Author Topic: Best fabric for tea towels  (Read 30583 times)

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Offline firedragon

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Best fabric for tea towels
« on: July 14, 2007, 05:16:28 AM »
I'm trying to find an absorbent fabric I can use for tea towels.  I've tried the waffle, the cotton, the cotton blends etc. but none of them is very absorbent.  I read that linen is the most absorbent fabric but am unable to find a source for it in Canada or U.S.  Can anyone help?


Offline SewingLibrarian

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2007, 06:13:14 AM »
Hi, Firedragon, I did a quick Google search and found that Waechter's Silk Shop in Asheville, NC carries Irish linen toweling. I have never shopped there, but I believe Waechter's has a good reputation for quality. Others who post to these boards can probably add to my impression. BTW, I do find linen to be excellent for tea towels. For years I used up my mother's supply of linen towels sent to her by our relatives in Scotland, usually with a calendar for the year and pictures of Scottish landmarks.
Hope this helps,
Linda

Offline Armchair Sewer

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2007, 10:43:08 AM »
You should have no problem finding linen, just google it.  You don't need "special tea towel linen" to make tea towels, just choose the weight you want.  A DF makes all her tea towels using a closely woven mid weight linen.  Maybe pants-weight? Hankerchief linen might be too fine.

Offline Liana

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2007, 03:24:46 PM »
Handkerchief linen would be way too fine.  After years of use, your tea towels may approach the weight of handkerchief linen, but you don't want to start there! ;D  I've never made my own tea towels, but I don't know why you couldn't, and any mid-weight linen ought to be fine.  I buy a linen calendar towel every year for my kitchen and when the year is over, there's a new tea towel.  They're fun too, and I give some as gifts at Christmas. 

You can often find linen at good prices at various online fabric sources.  It just depends on who has it.  I did buy some from Wazoodle recently that they are still advertising as 100% linen.  When I prewashed it, I got a ton of lint in the dryer.  To me, this says linen/cotton blend, and I'm not particularly happy.  They have not responded to several emails.  It was a good price, but I was buying linen, not a blend.  I'm making pillowcases.

Offline firedragon

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2007, 06:01:49 PM »
Many thanks everyone.  My husband and I are very frustrated using non-absorbent towels (heaven knows we've put up with it for quite a few years).  Even our grandchildren complain about the tea towels at our place and I surely don't want them to stop doing dishes while they're over for dinner.  We even have a dishwasher so they don't have to wipe ALL the dishes.  Ahhh, now I shall try and find some linen to use.  Again, thanks everyone!

Offline Susan in Tucson

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2007, 06:57:21 PM »
Liana, I've had that same experience with the last several "bargain" linen fabrics I've bought--a dryer full of lint, every round of washing and drying--I can picture the fabric completely disappearing in the dryer in the not-too-distant future.

In other respects these seem like real linen, not blends. My suspicion is that they are made from low-quality yarn that uses the short bits of flax, rather than the lovely long fibers that give sheen and durability.

I've decided not to waste my time and money on "cheap" linen any more. I can't afford to make things that won't last a reasonable time. I too have linen tea towel that have been washed and dried regularly for 20 years or more, so we know that durable linen is possible.

Online karent

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2007, 10:28:23 PM »
I think you're right, Susan.  I have a slew of linen tea/dish towels that I've inherited from various places (mother, GM, aunt, great-aunt...) so I haven't ever made any.  I did find some linen ones at a discount store about a year ago, though, and thought I was so very lucky to find "real linen" towels at such a cheap price.  They did exactly what you describe, just fuzzed every trip through the wash.  I think they are linen, but they seem to have all sorts of little odd ends, and I think it is the short fibers.  Kind of like silk, you can get the good stuff out of those long, strong fibers, or you can get the cheap stuff made from the short leftover bits. 

I use linen towels all the time, mine are mostly the stupid looking ones with big pictures on them.  Handkerchief linen would be much too lightweight, these are actually heavier than blouse weight and on the way to pants weight.  Depends on your use, however, I also have a lot of napkins that are about blouse weight, and they hold up well for that.  Thanks to my aunt, great aunt and grandmother I now have 79(!) of these linen napkins like in the upper left hand side of this picture.  I also have a drawer full of the corresponding tablecloths, which is why I was so interested in Carolyn's jacket she made from a jacquard tablecloth a while back.  Anyway, something between blouse weight and pants would work well, and hold up.  Obviously, this stuff lasts forever!  K

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Offline Katherine

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2007, 12:06:29 AM »
I have made linen tea towels from linen that I got from Fabrics-store.com

http://www.fabrics-store.com/first.php?menu=h

I used IL019 in the natrual color.  I made some napkins from IL020.

