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Is there anything more luxurious than stepping out of a hot shower on a cold morning to super soft, enveloping towels? Wrapping up all warm and cozy, with a large soft towel–that is one of the simple pleasures in life!

But if you are using fabric softener to get there, then your towels aren’t as soft as they can be–and you’re wrapping your body with all kinds of toxic chemicals, as well. You see, fabric softener is a no-no for towels. Experts have said for years that you shouldn’t be using fabric softener on your towels. It doesn’t rinse off fully, and that in turn ruins the loft and the softness of the terry cloth loops. Not to mention that if the chemicals aren’t rinsing off in the wash, that means they are still there for your body to absorb.

So what is a crunchy, frugal mama to do? We all love our soft towels–you don’t have to give them up! I have discovered over the past couple of years that our towels and sheets are now softer than they were when we used loads of fabric softener. Thanks to essential oils, they smell great, too!

One of the reasons why towels come out of the wash scratchy is that most of us are battling hard water. Hard water doesn’t rinse well, and leaves traces of minerals behind. The trick is to use ingredients in your laundry that not only wash well, but help in the rinse cycle to remove those hard water deposits and break them down. My quick and easy laundry detergent includes borax and washing soda, which do that while also cleaning your laundry. From there, there are three simple steps you can take to make your towels as soft and fluffy as they can be!

1. Add lemon essential oil to your laundry mix. I add 15 drops to my container of laundry detergent and mix it thoroughly, then use as normal. The lemon oil helps cut through body oils and dirt that may be coating your towel loops. I have used this on all of my clothes, and found it both color safe, but also an excellent cleaning boost to my normal detergent.

2. Add 1/3 cup of white vinegar to your rinse cycle. Vinegar is a well-known natural softener. It cuts through hard water and softens clothes, while also setting colors (which means they don’t fade or run.) Don’t worry about your clothes smelling like vinegar–they won’t.

3. In the dryer, I have homemade dryer sheets that I use. I took an old towel and cut it into strips, then added safety pins (look at this post on static free laundry for why) stuffing them into a mason jar or old baby wipes container. I add water and about 20 drops of essential oils. Let these soak overnight, then toss one strip into the dryer with your towels to act as a dryer sheet. They will keep the dryer heat moist, add a light fresh scent to the towels, and the safety pins will absorb all of the static. You can use any essential oil you like–I personally use one of the citrus oils, because I like the bright scent it adds to the fresh laundry. But the options are endless–find your favorite!

4. Purification essential oil blend works wonders with any clothing or towels that might be smelly or have gotten mildewy. Ever forget a load of towels in the washer? The smell can linger for several washes! Purification cuts right through that. I add 3-5 drops of Purification directly to my detergent, then run the wash as usual. No more smell! (It is color safe, as well.)

It is important to note that the quality of the terry cloth does effect how soft and/or fluffy your towels will be. If you have thin, cheap terry cloth, there is only so much these tricks can do. That said, I will tell you that in my home I have expensive towels from a high-end department store, heavy thick towels from Lands End and inexpensive towels from Macy’s (that are almost 20 years old, to boot) and I have found that the older less expensive towels can be just as good (and sometimes better) than the pricier towels. All three types have improved since our switch to the three tricks above.

Also, these tricks work wonderfully on sheets as well! Most sheets come in the package stiff and rough, because they’ve had sizing added to them. Many people try to soften their new sheets by pouring on fabric softener, which is a mistake. Most experts will tell you that in fact, you should skip the softener and reach for the vinegar, which removes the sizing. Try it on your next load of sheets–you will like what happens!

What are your favorite natural scents for the laundry?

Looking for more information on essential oils? Here are a few other resources you can check out:

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