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How to Make New Towels More Absorbent

Have you ever noticed that new towels seem to repel water, rather than absorb it? Usually, it takes many trips through the washing machine for a towel to become more absorbent, but with these tips, you should be able to speed up the process somewhat.


  1. 1
    Wash each towel in hot water before use. Some people run their towels through twice (without drying). The hot water wash will remove extra dye and any coatings (for example, fabric softener) left behind from the manufacturing process. Don't wash anything else with them because colored towels might bleed; also, towels tend to leave residual fluff on other fabric items.
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    Add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. Dilute the vinegar first or wait until the water level is high enough to dilute it instantly; otherwise, it might discolor your towels. The second wash cycle can include 1/2 cup of baking soda, but don't use baking soda and vinegar in the same rinse. If your washer has a liquid fabric softener dispenser, put the vinegar in that.
    • Note that these are time-proven folk remedies. When the vinegar (an acid) or the baking soda (an alkaline or base) dissociate (chemically come apart) the atoms are free to recombine with the minerals, salts and other chemicals that have accumulated in forms that more readily rinse away.
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    Avoid using fabric softener of any kind. Fabric softeners coat the surface of fabric with a thin layer of chemicals (oils) that makes the fibers hydrophobic (oil and water don't mix). If you can't stand how towels feel without fabric softener, use amidoamine softeners if available but the vinegar should help soften them anyway.
    • Don't despair if you've already used fabric softener. It can be stripped to help increase absorbency by doing the following: Place 1/2 cup baking soda in the washing powder and add to the washing machine. Then, add 1/2 cup vinegar to the rinse slot.
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    Done. You should now be the owner of some slightly more comfortable, more absorbent towels!


  • Baking soda will get your towels cleaner and whiter; vinegar will get rid of smells and stains. Both are great for washing cloth diapers.
  • For storage purposes, it's recommended that you keep two sets of towels per person in the household plus an extra set for guests. If you rotate the sets by purchasing at different times, you can try to have at least one set that's soft while the new set is being broken in!
  • Put two rubber dryer balls (old tennis balls work too––just make sure they're clean!) in the machine with the towels when drying them. This will help to fluff up the towels and they will then be more absorbent.
  • Bamboo fabric towels tend to be more absorbent than cotton towels, even from the start. If you can find these, give them a try.
  • Towels should be washed regularly. Once a week is fine for towels hung on towel rails, while every few days is best for people who have high exposure to dirt (such as builders, gardeners, construction workers, cleaners, etc.).
  • White vinegar is a great fabric softener. It works for reducing the static of most fabrics and helps to make towels softer.
  • Breaking in new towels is a relatively slow process. It can take a couple months or more of washings for any fabric softener layers to completely break down and bring the towel to its full absorbing potential.
  • You can hang towels outside on a clothesline to help them smell fresh and become more absorbent; line drying is also greener and cheaper. Moreover, towels hung outside tend to hold their fold better. On the downside, line dried towels may feel rougher than those dried in a dryer. You can soften them after line drying by tumbling them in a dryer for 3-5 minutes. Or just learn to like the feel of freshly outdoor-dried towels; it breaks down after the first rub down anyway, once moisture hits the towel fibers.


  • A towel that produces a lot of fluff after washing needs to be washed again.
  • Never store damp towels––they make the ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Towels are best stored outside of the bathroom; steam can make them smell off.
  • Don't use vinegar and baking soda in the same rinse. The chemical reaction will create lots of frothing, which isn't ideal for your washing machine.

Things You'll Need

  • New towels
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda

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