Angela Patrone fixes stiff towels with white vinegar
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After a long period of time, soft and fluffy towels can become hard and crunchy, which makes them incredibly uncomfortable to use. To restore towels back to their fluffy nature, laundry experts told Express.co.uk that households should use white vinegar and nothing else. To see if this kitchen staple is really effective, I used it on several of my towels that had turned rough and stiff.
Towels lose their softness from washing them often, but also from detergent and fabric softener residue. Over time, the oils and ingredients in the fabric softener and detergent coats the fibres in the towels and makes them not as absorbent.
Not only do towels end up rough as a result of detergent and fabric softener, this can also be because of hard water, according to Lee Trethewey from Sustainable Furniture.
He said: “Sometimes, washing and drying towels can leave them feeling rough and stiff. Hard water is one of the main reasons why towels end up like this, as it results in the build-up of hard water minerals. As well as this, washing towels incorrectly can and leave some of our body’s oils, makeup and other substances on the towel.
“Luckily, you can use distilled white vinegar to truly cleanse towels, using vinegar’s acidic properties to strip the towel of build-up.
“To do this, place towels in the washing machine and set it to a warm wash. Swap detergent and anything else you usually use in your washing machine (such as fabric conditioner) for distilled white vinegar.
“Once they have completed the cycle, run your towels through the tumble dryer (or built-in dryer), on a medium setting. You should also place some dryer balls in there, to ensure that they come out soft and fluffy.”
Fantastic Services’ cleaning supervisor Lily Cameron agreed with using white vinegar. She said: “As a popular pantry ingredient used in many household cleaning chores, white vinegar can also be used to fix stiff towels and make them feel softer and more absorbent. This is because of its ability to break down any minerals or buildup on the towels that are making them stiff.”
“Simply add white vinegar to the fabric softener compartment and set it with an extra rinse cycle. When using this method, skip adding any detergent or fabric softener to the laundry and it’s recommended to use distilled white vinegar.”
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White vinegar not only strips residue left behind from the fabric softener, but it also works great to soften the towels.
To start with, I made sure not to overload my washing machine so each towel had enough room to be cleaned and rinsed properly.
I then placed a cup of distilled white vinegar into the washing machine drawer – where the fabric softener usually goes. I used Tesco’s distilled white vinegar, which retails for 29p, as this is what I already have in my kitchen cupboard. However, any distilled white vinegar can be used.
Next, I set the washing machine to a full cycle at 40 degrees. Washing at 40 degrees will ensure towels stay feeling and looking their best for longer, whilst removing the germs that breed there. Towels can harbour bacteria and so it is important to clean them correctly to get the best results.
I was very skeptical about using white vinegar when washing my towels, not to mention using it without detergent. This was because I didn’t want my towels to smell of white vinegar.
After the wash cycle, I made sure to set the washing machine to a rinse and spin cycle. This was important so that the majority of water is drained, and therefore drying time will be reduced.
As Lee claimed that stiff towels are “often caused by drying towels inside”, I decided to place them spread out on my airer outside before adding them to the tumble dryer. Laundry from the washing machine shouldn’t be added to tumble dryers straight away.
I left the towels drying outside for around two to three hours as this day made for great laundry drying weather – it was dry and windy.
After, I bought the towels inside and added them straight to the tumble dryer on a medium setting. While I didn’t have any dryer balls to hand, the towels still came out super fluffy – and they didn’t even smell of vinegar.
While white vinegar doesn’t need to be used every single time towels are washed, which is every three days, instead, make sure to use it every six weeks or so, or just when your towels are feeling stiff and need restoring.
For those who don’t want to add white vinegar to their machine, Lily alternatively suggested filling a container with hot water, making sure that there’s enough to cover all of the towels, and adding one cup of white vinegar to the hot water. She said: “You can use more or less depending on the amount of your load, but, generally, one cup is a good start.”
Add the stiff towels, making sure that they’re fully submerged in the hot water and vinegar mixture. Let the towels soak for at least 30 minutes. For those who have time, let them soak for a few hours. After the towels have soaked for at least 30 minutes, run the washing machine as normal on a regular cycle with hot water. Once the washing cycle is complete, remove the towels from the machine and dry them as normal – hang them up to air dry or tumble dry them.
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