How to keep towels soft: 7 editor-approved habits and tips to try

Fluff it up, buttercup

A stack of soft pastel pink towels on a cloud background
(Image credit: Future)

Listen, there is nothing I love more than spending a night after work with a glass of rosé, sitting around in my towel, and scrolling on my phone after a hot girl shower. And what really makes the vibes immaculate is having one of the fluffiest, plush, basically the best bath towel around, to snuggle up in.

If your dream Friday night looks the same as mine, then you've probably also felt the pain of an itchy, stiff towel ruining your comfy mood. Kiss that scratchy feeling goodbye and save yourself the stress of shopping for more products to add to your laundry load get your towels cozy and cuddle-worthy, because spoiler alert: you actually don't need them. 

The secrets of how to keep towels soft are all in habit changes and items you likely already have at home, so scroll on for seven editor-approved tips on keeping your towels feeling their fluffiest.

1. Wash new towels before you use them

Start things off on the right foot by making sure you wash any new towels before use. Some manufacturers pre-treat their towels with chemicals to get them ready for shipping to your favorite retailers, and it's important to clean these off before you let that cute new towel anywhere near your self-care routine. 

Not only will a preliminary wash soften the towels, it'll also encourage the absorbency of the fibers and will ensure you're drying yourself off with a clean and fresh new towel, free of anything harsh and unfriendly to your skin. 

What do we use to clean our towels? I love Method's ginger and mango laundry detergent from Target. It's a mild formula that leaves my towels smelling like a much-needed tropical vacay, and it's gentle on all my laundry.

A pair of folded white and lilac flower bath towels

(Image credit: Etsy/CreativeFemininity)

2. Cut down the detergent

This quick fix is editor-approved, easy, and free — and it will actually save you money. Our ecommerce editor Christina Chrysostomou swears by making this simple change to soften her towels.

"You have to remember that most towels are made from an organic material, so sometimes less (detergent) is more when it comes to keeping towels soft," Chrysostomou says. "Just like how sulphates in shampoos can be drying to hair, chemical detergents might also make fluffy towels rough and scratchy."

Towels are designed to be waaaay more absorbent than our clothes and sheets, so resist the urge to overload on your laundry detergent. Use about half of the recommended amount for a standard load to prevent the fibers from absorbing any excess soap.

3. Ditch the fabric softener

This might seem completely counterintuitive, but despite the name, fabric softener is actually doing the opposite for your towels. Instead of making your post-shower experience soft and snuggly, a softener coats the fibers of your towel in an oily-feeling film, reducing the absorbency by clogging them up (think about it similarly to your pores — they can't function properly if they're clogged).

If you've already tried out the fabric softener on your towels and have been left with a not-so-soft situation, don't stress and scroll on for the solution.

A stack of fluffy colorful bath towels

(Image credit: Etsy/HarmannConcept)

4. Bring on the baking soda and vinegar

Surprise, surprise: the home hack besties baking soda and vinegar are also both amazing for getting your towels soft and fluffy. Yes, we recommend Arm & Hammer's baking soda and Heinz's cleaning vinegar, both from Amazon.

Swap out that fabric softener for a 1/4 cup of white vinegar or 1/2 cup of baking soda and run your towels with warm water. Each of these will dissolve any built-up residue from detergent, soap, or skincare products in the fibers of your towels (but be sure to use one or the other, not both, or you'll cause your washing machine to overflow like a DIY volcano).

5. Give your towels some space

Your towels need some space to breathe, both in the washing machine and dryer. I've always been tempted to stuff my laundry machines to the max to try and keep energy use down, but this has actually led to running my washer and dryer more in the long run because my clothes, towels, and sheets never felt fully clean. 

By starting to run my towels by themselves in their own load of laundry and allowing the water in a wash cycle and hot air from the dryer to properly circulate throughout both machines, I've already noticed a huge difference in how soft they feel. 

10/10 recommend leaving room in both machines for your towels (and the rest of your laundry, too).

A trio of light blue pastel dryer balls in a machine with towels

(Image credit: Blueland)

6. Throw in dryer balls

If you do buy one thing to help keep your towels soft, let it be these. Our very own head ecommerce editor Annie Collyer is obsessed with her dryer balls for keeping her towels super soft.

"My dryer balls from Amazon have truly been a game-changer," Collyer says.  "They cut drying time in half (honestly!) and they agitate the fibers for you, so you don't have to keep taking your towels out to shake them."

Dryer balls will keep your towels from tangling as well, meaning air can evenly circulate and fluff up every fiber thoroughly. If you're desperate for laundry day and waiting for that Prime delivery, grab a clean tennis ball or two and pop those in with your towels in the meantime.

7. Shake 'em out

One of the main keys to keeping your towels soft and fluffy is to agitate the fibers throughout the washing and drying process (that's why spiky and wool dryer balls like these from Blueland are both such a win). The fibers will be agitated in the laundry naturally, but TBH, an extra boost is always a plus.

So between washing and drying and after the dryer as well, give each of your towels a shake for another quick push in the right direction.

Nishaa Sharma
Freelance social media editor

Hi! I’m the former social editor at Real Homes and a freelance social media expert bringing you the latest and greatest in home trends, interiors aesthetics, and celebrity finds. When I’m not scrolling or filming the best home decor for your small space, you can find me exploring the cutest villages and brunch spots, or snuggled up on the sofa with a new recipe, my husband, and our puppy, Ebble.