Do This to Get the Whitest Towels, Naturally

Natural ways to whiten bath towels
credit: Ana Stanciu

Your towels may start out white and fluffy, only to turn dull and dingy over time. Towels collect lots of dirt, oil and soap, but ironically, it's our efforts to keep them clean that often leave them stiff, stained, and even stinky. Give your towels a bit of laundry TLC with these natural ways to whiten and brighten. Wash them according to the instructions below and your towels will be bright and soft again in no time.

Ingredients to whiten towels
credit: Ana Stanciu

Things You'll Need

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar

Step 1: Boost your detergent with washing soda.

Washing soda to whiten towels
credit: Ana Stanciu

Add a 1/2 cup of washing soda to the washing machine before adding towels. Washing soda is more alkaline than baking soda, and it's the alkalinity that helps your regular laundry detergent work more effectively to loosen up the towel fibers and clean dirt and grime. However, if you don't have washing soda, you can substitute 1 cup of baking soda.

Step 2: Run a small load.

Small loads to whiten towels
credit: Ana Stanciu

Towels take up a lot of space and can be hard to get clean so don't overcrowd the washing machine. A small load of three to four towels gives the washing machine room to tumble well and rinse out all the dirt and detergent from your towels.

Step 3: Use the hottest water setting.

Use hot water to whiten towels
credit: Ana Stanciu

Set the washing machine to the hottest water setting. Warmer water helps wash out oils and also absorbs detergent better, leaving your towels cleaner and softer. To really get towels white, soak the load before you run it.

Step 4: Go easy on the detergent.

Washing to whiten towels
credit: Ana Stanciu

It's fine to wash towels with your regular eco-friendly detergent, but don't assume that more detergent means cleaner towels. Using a little less detergent than usual lets the rinse cycle clear out soap buildup.

Step 5: Use hydrogen peroxide.

Hydrogen peroxide to whiten towels
credit: Ana Stanciu

Using bleach can damage the towel fibers, so add a 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide to the bleach compartment instead. The combination of washing soda and hydrogen peroxide gives a whitening boost similar to OxiClean.

To immediately treat a stain, you can make a solution with half peroxide, half washing soda and apply it to the fabric before washing.

Step 6: Rinse with vinegar.

Vinegar to whiten towels
credit: Ana Stanciu

Add 1 cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse compartment to lift stains and soap residue. If you have really hard water, you might need more vinegar to soften stiff towels. Don't use regular fabric softener on towels, though. It leaves a waxy buildup on towels that prevent them from absorbing water.

Step 7: Line dry.

Line dry to whiten towels
credit: Ana Stanciu

Let Mother Nature help whiten towels by letting the sun naturally bleach out stains. If you don't love how your towels feel after line drying, you can partially dry them in the sun and then finish in the dryer to soften.


Stephanie Gerber

Stephanie Gerber

Stephanie Gerber is the founder and editor of the beauty and wellness site, HelloGlow.co. She lives in Nashville with her husband and three children.