How to Make Cotton Towels More Absorbent

Updated July 20, 2017

Because of its highly absorbent quality, cotton is the main fibre in numerous fabrics, including washrags and towels. Not all cotton towels are the same, however. Depending on their fibre blend, fibre structure and the way they're cared for, cotton towels may not retain their absorbent properties and may need to be replaced more often. But, with a little know-how, your cotton towels can keep you dry for many years to come.

Buy 100-percent cotton towels, and stay away from blends. Cotton is a natural material and more absorbent than synthetic materials, so a cotton-polyester blend will not dry you as well as an all-cotton towel. Cotton terry cloth towels absorb a large amount of water, especially when densely woven, so make sure to do side-by-side comparisons before making your purchase. Velour towels are terry cloth towels with sheared loops, which make them softer than terry cloth. They're not as absorbent, though, so look for towels that have terry cloth on at least one side.

Wash new cotton towels with detergent and one cup vinegar before using. New towels are treated with chemicals to make them feel softer and look shinier so they'll appeal to consumers. New cotton towels may need two or three washings before chemicals disappear.

Wash cotton towels in soft water. Hard water contains minerals that leave a residue on towels and react poorly with soaps and detergents. Some detergents work better in hard water, so read the label and follow directions for hard-water washes.

Bleach cotton towels only when needed, as bleach eventually weakens cotton fibres.

Machine wash towels using only half the amount of detergent recommended on the label, and don't pour directly on towels. Detergent will penetrate fibres and repel water.

Add one cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle to remove excess laundry soap. The acid in vinegar dissolves the alkalies in laundry soaps and detergents that may have penetrated the cotton fibres. Rinse with vinegar as part of your laundry routine, or use to restore old towels.

Don't wash towels with items that have zippers, hooks or buttons or any other item that may snag or damage loops.

Do not wash or dry towels with fabric softeners that contain silicone. Silicone coats towels with a waxy film that repels water.

Tumble dry towels on a low heat setting for the fluffiest loops. Do not over-dry.

Shake damp and wet towels before line, rack or machine drying to loosen and fluff loops. Shake again after towels have dried.

Hang cotton bath towels over a towel rack or shower rod to dry, and let dry completely before folding or looping over a towel hook.

Do not iron towels; the heat may damage threads and reduce absorbency.

Things You'll Need

  • Washing powder
  • White vinegar
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About the Author

Lisa Gregor has been writing off and on for 40-plus years. She has been writing how-to articles for eHow since January 2009 and on her blog She is working on two children's books, a fiction novel and has plans to write a series of budget (frugal living) books.