Just a little blog about me and mine.

Save the Towels! September 21, 2009

Filed under: home — Katie @ 10:09 am

This weekend I did a lot of picking up clutter in the house, organizing and even getting rid of some clothes and games. With the torrential rain in Atlanta and trying my best to stay inside, I found it a good weekend to work on some home projects. While it’s nice to sometimes get rid of things you no longer use, it’s even better to give your belongings new life and not need to buy replacements.


One of our major household problems lately has been that our towels never seem to get clean anymore and begin to smell after the first time they are used. We have a lot of nice towels–some matching no less, and then also have some towels that I got for high school graduation, so I’d hate to have to buy more.

Lifehacker continues to be one of my favorite blogs to read, and on the weekends they often feature home, garden and kitchen hacks along with their usual work-week geek advice. This Saturday morning I woke up early to clean the house, and was taking a break and reading some articles when I found this post:

Use Vinegar and Baking Soda to Recharge Your Towels

I had been planning to get some color safe bleach to start using on our towels to kill the smell, but saw this article and decided to try this first. I learned that detergent and fabric softener can leave a residue on towels that over time builds up and makes the towel less absorbent. When the towel becomes less absorbent, it also doesn’t dry out as quickly as it should after you use it, and then gets smelly. By using more fabric softener on towels to try to make them soft and nice smelling, it seems we actually made the problem worse.


Wash the towels twice with hot water. On the first round add a cup of white vinegar (which we buy in large bottles anyway for cleaning). On the second wash add 1/2 cup of baking soda (ditto on the large container already in the house). Don’t use vinegar and baking soda in the same load, unless you like cleaning up a mess. Then dry them with no fabric softener sheet. I realized later that I should have put the vinegar in with the water first to dilute it, and then added the towels to keep them from being discolored. They all looked fine though, and we don’t really care anyway if some of our towels get discolored–see my earlier note about some towels dating back to being high school graduation presents.

The Science:

Vinegar is an acid, baking soda is a base. When either dissolves in water, the molecules dissociate and then the atoms can re-bind to minerals, salts and other chemicals that have built up on the towels. The recombined molecules can more easily rinse away. Yay science.

Final verdict:

Even without chemical fabric softeners, the towels were very soft when they came out of the dryer–vinegar is a natural fabric softener. I got out a new hand towel from this load of laundry, and used it last night and again this morning. It smelled fine both times, so that’s good news so far.

As I read more about this, I learned it might take some time washing them this way for them to truly become as soft and absorbent as they can be. As cleaners, baking soda will get your towels cleaner and whiter; vinegar will get rid of smells and stains. I have already discovered ways to use vinegar and baking soda for household cleaning, so now I want to explore how to best use it for laundry. I was also reminded that you can put a couple of tennis balls (clean ones!) in the dryer with towels to make them fluffier, so I need to finally try that folk remedy as well.


One Response to “Save the Towels!”

  1. Julia Says:

    This is awesome. I’ve been noticing the same thing lately and it’s ticking me off to have these slightly musty towels! I’m def. going to try it out.

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