As an idea of wieght, I'd use IL020 for a blouse.  It's kind of sheer.  IL090 is good for a blouse or dress.  I haven't tried the heavier ones.

This isn't the really high quality Irish linen, but I find it OK for everyday garments.  I don't put my linens in the dryer though.  I machine wash & hang to dry.  The towels I machine wash & smooth them out on the counter to dry.  That way I don't have to iron them, but they look pressed.

If you care about the color, I'd suggest getting samples.  I haven't ordered in about a year, so things may have changed.  I found their colors on the monitor to be WAY off. 

Katherine

Offline RobbieJo

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2007, 12:48:35 AM »
I use birdseye pique diaper fabric for tea towels and I love them.  My DH steals them to use for his car cleaning.  I had leftovers from when I made DGrandD diapers. 

Offline firedragon

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2007, 08:34:24 PM »
Robbie I'm not sure what birdeye pique fabric is..... Is it a kind of flannel?  Gee, after reading several posts I realized I ditches a linen tea towel that I got from a friend on a trip to Hawaii!  Didn't know I could actually use them!  I need to read more of the info on this site, I can see.


Offline RobbieJo

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2007, 11:19:35 PM »
Not flannel, but a thin pique used to make diapers and a favorite of many for tea towels.  One can frequently find it at Hancock Fabrics, although I ordered mine by the bolt for diapers. 

ETA:  I've never seen it in anything but white.

Offline Loomchick

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2007, 03:47:35 AM »
Robbie I'm not sure what birdeye pique fabric is

"Birdseye pique" refers to a type of weave structure . . . without boring you with details, it will have more threads per inch in the warp than most weave structures . . . and hence, will likely be more absorbent.
Robyn

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Offline firedragon

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2007, 03:50:40 PM »
Birdseye pique may be something to try - have ordered the Irish towelling from Waechter's Silk Shop and will look into the birdseye pique stuff.  My DD would like some linen tea towels as well so will have to order more!  Thanks for the many tips.

Offline Timeless Arts

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2010, 12:56:03 AM »
I just happened on this site and saw your quest for ABSORBENT fabric for tea towels. I do fabric design on tea towels and have had many a trial and error. I do not care for linen. I think it is grossly over rated for day to day towel use, for the reasons already cited. I use the Bird's Eye cotton already mentioned. I have also seen it advertised as Diamond cotton or diaper cotton..  I pre- wash my fabric (wash and dry) with minimal shrinkage and then make my towels and then apply my designs.They are thoroughly washable and dry-able and very absorbent.  They are thinner than linen but quite substantial for dish drying and don't need to be ironed.  Jo-anns fabric carries it under diaper cotton.
all the best: Ginny Timelessarts.blogspot.com

Offline lydia

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2010, 03:34:15 PM »
Timeless Art.....I second your statement about the Birds Eye fabric.  Actually, towels sold as four sack towels are the best for the plain woven.  What is wrong w/terry cloth towels?  I use these for everything and when they look too bad, I then relegate them to the rag bin for every day cleaning.  I think terry is far more substantial than either linen or Birds Eye.  JMHO
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Offline judith

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #15 on: June 20, 2010, 07:32:16 PM »
Years ago (at least 10) I bought T towel linen from Waechters, and sewed up about a dozen T towels. The sides were already finished, it was just a matter of running a seam at the ends. I'm still using them. They have definately shrunk - next time I'll make them 40" long. But they have worn terrifically and I highly recommend that fabric for T towels. I wash them often, in hot water. I don't use bleach on anything because of skin sensitivity, so don't know how that would affect them. In the summer I line dry them, but in the winter I put them in the dryer, sometimes with an unscented dryer towel but usually not. They aver very very absorbent.

I would be reluctant to use terry for t towels because it seems to me that they'd be linty on glassware.

