Non-Absorbent Towels

I keep learning new things. Just when I thought I had it down pat, things changed. Or rather, I realized things were getting worse. Not better!!

**Update** – Nov. 7, 2014 – I found out we have mineral build up in towels and cloth diapers. They need to be stripped, you can read more about it on my latest post here.

*Update* – Washing towels in HOT water has greatly helped!! It took a while to see the difference. But they are much better! And now I only wash my towels in hot water and use the least amount of homemade soap I can, about 2TBS at the most, and often do an extra rinse. I have even cut back the amount on my normal wash too, using 2-3TBS per large load.

I started using vinegar in my rinse water, over a year ago now, I think. It was working out just fine. I didn’t need to use fabric softners or dryer sheets to keep the static down when using a dryer. But I noticed a big difference and change in my towels and rags the past few months. They would not absorb water!! The towels were not a big deal, it was the rags and the need to clean up all the spills my 3 boys make in a days time. (And, yes, they ‘recycle’ rags, use them for the small spills, returning them to the rag box to use again, {they didn’t soak up anything the first time anyway}. And no, I didn’t teach them that. But it is rather nice.)

So began my quest to find out why my towels were no longer absorbing water so well. After all I was no longer using any chemicals. ie store-bought laundry products, I make my own laundry soap.

I have looked into cloth diapering, and know there is such a thing as ‘stripping’ them now and then to remove all the residue from soaps. So I looked into it more and found out some interesting stuff…

One of the first sites that came up talked about the hardness of water. And had a link to a map of the US showing the tables for water hardness. We are located in the ‘Extremely Hard Water’ Table. That site talks about the results of hard water on hair, which I found interesting as well. (As I can’t use vinegar on my hair, it makes it all really weird. I still wanna study into that one more too. As others around here use it and have good results with it.)

In my digging and reading I found this:

Soap is less effective in very hard water because its reacts with the excess minerals to form calcium or magnesium salts.  These are not easily soluble in water and can result in soap film. Washing (hair) in soft water will have a different result because it leaves fewer insoluble deposits on the hair. And possibly clothes/towels?!?!?!

And this:

If you have hard water and use vinegar the acid in the vinegar could be reacting with the minerals in the water and causing odor. Adding a water softener like Calgon to the wash cycle and cutting down or eliminating the vinegar may help in this case. Try 1/4 capful to begin with and use more or less as needed. I found this here, and it’s talking about diapers. But I had to wonder if it goes for my towels as well.

I had started using Baking Soda in my laundry and stopped using any vinegar. I was seeing a tiny bit of improvement, but not enough. And it definitely wasn’t happening fast enough!! Today I am ‘stripping’ a load of towel and I’m going to do a load of rags next!! And see what happens. I washed like normal, with soap, and am now doing a bunch of HOT rinses, until I don’t see any more soap bubbles. Sure hope this works!!

‘Baking Soda has been trusted for over 100 years as an effective yet natural and gentle cleaner with no harsh chemicals. Baking soda natural effect is to balance pH, keeping things neither too acidic nor too alkaline, and it resists further changes in the pH balance. Add 1/2 to 1 cup to the wash cycle to neutralize and eliminate odors. Then rinse until there are no more bubbles.’ -Source

In my research I found some other interesting facts on Laundry Soap-

ScienceDaily (July 24, 2008) — A University of Washington study of top-selling laundry products and air fresheners found the products emitted dozens of different chemicals. All six products tested gave off at least one chemical regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws, but none of those chemicals was listed on the product labels. -Source These products were causing people to get sick, so they decided to see what was in them. “I was surprised by both the number and the potential toxicity of the chemicals that were found,” Steinemann said.

And it’s even in the so-called ‘Green’ Products:

ScienceDaily (Oct. 26, 2010) — The sweet smell of fresh laundry may contain a sour note. Widely used fragranced products — including those that claim to be “green” — give off many chemicals that are not listed on the label, including some that are classified as toxic. -Source  (Follow the links for more in-depth reading on the studies done!!)

And this:

Fabric softeners typically work by coating fabric fibers with a thin, chemical waxy coating that reverses the negative charge of the fibers, and reduces static cling. However, it also reduces the fibers’ ability to absorb water, in addition to exposing your skin to a host of chemicals that can be harmful to your health. Fabric softeners nearly always contain fragrance as well, which not only masks the smell of all these chemicals, it tricks you into thinking your towels smell softer. Soft! Sneaky…

Fabric softeners are available in both liquid for use in the final rinse stage of the wash and dryer sheets for use in the dryer. These products make fabrics feel softer, decrease static cling, reduce wrinkling and reduce drying time slightly.

Fabric softeners reduce the effectiveness of flame retardancy on fabrics, reduce the absorbency of cotton towels and inhibit the moisture management characteristics of high performance active sportswear fabrics.

‘Fabric softeners were invented when the detergent industry moved away from using “soap” and started using synthetic detergents, AKA surfactants, as the cleaning, foaming and emulsifying ingredients in laundry detergents. True soap forms familiar soap-scum in hard water. A little of this was always left on clothes washed with soap and gave clothes just a touch of softness and flexibility (lubricity) but also could build-up over time causing dinginess. Surfactants generally rinse out of clothes very well and do not leave much of a residue. They left the clothes so clean that they felt harsh and stiff. Thus the need for fabric softeners. Fabric softeners also bring in another benefit – static reduction – which became very important as synthetic fibers and clothes driers began to be used more widely.’ -Source
 

So this tells you, the Laundry ‘Soaps’ are not really even soap at all!!! And I read/heard somewhere that the reason they put scents into the soaps & softeners is because the clothes are not really clean!! The smell is there to, not only cover up the chemical smells, but also to cover the sweaty/dirty smells on clothes.

I have not used Fabric Softener in a long, long while!!! I can hardly stand the strong smell of the store-bought laundry soaps and softeners. And I can smell the stuff when I am in homes that use it. It makes me feel funny for the first few minutes and then passes.

This will be telling on myself, but it’s the truth… When someone washes the boy’s clothes for me, and sends them home smelling all ‘Clean and Fresh’, I promptly throw them in the dirty clothes basket to be rewashed. The smell is so strong, that even when the boys wear it, I will smell it off and on all day. And my nose/head just can’t handle it. So I just wash it all again. You can’t tell me there isn’t bad stuff in those soaps. I just love my homemade stuff, so easy, so cheap and no chemicals!!! And not much of a smell…

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2 Responses to Non-Absorbent Towels

  1. Wendy says:

    Thank you for all this great information! I am struggling with waxy tea towels and I live in a hard water region. I’m going to try some of the tips – especially washing in HOT water.
    p.s. I never use fabric softeners either. Ick! The smell!
    ~Wendy in Canada

  2. Pingback: Airing My Dirty Laundry | Tenderherb's Blog

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