Colorful towels in a laundry basket

How to Get Smells Out of Towels

Sometimes towels smell musty even after washing them and sometimes our towels smell musty because we accidentally left them in the washing machine overnight.

Nobody’s perfect, after all. Either way, they smell of mildew, so you probably throw them into the washing machine once again, hoping for the musty smell to go away, but to no avail. Instead of blaming yourself, read our handy guide to learn a few helpful tips on how to deal with stinky towels!

How to Get Mildew and Musty Smells Out of Towels

There are two schools of thought when it comes to freshening up your smelly towels. Some people swear by the good, old vinegar method, and then there’s another group that believes in using laundry detergents only. Although we prefer the use of detergents, simply because they’re more effective and less of a hassle, we’ll examine both approaches, so no one can say we’re overtly biased.

The Vinegar Method

Although vinegar is a common household cleaning solution when it comes to doing laundry, using this method is generally more burdensome than opting for the laundry detergent route.

Using vinegar and detergent together in the wash can give you results that are really hit or miss (the reason is that detergents are optimized for a specific pH level, which is altered by the presence of vinegar), often forcing you to rewash your clothes. Additionally, it’s recommended that you use at least five cups of vinegar to increase your odds of seeing a satisfying outcome.

If you’re still interested in using vinegar, here’s how to freshen your towels with using it. Also, remember not to use high pH baking soda for removing odors because odor removal requires a low pH agent.

  1. Soak towels in vinegar. Soak your stinky towels in a bucket of white, distilled vinegar for 30 minutes to overnight with a tablespoon of detergent to help loosen body soils. Vinegar contains acetic acid that breaks up mineral deposits and dissolves the build-up of body soils on your towels. Rinse thoroughly.

  2. Add towels. Place your towels into the washing machine’s drum.

  3. Add detergent. Although vinegar can go a long way in helping to refresh your towels, you’ll still need the cleaning power of detergents. Use a high-quality detergent like Tide POWER PODS® Heavy Duty 10X Concentrated Laundry Detergent Pacs, complete with color protection and odor-removal technology. For regular or large loads, simply throw one Tide POWER PODS® into the washing machine’s empty drum before adding the laundry. Add 2 pacs for extra-large and/or heavily soiled loads.

  4. Dry your towels. Machine dry your towels according to the care label instructions use Bounce Dryer Sheets for extra freshness, softness, and static control. If air drying, hang your towels on a clothesline or a rack to allow air to properly circulate. Allow towels to dry completely before storing.

When it comes to ridding your fabrics of bad smells while giving them an amazing clean in the process, your best bet is to use a powerful laundry detergent, such as Tide. It’s not just easier to use and quicker than the old white vinegar pre-soak method, it’s also way more effective at removing musty smells, and you only have to remember a few simple steps!

The Reason Why Towels Can Smell Bad

We’re sure you’ll agree that drying off with a smelly towel is an unpleasant experience. Mildew smells tend to intensify in warm, moist environments, so a bunched-up, wet towel left in the washing machine drum or at the bottom of your laundry basket provides just the right circumstances for that mildew smell to develop.

Additionally, body soils left on your towels either from the use or from poor-performing detergents will break down over time to release a sour, musty smell. In the end, you’re left with towels full of a stink that’s difficult to get rid of. But all hope isn’t lost if you know these smart, deep-cleaning techniques.

How to Prevent Towels From Smelling Bad

Now that you know how to get that musty smell out of your towels, just follow these simple tips to prevent smelly towels in the first place:

  • Hang your towels up to dry after each use. Even if you only use your towel very lightly, it’s important to air dry your towel away from humidity to avoid unpleasant smells.

  • Never place wet towels or clothes in the laundry hamper. Mildew smells can already appear after being in a warm dark place for only a few hours.

  • Dry towels immediately after washing. If you leave your towels in the washer or sitting around damp, they're likely to get mildew smell, and you don’t want that!

  • Only store your towels when they are completely dry. This prevents the unpleasantness of musty towels.

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