In my experience, nothing beats good quality linen for T towels.
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Offline Doris W. in TN

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #16 on: June 20, 2010, 08:35:22 PM »
Whatever you do, IMO don't buy the Swedish linen hand towels at Birch Street Clothing.   I tried some and they looked  gorgeous ( also smelled musty/mildewy-ugh!) but after they were washed they had a very rough feel and appearance..    Not the best quality linen and I'm rather disappointed.   Must be short-staple linen.    I got what I paid for, I suppose.

I've made towels from the plaid-like  linen that comes in colors, exactly  like what Waechter's sells, and it is top rate linen, if you don't mind the colors.    Just cut & hem; the sides are already finished.    Lovely stuff, great for drying crystal *and* cleaning mirrors and windows.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2010, 08:37:17 PM by Doris W. in TN »
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Offline Shadowe

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #17 on: June 20, 2010, 10:24:02 PM »
Many thanks everyone.  My husband and I are very frustrated using non-absorbent towels (heaven knows we've put up with it for quite a few years).  Even our grandchildren complain about the tea towels at our place and I surely don't want them to stop doing dishes while they're over for dinner.  We even have a dishwasher so they don't have to wipe ALL the dishes.  Ahhh, now I shall try and find some linen to use.  Again, thanks everyone!

One thing I must add to this conversation is something many folks may not know...do NOT add fabric softener to your towels if you want them absorbent.  The fabric softener will actually make them less absorbent.  I found this out years ago when dealing with cloth diapers, and stand by this today.  I have finally convinced hubby not to add the blasted stuff to our towels when washing, or drying them.  It affects all fabrics to some extent from what I recall.

Here is a link to a PDF that explains it fairly well.  Even though it is for car washing, the fabric principals apply.

http://carcarebuzz.com/wp-admin/Articles/acc0308w60.pdf
« Last Edit: June 20, 2010, 10:35:36 PM by Shadowe »




Namaste and Bright Blessings,
Shadowe

Offline sdBev

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #18 on: June 21, 2010, 02:57:34 PM »
...
One thing I must add to this conversation is something many folks may not know...do NOT add fabric softener to your towels if you want them absorbent.  The fabric softener will actually make them less absorbent. ...

Shadowe you are ablolutely correct.  I could never convince my DH not to add fabric softner, until he became allergic to the stuff.  Fabric softener does more harm than good IMO.

Offline Shadowe

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #19 on: June 21, 2010, 04:17:35 PM »
...
One thing I must add to this conversation is something many folks may not know...do NOT add fabric softener to your towels if you want them absorbent.  The fabric softener will actually make them less absorbent. ...

Shadowe you are ablolutely correct.  I could never convince my DH not to add fabric softner, until he became allergic to the stuff.  Fabric softener does more harm than good IMO.

sdBev, I was using those dryer ball thingies, and they seem to work well enough, until the colour on the ends of the tips wore off...I am thinking that may be where my mystery green oily-ish stains on my white blouses are coming from.  And nothing I have done, so far, has been able to get the stains out.  ???




Namaste and Bright Blessings,
Shadowe

Offline Katherine

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #20 on: June 21, 2010, 07:39:58 PM »
I use white vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser.  It took years for the slime around the dispenser to get washed away when I stopped using fabric softener.

Linen really is my preferred fabric for tea towels as far as using them toes.  Don't put them in the dryer though.  They turn into lint fast.

If you want them to looked crisp & ironed without the work, smooth them out on the counter or top of the dryer & let them dry.  Do it face down.  I don't have enough space for the number of tea towels I go through in a week, so most of mine are that nasty terry cloth.

Offline Doris W. in TN

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #21 on: June 21, 2010, 09:57:40 PM »
My Elna press does a beautiful job on linen.    I love to use it on our linen table napkins.
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Offline ejvc

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #22 on: June 21, 2010, 10:21:19 PM »
I inherited a bunch of high-quality linen towels from my husband's grandmother -- they're Swedish, and Sweden is the Land of Linen, as far as I can tell.  They were all jacquard, and repeated washing just shredded them, even though we don't use a dryer.  Good for drying your glassware and polishing things, not good for wiping up messes and drying hands.  I've switched now to having two types of towels: heavyweight/coarse linen/cotton mixture, for dishes, and cotton waffle weave, for hands.  The cotton in the linen/cotton mix seems to give these towels some staying power and they show no signs of shredding.
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Offline mcgintie

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #23 on: June 23, 2010, 02:19:00 PM »
I made some giant linen napkins 60in by 60in for barbecues but I use them more nowadays as dish drying towels. They are between shirt and pants weight and wash beautifully at 30C  - the sun will bleach out residual stains such as turmeric and tomato.

