For years I have wondered why it is that my wash rags and towels never seem to soak up water properly. Recently I bought a set of towels off of amazon that were sent to me by Keeble Outlets, a linen supply store that sells through amazon.com. They had great customer service and sent me an email explaining how to properly care for the towels. I am going to copy the instructions from the email here because I finally have the explanation I have been looking for. I have been doing this with all my towels recently and it works like a charm!
Here are Some Additional Great Tips on What Consumers are Saying are The Best Ways to Wash Kitchen Dish Towels (these are not recommendations from Keeble Outlets but rather comments left online by other consumers):
Washing: Before you use a newly-purchased towel, wash it in warm water with laundry detergent to remove any sizing or fabric coating that may be on the fibers from manufacturing. Without doing this first, the new towel will not be effective in absorbing moisture.
When you do this first washing, add about quarter of a cup of Epsom salt or table salt to the wash cycle. This not only helps remove the coating, but will help set the color of the towel.
Add 1/2 cup of baking soda, along with your detergent, to the wash cycle to keep your towels smelling fresh.
To keep towels soft, add a 1 cup of white vinegar to the final rinse cycle.
Do not add fabric softener to the wash cycle.
Don’t wash your towels with other laundry items; if you must, be sure to wash similar colored items together.
Drying: Once you remove the initial coating from the towel, don’t re-coat the fibers by drying towels with a fabric-softener sheet, or use fabric softener in the wash.
Fabric softeners coat towel fibers with silicon that makes them less absorbent.
To keep towels soft and absorbent, tumble them dry in a low-to-medium temperature setting. Even a few minutes of tumble drying before hanging towels on a clothesline will improve their softness and absorbency.
If you must air dry your towels, vigorously shake out each towel before you hang it, and again when folding the dry towel. This will help fluff up the fibers for softness and absorbency.