One of the best parts of sweating it out in a group fitness class is using a perfectly white, fluffy towel — and you don't even have to, er, sweat the laundry. Exercise chains deal with hundreds of sweaty towels per day, but somehow, each one feels brand new.
"There is no better feeling than a soft towel after an intense workout," says Tanya Becker, cofounder of Physique57, which offers barre classes in New York City, Beverly Hills, and beyond. But how does the fitness company turn out 1,000 towels per day — per studio! — and still make sure each one feels perfectly soft? We asked Becker to share their secrets, so you can steal them for your own home.
Treat towels like hair: too much product is a bad thing
It's tempting to overload your washer with detergent (more soap means more power, right?). Resist the urge. Keeping towels fluffy requires a light hand with the detergent — Becker actually recommends using about half the amount you might add to a normal load of clothing. Too much can damage the fabric, setting you up for stiff, uncomfortable towels after your next shower.
Lay off the fabric softener, too, no matter how counterintuitive it sounds. Good towels sop up water without leaving any drops behind. Load your machine with too much fabric softener and you might find yourself still soaking wet, even after toweling down. That's because fabric softener leaves behind a thin coating, which might make towels feel soft to the touch but ultimately reduces absorbency. Becker recommends using fabric softener once every three washes to straddle the line between fluffy and effective.
Turn up the heat
Crank up that dial on your washing machine, because many towels benefit from high heat. Physique 57 uses 100% cotton white towels, which get nice and fluffy when washed in hot water, which helps lift any mineral build-up. One exception: if you're washing colorful fabrics, set the machine on warm instead, otherwise they might bleed.
Set up your dry cycle for superior fluff
The next step toward luxurious, fluffy towels is carefully managing the dry cycle. Small loads of no more than four or five towels help "rinse out all the dirt and detergent," Becker says. And fewer towels allow increased airflow — an essential component for creating the softest, coziest after-shower experience.
Skip the dryer sheet, too, and use dryer balls instead (we like Woolzies). "Dryer balls help with the fluffiness, because they help remove lumps," says Becker.
Listen for the chime
No, you don't have to sit in the laundry room watching the minutes count down, but consider making a beeline to the dryer as soon as you hear the machine chime. You can keep towels super-soft by folding them as soon as they're dry — otherwise you risk a tragic case of defluffing.
Stay away from the fray
A good towel should last a few years — but is your old towel honestly still good? Frayed edges or torn towels aren't comfortable additions to the drying-off process, and ancient, beleaguered towels won't absorb water as well. For the best experience, turn towels into rags once they start looking worn.
Don't sweat the small stuff
Fitness chains run through hundreds of towels per day — meaning they need to be folded up fast. Even if you're only going through a couple a week, take a cue from their book: What's most important is the post-shower experience, not the fold. Don't waste your time on fancy folding techniques. Whether you're a towel-roller or prefer them neatly stacked, don't stress yourself over appearances.