Offline Portia

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #24 on: June 23, 2010, 02:35:10 PM »
For wiping hands, counters, and other "paper towel" type activities, we purchased bar towels at Sam's.  They are a terry, very inexpensive, able to be bleached if you need to, and we keep a stack nearby so that grabbing one of them is automatic.  When beets or pomegranites are involved, I still use paper towels!  I must wash two dozen of these bar towels a week and include a little oxyclean.  After washing, I hang them out to dry--feel like the sun is doing a little bleaching too. 

Otherwise I have made kitchen towels out of huck cloth (the stuff that used to be found in public restroom machines--the kind where you pulled down a length of fabric towel) purchased in bulk (from Joann's on-line with 50% coupon).  I cut the towels to length, hem the ends (the sides are already finished acceptably and the width is towel width) with a nice 1" hem and embroider if I want.  Huck gets nice and soft the more it is washed and if you hang it outside to dry, it looks like it was ironed.  I have made lots of these towels (maybe eight dozen or more!!) and often give them as gifts when I give a bottle of wine or food or as a hostess or housewarming gift.  I also make them to go in baskets for our church basket raffle--so that the embroidery mirror the theme of the basket.  I do a dozen at a time so I have plenty of "blanks" at hand.

I have purchased some lovely Irish linen toweling and made towels for glassware out of those.  It is expensive ($12/yd) so I certainly reserve those towels for particular purpose.  I haven't use the diaper birdseye--will have to get some and try it out.

Offline lydia

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #25 on: June 23, 2010, 06:05:49 PM »
I received the latest Nancy's Notions catalog (Smart Buys 2010), on pg. 44 bottom middle column is birdseye diaper cloth, 27" wide, $3.99/yd., 50 yd bolt $129/50.  The waffle cloth is listed at the top of the middle column, 44" wide, $6.99/yd or 10 yd. bolt/$59.00.  Don't know if these are equitable prices, but if you are an ASG member, NN does give a discount.  Page 44 is loaded w/utility-speciality fabrics which are hard to find on a normal shopping trip..............Lydia 

The bar cloths from Sam's to me seem the best buy.  I have had a package for years.  Wash, bleach, dry and you are on your way to mopping up messes!
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Offline sdBev

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #26 on: June 24, 2010, 05:49:29 AM »
I use white vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser. ..

I don't know who it was on this board the recommend white vinegar to me.  We had the problem of items leaving the dryer in a rough stiff state (think heavy grade sand paper); clothing not comeing clean (in fact it they seemed to acquire more spots and stains in the washer & dryer) and DH's allergies to soaps and fabric softeners.  It may have been you, Katherine.  I don't remember.  I'm only glad that white vinegar was recommended.  I too tried the dryer balls and they did improve the sand paper qualities, but not entirely remove them.  We talked it over and decided, it couldn't hurt to try the white vinegar and would be cheaper than anything else we've put in the washer or dryer.  It took a few months, but with the very first washer load we noticed the difference of the fabrics becomming softer.  We decided it was worth while to try it for a month; and then another month.  We're now several months to a year down the road and I can tell you that White Vinegar was the solution for us.  Clothing and other fabric items are soft, cleaner and DH's allergies under control (as long as he doesn't decide to use detergeant to wash his clothes with.  He gets a horrible red rash.)   We use less soap, oxyclean only for DH's clothing.  We're actually spending fewer $$$ on laundry products and stain removers.  I was at the point of washing half loads trying to get the laundry to come clean.  I'm certain that the water bill has decreased; can't prove the reduction of the electric bill but it must have decreased too since we're washing and drying half the number of loads.  It just was the right answer for us.  You might give it a try.

Offline Doris W. in TN

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #27 on: June 24, 2010, 01:02:40 PM »
Quote
I don't know who it was on this board the recommend white vinegar to me.

sdBev - do you use it instead of detergent, or in the rinse cycle as a softener?    DH has become quite sensitive lately to laundry products after a bad reaction to  Biz.
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Offline Katherine

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #28 on: June 24, 2010, 02:34:15 PM »
Another natural product you can use for washing your clothes is baking soda.  I don't know how it would work over the long term, but I've used it in place of detergent.  My clothes came out softer feeling.  It probably removed detergent residue.

