How to Make Towels Smell Fresh and Clean

mildew smell out of towels

I’ve had a few readers ask me this question so it’s about time that I write a post on it. First, let’s talk about what makes towels stink. That mildew-y smell sets in from the towel staying wet too long, from sitting in the washer, thrown on the floor after a shower or folded and put away too soon. Another thing that may be causing the towels to stink is if you’re using too much detergent. Often, with too much detergent, there is a residue left on the towels, which mold and mildew love to eat. Gross, I know, but I have a few easy tips to get rid of the mildew smell out of towels and keep them smelling fresh and clean.

  1. Add baking soda to the wash: This is my favorite way and it’s super easy. For a front loading washer, add 1/4 cup of baking soda to the washer drum directly. For top loading washers, add 1/2 cup to the wash. I also combine this tip with this next one.
  2. Add vinegar to the rinse: Vinegar has awesome antibacterial properties and will help strip away any residue in the towels. I use vinegar exclusively as a softener for my towels because traditional fabric softener leaves a waxy residue  that makes them less absorbent. The vinegar and baking soda together are a one-two punch to getting that nasty smell out. This method may not get the smell out on the first wash depending on how bad it is, but it will come out in a few.
  3. Hang towels to dry: More specifically, make sure to hang them across a bar to dry completely. Also, make sure to run the fan in the bathroom for at least 30 minutes to get rid of the excess moisture in the air. If you don’t have a bathroom fan then hang your towels somewhere else in your home to dry completely then move them back to the bathroom.
  4. Check dryness before folding: Just because something is hot from the dryer does not mean it’s dry. Shake out your towels before folding them to help them cool so you can feel if the towel is dry or still a little bit wet.
  5. Run towels through the dryer again: I use this method only when we get back from swimming and I have a heap of wet towels, more than I have space for hanging. I don’t always want to wash the swimming towels when I know we’ll use them again the next day but I want them dry quickly. This prevents the pile of wet moldy towels and helps keep them smelling fresh. You could also do this after you shower if you so desire to dry your towels quickly.
  6. Clean your washer: No matter what you do, if your washer has mold in it, then it can/will reintroduce the mold back into the towels every time you wash them. Clean your washer and make it a mold free environment so when you try to de-stink the towels, you’re able to do so without giving them mold again.

These methods keep my towels smelling fresh and clean, granted when I slack the smell does start to come back. I’ve been using my homemade laundry detergent on my towels to make sure I don’t use too much and they come out smelling fresh and clean every time.

Happy Cleaning!


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29 thoughts on “How to Make Towels Smell Fresh and Clean

  1. Hi found your blog thru My Turn for Us party… I have recently been added baking soda and it’s made a huge difference. My washer is 3 years old so I’ll be doing a cleanse in it soon, although I do use quite a lot of bleach. I found out about washer mold when my 12 yr old washer broke and hubby tried to fix it, pulled out the drum, and I was in shock at what I saw! Thanks for your tips.

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  3. Great tips! Thank you for sharing. You will be one of the fan favorite features tomorrow at the Sunday Showcase from the Make it Pretty Monday party at The Dedicated House. Pop on in and grab a Sunday Showcase feature button for you blog. Hope to see your prettiness again at the bash! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

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  5. Saw your feature at The Dedicated House – congrats! Thanks for sharing these tips on washing towels … this explains why, when I recently started using fabric softener for the first time ever, my towels are like drying yourself with sandpaper. I’ll be trying the vinegar rinse .


  6. Thanks so much for linking this up to our All Things Thursday Blog Hop last week. I’ve picked this tip as one of my features and have pinned it to my ATTBH Features board on Pinterest. I hope you’ll be by tonight again to link up more of your great tips.

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  10. All great tips, Angela! Vinegar has saved my laundry (and a couple pairs of kids smelly shoes!) on more than one occasion, lol!

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