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NOTew, the freshly laundered towels are great …until you use one and find yourself covered in lint. Even after you wash them again (and again), this problem may persist. Blame this frustrating process on the waxy, water-repellent fabric softener layer that covers most new towels. Although it is meant to keep them looking softer and more inviting on the shelf, this covering also acts as fly paper for loose fibers and dust – and it really does not want to wash.

If you want to break the never-ending lint cycle, you need to dissolve that “new towel” coating first. It’s pretty easy to do with the right strategy and a little help from common household chemicals. The only downside is that it works best with 3 machine cycles: two in the dryer and one in the washer. If you can’t or don’t want to pay for an extra cycle in a coin-operated dryer or laundromat, that’s okay – just skip the first one. I’ve done this back and forth in the old coin-operated machines in my building, and while the extra drying cycle makes a difference, you can still get really good results without it.

Start by removing all the lint you can. To do this, shake the towels vigorously, then run them in the dryer on a no heat setting such as air fluff. (For obvious reasons, make sure the lint trap is completely clean.) If your dryer doesn’t have a no-heat cycle, use as low as possible – high heat “sets” the liner in place, which makes it even more difficult to dissolve. Avoid dryer sheets; they will only add coating that you are trying to remove. Before putting them in the washer, shake the towels again to see how much lint comes off. If it’s a lot, clean the trap and repeat the process.

Then wash the towels alone in hot water with a detergent boosting ingredient like vinegar, borax, or baking soda. These chemicals will help the hot water and detergent break down the sticky coating and loosen anything stuck to it. For best results, use 1/2 to 1 cup of booster and no more than half of the recommended amount of detergent. To avoid accumulating even more residue, do not add additional detergent and definitely, really, definitely do not use fabric softener.

The last step is to dry the towels over high heat. without dryer sheets, which will undo all the hard work you just did. With any luck you will now be prepared to enjoy all the good parts of the cool towels and none of the lint.

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