Fancy hotel sheets and towels somehow always feel superior to any other linens. Maybe the thrill of being on vacation is a part of it, but good hotel linens invariably offer just the right amount of thickness to swaddle you like a baby and are soft enough to lull you into a relaxed sleep.
As a kid, I was often tempted to stuff hotel towels in my suitcase because they were just plain better than the ones we had at home (though hotels are often wary of that happening and will courteously add a charge to your bill for any linens you’ve “chosen to keep”). But instead of resorting to thievery, why not figure out how to get that same feeling with your existing sheets and towels? Here are some methods to turn your average sheets and towels into what feels like five-star hotel quality linen.
Why are hotel linens so much better?
Hotels tend to purchase high-grade linens, generally Egyptian cotton between 300 to 500 thread count, as it is durable, easily machine washable, and hypoallergenic, making it an obvious choice for comfort and efficiency. A full set of Egyptian cotton sheets can run you around $270 at a department store, which is definitely beyond the average person’s budget for sheets.
Hotel towels, meanwhile, have a high-level GSM (grams per square meter value). GSM is like the thread count on sheets: It determines a towels’ strength, absorbency, and softness. A high GSM is from 400 to 600, whereas low GSM towels (such as gym towels or beach towels) have a GSM of 200 to 300. Hotels buy these high-quality fabrics to withstand excessive use and constant washing without compromising the integrity of the cloth. You can replicate this feeling without the exorbitant cost by adding a couple of ingredients to your wash.
Wash towels as soon as you buy them
This is one new linen rule that many people forget: Washing them before use will remove any residue from the manufacturing process or the packaging giving them a softer feel than you’d get if you just used them right away.
The linen company Towel Supercenter explains, “[o]ften towels come coated with a finish that gives them [an] attractive sheen while on the shelf. Throw them in the wash to remove that chemical finish… These finishes also prevent towels from being as absorbent as possible.”
Give linens a hotel-style wash
You would think hotels use high-grade detergent to keep their linens so soft and white. It turns out, hotels use the same store-bought detergent as you and me, as regular store-bought laundry detergent has a neutral pH needed to maintain fabrics. “[The] commercial-grade version [of detergent] is generally harsher, with a basic pH that can wreak havoc on the essential qualities of a luxury hotel towel,” Towel Supercenter notes. You don’t need to change your detergent to get the hotel feel for your sheets. What you should do is add rice water starch.
Cleaning blogger Shannon Lush tells the Daily Mail that replacing your fabric conditioner with rice water starch with give your linens that luxury feel. “Just keep the water [that’s left over] after boiling rice and add one cup of this rice-water starch to two cups of plain water and stir thoroughly,” she said. Take the rice-water solution, pour one cup into the fabric conditioner slot on the washing machine, and half a cup straight into the wash. Rice starch keeps the fabric smooth, crisp, and resistant to wrinkles.
Use vinegar as a fabric softener
After trying the rice water trick, instead of using a regular fabric softener, pour two tablespoons of vinegar and two tablespoons of baking soda into your wash instead. “’Fabric softener is just oil-based, and all it is doing is sticking oil in the wash. Put the vinegar in the fabric conditioner slot,” Lush advises. The mild acidity of white vinegar softens the fabric and the baking soda eliminates odors. And don’t worry—the vinegar smell will be washed away during the rinse cycle. If you want some extra freshness, add a couple drops of lavender or tea tree oil to the mix; it will leave a light, soothing aroma behind.