Like good china, my mom’s kitchen towels are just for show. She swats away any dirty hands that reach their way, and heaven help the person who uses them to clean a brownie batter splattered countertop (oops).
I always thought she was overreacting—isn’t it a kitchen towel’s purpose to get dirty? Can’t you just wash it? But after setting up shop with my own kitchen towels, I’ve seen the light.
I’ve tried washing them in the industrial washing machines at my local laundromat, but to no avail.
What’s a girl to do?
Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter
Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!
Turns out throwing your ragged, stained towels in with your other laundry (along with some lavender fabric softener) is the worst thing I could’ve done, and over the years, probably further baked on the worst of the stains.
According to Bailey Carson, a home and cleaning expert at Angi, a home cleaning company, I should have been washing my towels separately and without fabric softener, which can make them greasy and gross.
"Many fabric softeners are made from a silicone oil, so they can make your towels greasy and less absorbent," she says. Another tip that she says results in soft and fluffy towels is to add a quarter to half cup of vinegar to your load, or to pre-soak the towels in vinegar before washing.
The Best Paper TowelsIt took 96 rolls—88,608 sheets—to find one phenomenal paper towel.
"This will restore their fluffy texture and get rid of any soap residue that might make them feel rough or stiff," she says.
She also suggests using bleach, which I never use because I wash all my laundry together in one big chromatic heap (rent life!), plus my towels have some colorful stripes on them that I don’t necessarily want bleached away.
After soaking the towels in a mixture of OxyClean and water for six hours, then washing them with even more OxyClean, my towels emerged so fresh and so clean, I almost didn’t recognize them. And while they still look a bit ragged and a few deep stains remained (Carson recommends letting your towels air dry to avoid wear and tear), I’d say my mom would be proud.
Dish TowelsSeeking: an absorbent, tough, and versatile towel. Must be handy, flexible, attractive, and willing to tackle multiple tasks.
Photo: Catherine Falls Commercial, Getty Images