(Closed) Towel smell?

posted 7 years ago in Home
Post # 3
730 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2010

I’m guessing the smell is a mildew smell, which happens when towels sit wet or damp for a while. I’d leave them in the dryer for a little longer when you wash them to make sure they’re TOTALLY dry before you fold them. Also, use the high heat setting for towels if you’re not already. Also, don’t leave them in the washer after the wash cycle is done – immediately transfer them to the dryer.

To get rid of mildew smell that’s already stuck in your towels, you can wash them with vinegar. Run them through the washing machine with 1-2 cups of white vinegar and HOT water (no detergent or anything). Then run them through a second time with whatever detergent you would normally use. Dry them on high heat, and they should be back to normal!

If all else fails, go buy yourself some “quick-dry” towels. Those kind are WAY less likely to get mildewy.

Post # 4
1701 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2010

maybe kill the bacteria by leaving them in the sun

and to prevent this, do not let your towels sit around damp and crumpled up….spread out to dry properly (before washing or in between uses)

Post # 5
492 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: July 2011

Penguin sport detergent (available at some sporting goods stores) does amazing things for eliminating mildew smell.  It’s a little more expensive than regulat detergent, but sooo worth it. I use it really infrequently, whenever I notice that something has sat around for a while damp and/or developed an odor.

Post # 6
2493 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2012

I have had this same problem– since I got a front load. I have learned the following from a TON of experimentation:

1. Mildew can form in the drum of the washer by keping the door closed. Always keep the door to a front load open to dry out the seal.

2. For some reason, Tide detergent can react with some types of water and cause mildew smell. Switching from Tide to Gain and Arm and Hammer got rid of a lot of the smell

3. Keeping your towels in the washer or dryer for more than 10 min after the cycles are done can cause the mildew smell to get strong. Always promptly take them out.

To get rid of the smell, depending how long they have smelled and how bad the smell it make take three or four washes of the following:

– wash with vinegar, full strength, 1 cup and use vinegar as a rinse

-wash with a colour safe bleach (NOT WITH VINEGAR AT THE SAME TIME)

-try adding 1/4 c of baking soda into your detergent


And, just when you are about to give up trying to get rid of hte smell, it will disappear! 🙂

Post # 7
519 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: May 2012

Using vinegar really works! I actually add vinegar all the time when I wash towels. You can use it right along with your detergent and it’s fine. I never measure it, but I probably use about a cup per load. When you use vinegar, if you accidently leave the towels sitting in the washer for a while, they don’t smell like they normally would! 

Post # 8
1109 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2011

Our towels tend to smell like cellar sometimes, we have to put them directly into the dryer to keep them from getting than musky odor. I’d recommend also putting some potpourri or something scented in your towel closet. We live in an old house and the wood gets damp in the closet and makes the towels smell even if they didn’t smell before going in there.

Post # 9
2142 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: August 2010

a little baking soda in the water also helps to get rid of odors.

Post # 10
6661 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: May 2010

I second what PP’s said about vinegar and baking soda. I also run the washing machine with nothing in it except for bleach on hot every once in a while which helps too. Most standard dryers do not get towels all the way dry on one cycle, so sometimes you have ot put them in twice in order for them to actually be dry.

Post # 11
1243 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: December 2010

@takemyhand:  You just blew my mind!  I never thought about this (mildew in/on the seal of the front-loader) AT ALL.


Post # 12
2651 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: May 2016

Would a dryer sheet work?
 or would that cause issues with the absrobancey again?

Post # 13
11113 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2011

I’ve had this. I thought it was because I washed dog stuff in the previous load so now in case I do an empty wsah. I find using the tumble dryer in it helps (though this broke last week!) I’ll have to try the vinegar thing and wiping mildew off from inside the door.

Post # 14
1932 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: June 2008

I have this happen to my towels ALL the time, it’s so gross. I hate it.

So every time I do a load of towels, I do 1/4 cup of baking soda with the detergent and wash on a hot cycle to kill any mildew/bacteria. It works every time.

When I first found the smell, I had to do 3 cycles thought, the first was hot cycle with baking soda, then hot with detergent and baking soda and another like that cause the smell wasn’t quite gone.

After that, I haven’t had a problem. Good luck!

Post # 15
2493 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2012

@ArwenBride: If that blew your mind, then if all your laundry starts to smell hire someone to take apart your washer. We found 1/2 inch of blue and black mold ON TOP OF THE DRUM. Effing gross. We cleaned it out and now we leave the door open to let the drum dry every time. I also dry off the rubber seal with a rag and run cleaning tablets through the wash once a month. Google “mildew front load” and you will be disgusted with what you can see.

ETA: Love front loads for their ease of use and green energy, but hate them for the smell. Next washer will be a topload– not a question for me.

Post # 16
2433 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: June 2009

@takemyhand: There are top-loaders which don’t have an agitator and are as energy-efficient as a front loader. We got one last year from GE, and it is extremely quiet when it runs (the wash cycle sounds similar to one of those old dot-matrix printers – weird, but very quiet).

I got it because a front loader didn’t fit in our laundry room. But after I’ve heard about all the problems people have with front-loaders, it seems like a better option!

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