We have really hard water & detergents tend to not rinse out completely.

Offline lydia

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #29 on: June 24, 2010, 03:11:39 PM »
As for laundry soap.....I found a recipe on the Duggar Family Blog which consists of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda, Twenty Mule Team Borax and Fels Naptha Soap.  I hesitate to give the amounts here as I don't know if the "recipe" is copyrighted.  There is a little copyright warning at the bottom of their blog concerning using any of the contents for profit...but I digress:  I upped the Fels Naptha to two and  one half bars as I equate suds w/clean.  This is all dissolved in hot water (soap bars are shredded in a saucepan and heated until dissolved).  The end result is a five gallon bucket  full of a gelatinous mixture.  I use 5/8 cup of mix to a washer load then rinse w/white vinegar.  Sure has helped on the detergent consumption around here and the clothes are clean and soft.  I did not fill my bucket completely full as I felt that this would dilute the mix too much.  Don't know how this topic morphed from the tea towel fabric topic, but fabric and laundry seem to go hand in hand. 
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Online karent

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #30 on: June 25, 2010, 06:41:17 PM »
Given the topic has already morphed, I'll throw in my two cents.  I use vinegar in the softener dispenser as well.  I have developed a lot of skin allergies, and soaps and detergents (including shampoo) are some of the worst.  The vinegar isn't a softener, but rather helps rinse out the remains of the soap residue.  I think fabric softeners just coat the fibers, thus not absorbent and also allowing them to hang onto the "fresh smell."  Vinegar does the opposite.  For detergent, I make my own now and it is pretty simple.  I found all kinds of "recipes", but they are all similar.  I use Octagon soap, borax and washing soda.  I take an Octagon bar and run it through the food processor chopping blade.  Then I just mix it with equal amounts of borax and washing soda, and keep it in a Tupperware canister.  I use an old coffee measure, and put a couple tablespoons in each load.  I have a front loader that doesn't use much detergent, and given my allergies (to the sudsing agents, a lot of them) I DON'T equate suds with clean (in fact my recent fav shampoo doesn't suds at all and I love it.)  The biggest problem I have is finding the stuff, Octagon soap is hard to locate but they have it at my Target.  A&H Washing Soda and Twenty Mule Team Borax are not that difficult to find but I sometimes run into a store and they don't have it so I keep a box ahead.  K

Offline sdBev

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #31 on: June 29, 2010, 06:01:22 PM »
Quote
I don't know who it was on this board the recommend white vinegar to me.

sdBev - do you use it instead of detergent, or in the rinse cycle as a softener?    DH has become quite sensitive lately to laundry products after a bad reaction to  Biz.

I pour it in either the bleach or softerner slot on my machine - keeps both slots free from dirt.  I use with detergeant for towels sheets, my clothing but without detergeant for DH's clothes.  His clothing gets oxyclean and white vinegar.  He can tell right away if I slip up.  His calves start itching and break out in a rash right under his socks.

Offline sdBev

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #32 on: June 29, 2010, 06:07:26 PM »
...I keep a box ahead.  K

K
I do that with a lot of stuff.  No Target nearby, even Walmart is 1.5 hours away.  We go shopping once a month.  It's a real pain when they're out the only day you'll be shopping for the next 30!  When you live in the south 40, you do what you have to do.  Keeping extra is a way of life.

Offline lydia

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Re: Best fabric for tea towels
« Reply #33 on: June 30, 2010, 02:23:51 PM »
Karent.....I was getting chastised for the amount of suds coming from my washer.......You know the rote:  wasting detergent, etc..So, I tried the Duggar family recipe and it does not make any appreciable amount of suds, even though I upped the Fels Naptha bars to two and one-half bars.  I also have added more washing soda to the mix.  I am a little crabby about how I launder my garments and insist on a clean look and feel.  DH launders his own "stuff".  Kept complaining about lost socks...........you can imagine what my answer was:  DO IT YOURSELF.  Well he has and now no more socks are lost.  Go figure! (and if he does lose a sock, I am off the hook!) As an aside:  I have used white vinegar in the fabric softener cup for quite a while and now all the slippery gunk has been dissolved; the tub stays clean.  Don't know what is in softener, but maybe I would rather not know!.........Lydia
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