Rough scratchy & stiff towels

JoAnn_FlaOctober 11, 2009

My towels seem to be getting more scratchy as they get older. Most recommend you don't use softener with towels, so whats the story, I've been using a little softener. I have a brand new HE front loader and my towels are rough! The towels are about 3 yrs old and the walmart brand (not the best) any suggestions? It did seem when they were new they were soft & fluffy.

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Hi! I remember you posted here before -- was it about this?

Have you tried putting baking soda in the washer when you wash towels? In my experience, it softens the water and laundry. When I wash a full load of towels, I put 1 cup of baking soda in the drum before I put the towels in.

I don't know what type detergent you've been using. I would recommend using a powdered detergent (I really like Sears Ultra Wash powdered detergent) instead of liquid, washing in hot water, and using white vinegar in the final rinse to rid the towels of any detergent residue.

I hope some of this helps.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2009 at 10:01PM
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mara is right. Since I discovered this Forum, I use only powdered detergent (Arm & Hammer has baking soda as an ingredient), hot water, and white vinegar in fab softener receptical. I've never had softer or cleaner laundry in my life, and I'm old. I'm so grateful to everyone here.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2009 at 11:25PM
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Check to make sure you're not using too much detergent. Since I started measuring more carefully my towels are softer than ever. I use Tide Free/Sensitive skin formula, no other additives unless they're really bad, no softener, and have moderately hard water without a water softener anymore.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 3:07AM
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I have the same problem. All the suggestions given are good ones. Sounds like it is a combo of hard water and detergent build up. I buy cheaper towels too and I am sure that is a factor as my mom buys the expensive ones and never has a problem. I usually strip mine in a hot water wash with a full Cup of white distilled vinegar. Plus I use powder detergents too and dryer balls.

Hard water deposits have the same elements as limestone for the most part which is used in making cement. Over time if not laundered properly that all builds up and is a royal pain in the butt to get off. Combine that with layers of detergent residue and it makes it worse. It will take some time to get them soft again, but if you are dilligent and gauge how much detergent you use it should eventually work out the problem, but it takes patience.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 9:46AM
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Rinse with vinegar.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 9:35PM
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I had meant to say, I don't buy expensive towels. I usually buy mine at Walmart. I only buy them elsewhere (usually, BJ's warehouse store) if they're on sale at a great price.

I do not have hard water; our water is medium, not hard nor soft. But I have found that the baking soda definitely makes our towels softer and fluffier.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 10:06PM
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You don't say whether you are drying them in the dryer or on a line. If they are "scratchy and stiff" out of the dryer AND you've been using softener, then it may well be the type of cotton your towels are made of - especially now that all the nap has been reduced from years of use and laundering. I personally think there is a difference between cut nap and looped, after years of use, and avoid cut nap for towels.

Try washing them a couple washings WITHOUT detergent/soap in HOT water and a vinegar rinse to remove all the built-up residue and see if there is a difference. If not, then that would indicate they type of cotton isn't the better grades.


    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 6:32AM
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You may wish to wash with higher water levels, the minimum amount of detergent possible (1-2 TBS), dry on low heat, and possibly use a dedicated detergent for your towels such as L'Amour Towel Wash.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 1:13PM
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In addition to using a higher water level and just enough detergent to get them clean without leaving residue, you may also want to try decreasing the spin speed in your front-loader. Then when drying, do not use the "high" heat setting.

When using a top-loading machine, the towels retain more water when coming out of the washer and going into the dryer. This is due to the lower spin-speeds. As the towels dry more slowly in the dryer, it seems that they become more "fluffy" and less "scratchy" than when they are quick-baked in a hot dryer after a fast, long spin in the front-loader.

I believe you will see better results with this method. Let us know how it works out!


    Bookmark   October 14, 2009 at 6:04PM
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Tex, I have a toploader, but it is an HE washer (Maytag Bravos).

I spin towels on the highest speed, then dry them on high heat. They come out soft and fluffy.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2009 at 1:58AM
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My towels are pretty soft and i'm using vinegar in the rinse. They are not as soft as using softener, but they are not scratchy or wrinkly. I think really good rinse helps to get the soaps out and makes them softer.
I spin them on 1000 rpms and dry them on med.high.
I do mixed loads, no towels only.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2009 at 11:26PM
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I've done it all, used it all, tried everything. So.... I guess I just can't do laundry. I bought some tide powder today, I'll see how that does.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2009 at 11:46PM
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Joann, have you asked neighbors about this, to see if they have the same problem? To see what works for them?

I feel so bad for you. I do hope it gets better. I don't believe you are the problem. There has to be a reason.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2009 at 1:51AM
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Have you thought of washing them at least once with no detergent -- just baking soda and/or borax, and vinegar in the final rinse?

There may be a build-up of detergent in the towels. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2009 at 1:53AM
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My DD and DSIL are living with us for a while and are amazed at the difference in their clothes and dishes on our softened city water . . . in their old house, dishes and flatware had a filmy buildup and clothes were rough and dingy. They were on city water, not softened. Here the film is gone and their clothes are soft -- same techniques -- for laundry, CS plus 1 TBSP softener plus vinegar.

I have to conclude that the softened water is the difference.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2009 at 10:18AM
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I have a softener for my well water, I used CS before & DH didn't care for it. I have cut back on my detergent, then I am still having problems with DH's stinking clothes, even after buying a brand new Front loader. It has to be me. I also did some baking soda in the towels and still no difference. Maybe I need to buy new towels for my new machine????

    Bookmark   October 17, 2009 at 8:11PM
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Maybe you using too little detergent?
My LG (4.00)takes 1/2 cup and little fl (1.75) takes 1/4 - 1/3 of the cup. I'm using either Persil or mix of my favorite detergents and I'm using baking measuring tools.
I know people like to save water and detergents but it does not always work. At least not for me.
I can not imagine using just tablespoon or two of detergent. Well maybe washing nylons in the sink.
Our oldest towels are 15 years old and still fine, no holes or discoloration, and the smell I had once, never came back, it washed out just fine.
Just rewash everything w/extra soap, extra rinses and HOT water. Repeat untill your laundry smells fresh,just barelly any scent from detergent, then dry it.
I found out,well it works for me, less than full load is rinsing better, specially if the laundry is soiled more.
Washer will wash it just fine, but it does nor rinse it properly, it takes extra rinses or speed cycle to rinse it really well.
Also, I use prewash often to get some of the sweat out. It helps.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2009 at 1:12AM
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joann, I forgot to mention. I just finished one of my comforters,poly/cotton king size and this time I used 3/4 of the cup of detergent. I used water plus w/extra rinse and aded one rinse and spin w/extra rinse plus water plus.It came out smelling fresh and clean.
Last time I used only 1/2 cup and wasn't happy.
Just experiment w/dosing, adjust up or down.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2009 at 1:22AM
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Joann, I am enjoying the posts and finding helpful info, but have a question. What are CS and DH (didn't care for it?). I am not familiar with some of this "code" talk. Help?

    Bookmark   October 22, 2009 at 10:40PM
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CS = Charlie's Soap

DH = Dear Husband (some will sub the "dear" for dumb, darned or other adjectives, LOL)

    Bookmark   October 22, 2009 at 11:41PM
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Thanks for posting for me about the abbreviations. I don't always get the replies in my inbox so I haven't checked here lately.
I am still doing trial & error washing, still not having much luck as yet.I need a good formula.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 11:58AM
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