that just-washed luxury every time you step out of the shower.

Follow these tips for washing, drying, softening, and storing towels properly. With some TLC and the right techniques, your towels will stay plush and cushy for years to come.

Emma Kellam
Emma Kellam

I'm Emma, and I run Towels Edition, a website for fellow home goods enthusiasts who, like me, are passionate about textiles. After working in high-end retail, I was amazed by how little most people (myself included!) know about all the towel options out there.

I research and write all the content myself. Whether it's specialized towels like bar mops, Turkish cotton production methods, or comparing hair towel absorbency, I cover it. My goal is to share my knowledge and enthusiasm to help others.

Running Towels Edition allows me to constantly expand my own expertise too. I love learning about innovations in bamboo fabric or ideal bath towels. It's so rewarding to receive emails thanking me for recommendations that improved my readers' routines.

I want Towels Edition to be the ultimate online towel resource, making this overlooked necessity far more fascinating. My aim is to open people's eyes to how specialty towels can thoroughly enhance hygiene, cleaning, recreation and self-care.