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How to "Break In" Your Bath Towels: All About Your New Towels' Break-In Period

  • by Melanie Viaje
  • 5 min read

Just like your favorite jeans, bath towels need to be broken in. Even towels that feel soft in the showroom require several washes to attain peak softness and absorbency. But you can definitely speed up the break-in process. This article explains how to break in bath towels and keep them soft and absorbent over time.

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 cyclesfor 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. When washing bath towels, use a laundry detergent specially made for fine linen such as Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent. More on this below.
  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 any type of dryer sheet which can cause waxy build-up on towels. Dry towels using wool dryer balls instead (see below for more on wool dryer balls).
  5. Hang a wet towel to dry rather than throwing it in the hamper. This will minimize the musty smell damp towels take on and make them easier to wash clean.

Learn more about towel care here.

Choose the Right Detergent for Washing Towels

Choosing the proper detergent for washing towels is absolutely essential to getting the best performance and longest life out of them. Think about it: your bathroom towels are an investment. You want to keep them looking and feeling great for a long time. And that starts with picking the right detergent.

At Fine Linen and Bath, we recommend using Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergentto care for your towels. This concentrated formula is pH neutral and made to effectively clean while protecting the integrity of fine fabric. Made with a short list of plant-based ingredients, the fragrance free formula is also pediatrician and dermatologist tested, lab-certified hypoallergenic, and gentle on sensitive skin.

At the same time, Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent is up to the task of cleaning and tough stain removal. It is made with a proprietary blend of laundry enzymes. Similar to the digestive enzymes in saliva, laundry enzymes target a variety of protein-based stains such as blood, body fluid, cosmetics, and more. You can learn more about how laundry enzymes work to break down and remove tough stains here. If you would like to do more research regarding all the products on the market, you can also read our comparison of laundry detergents here.

Use Wool Dryer Balls to Soften and Dry Towels

We recommend purchasing a set of Heritage Park Wool Dryer Balls as an eco-friendly alternative to dryer sheets and fabric softeners. These products contain chemicals, fragrances, and plastics that irritate skin and harm the environment. They are also bad for your towels; fabric softeners and dryer sheets work by depositing a waxy film on the surface of your towel’s fibers to make it "feel" soft. This reduces a towel’s absorbency and, over time, leaves the fabric looking dingy. Tossing a set of wool dryer balls into the dryer will naturally soften and fluff your towels; minimize static; and reduce drying time by allowing better air circulation through the drying cycle. Wool dryer balls are made from 100 percent felted wool fiber, which makes them chemical free and completely biodegradable. They are also non-irritating (ideal for anyone with sensitive skin or allergies) and cost-effective (they can be reused for hundreds of loads). 

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. We always recommend purchasing high-quality towels to obtain the superior craftsmanship, performance, and durability your deserve in a bath towel. 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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Fine Linen and Bath: An In-Store Shopping Experience Delivered to You Online 

At Fine Linen and Bath, our mission is to deliver a concierge luxury linen shopping experience with online convenience. Browse our website to access an expansive collection of bedding, bath, table linens, and accessories from the world's premier brands.

When you need answers, consultation, or help to narrow your choices, our team of expert design consultants is here to assist you. 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'd love to get to know you!