What is a New Bath Towel's "Break-In" Period?

All towels need to be broken in for maximum softness and absorbency. Even towels that feel soft in the showroom require several washes to attain peak softness and absorbency. But you can speed up the break-in process. This article explains how to break in and care for your new bath towels.

Bath Towels Need to Be Broken-In

If you're a luxury towel lover, you know how wonderful it feels to wrap yourself in a brand new, fluffy towel.

But you may not have known that your new bath towel has a "break in" period before it reaches maximum softness and absorbency. In fact, it can take as many as three full wash cycles for your bath towel to feel great and absorb water the way it was designed to.

The experts at Fine Linen and Bath are here to explain everything you need to know about your new towel's "break-in" period and offer helpful suggestions for caring for your luxury bath linens.

Towels are Treated to Feel Soft in the Showroom

Your towels probably felt great when you brought them home. But if you've ever attempted to use a new bath towel without first washing it, you probably noticed it wasn't absorbing much water. This is because cotton towels are treated with a silicone finish at the end of the manufacturing process. This provides the perception of "softness" to customers who are touching the towel while shopping in retail stores.

In reality, that silicone coats the towel fibers and significantly diminishes their absorbency. To remove this silicone finish, and wash away any excess dye from a colored towel, you should absolutely wash towels before their first use.

Three Simple Steps To Soft, Absorbent Towels

At Fine Linen and Bath, we always recommend washing new towels before using them. A few washes with a gentle detergent will remove the silicone coating and break-in your new towels (see below for towel care guidelines). But you can speed up the break-in period with this simple three-step process that cleans away the silicone coating, and leaves towels feeling soft and absorbent. Best of all, it requires only white vinegar and baking soda, two staples you likely have right in your pantry.

Step 1: Wash your new towel or towel set in warm to hot water -- not scalding -- on a regular wash cycle with one cup of white distilled vinegar. DO NOT USE DETERGENT, only white vinegar.

Step 2: Run the load a second time using only a half-cup of baking soda. AGAIN, DO NOT USE DETERGENT, only baking soda.

Break-In your Bath towels with vinegar and baking soda

Step 3: Dry according to instructions WITHOUT fabric softener or dryer sheets.

Note: Never use fabric softener or dryer sheets on your towels. Fabric softener smells nice and adds the illusion of softness; in fact, this product actually deposits a waxy coating that breaks down the luxurious Egyptian cotton fibers of your towels and makes them less absorbent. Dryer sheets do similar damage; the waxy build-up on towels ruins absorbency and is not good for your dryer either. Instead, we recommend using a set of wool dryer balls to increase softness and shorten drying time.

A Quick Refresh for Tired Towels

Over time, even the highest quality terry towel can develop a musty smell, lose absorbency, and appear dingy. This is to be expected with regular use and is typically caused by the effects of hard water and detergent build-up. Furthermore, most of us don't diligently rotate the towels in our linen closet; this means our well-used towels will show their wear sooner than later depending on how frequently we wash them.

The good news is, you can follow the three steps outlined above to refresh your musty, smelly towels right in your washing machine. will leave them looking and feeling like new with renewed softness and absorbency.

Regular Care for Luxury Towels

Taking good care of your luxury towels is essential to extending their beauty, feel, and performance. Here are a few quick tips to keep your towels clean and looking good:

  1. Use a laundry detergent specially made for fine linen such as Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent. This pH-neutral formula contains plant-based ingredients and powerful enzymes to clean your towels while protecting the integrity of the fabric.
  2. Always sort towels before washing by both color and weight. Wash towels separately from clothes and don't overload your machine.
  3. Follow care instructions. Use bleach sparingly, if allowed, and only on a white towel or towel set. (Chlorine bleach should never be used on any kind of colored towel. Use non-chlorine bleach if recommended on label).
  4. Never use fabric softener or dryer sheets, which can cause waxy build-up on towels. Use wool dryer balls instead.
  5. Hang a wet towel to dry rather than throwing it in the hamper. This will minimize the musty smell and make it easier to wash clean

Learn more about towel care here.

Purchase High-Quality Towels for Longevity

At Fine Linen in Bath, we offer dozens of luxury towel brands in various weights, styles, and colors to complement your decor. Visit our website to browse collections from leading manufacturers such as Abyss, Graccioza, Matouk, Sferra, and more. Many towel brands we carry are made in Portugal as part of that country's enduring legacy for excellence in bathroom textiles. With proper care, these towels will last and perform well for years to come.

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An In-Store Shopping Experience Delivered to You Online

If you need help choosing among all our many luxury towel offerings, our expert design team is here to assist. At Fine Linen and Bath, our mission is to deliver a concierge luxury linen shopping experience with online convenience. When you need answers, consultation, or help narrowing your choices, feel free to contact us. We offer individualized recommendations, personal consultation, and even complimentary swatch samples for your review. We'll help you make the right buying decisions for your style, budget, and design goals. Please connect with us online or -- even better -- give us a call at (866) 352-4522. We would love to get to know you! In the meantime, please check out this blog comparing three popular luxury towel styles from Abyss.