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Currently I'm living on 33 m². That means that there's no space at all for a tumble dryer, meaning I have to dry all wash on a rack. Including, unfortunately, towels.

I've noticed that those towels get terribly scruffy, whereas they didn't when being dried in a tumble dryer. I've tried fabric softener and vinegar, but neither helps to keep my towels smooth.

What can I do to prevent being scratched to pieces after showering?

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Historically, laundry (including towels) was hung on clothes lines in the outdoors where the wind and other elements would jostle the clothes sufficiently to soften them up. In the absence of a yard to place a dedicated clothes line, apartments usually included a pulley system from window to window strung across the streets and alleys to give folks the space they needed.

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Apartment living in NYC circa 1900, courtesy Wikipedia

In modern times, such sites are less common (or you may simply not have that space), but the premise behind these techniques might spur further ideas.

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The tumbler softens your towel by "massaging" the fibers while drying so that the towels don't get stiff.

On vacations I have mimicked that by scrunching, kneading or twisting the stiff towel a few times in different directions before using it, which will at least make them somewhat softer. Hoping for the extra-fluffy tumbler-dried feel is probably too much to expect here.

It works especially well if you have to line-dry without lots of wind (which would do a similar job) and you manage to get that point where the towel is still very slightly damp, redistributing the remaining humidity helps softening the fibers. Repeat with the dry towels, if necessary.

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You need to make sure to rinse off all the detergent and there's none left on the towel before you dry it. Sometimes the washer doesn't give it a completely thorough rinse enough to get ALL the detergent off. If you are not using a tumbler dryer, just make sure to give extra rinse to the towel before hanging it up.

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