Jan, when I had babies, the nurse at the dr's told me to add vinegar to the rinse water for their diapers to help prevent diaper rash. Vinegar will help remove mineral build up so if you could try adding it and then rinsing again to get the smell out (it will dissipate on its own but some people don't want to wait) that might help soften up your towels, the baby diapers were always reasonably soft w/o fabric softener. I'm odd, I like my towels kind of rough.
tangrene, I've heard that Bounce will repel insects. My problem with anything scented is that the scent will get stronger and stronger. When other people are trying to figure out how to make the smell of perfume last longer, I'm trying to avoid it because it does get stronger. I have decided that I'm more sensitive to smells, fragrant or otherwise, than other people, many give me a headache even. I don't why. However, if I'm going into skeeter infested country, I think I'll get Bounce original and give it a try. Lucky me, bugs rarely bite me if they have any other warm blooded option.
Cheating is an option. . . . Cheaters never win and winners never cheat, but smart knitters who want to retain an iota of sanity do, cheerfully. ~~Kory Stamper