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Smelly Towels? 4 Easy Ways to Fix It

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Jessica
10.27.16

The last thing you want to do when you step out of a nice warm shower is dry yourself off with a nasty-smelling towel. The stench can be overwhelming, and it really puts a damper on that “fresh from the shower” feeling. Luckily, this problem is easy to solve! With a few strategic cleaning cycles, the musty stench can be a thing of the past.

Here’s how:

The Golden Towel Rule: Do not let your towels stay wet! For each of these methods, it’s important that the towels are dried immediately. Set a timer to ensure that your clothes are switched from the washing machine to the dryer promptly. If you line dry, hang the wet towels in a sunny spot until they’re completely dry.

Method #1: Vinegar Riding Solo

Musty, smelly towels don’t play well with others, so give them their own load. Add one cup of white vinegar to the load – no detergent or fabric softener – and run the washer on the hottest possible setting. The vinegar will kill any lingering bacteria. Then, leave the clothes in the washing machine and run a “normal” load with a standard amount of detergent. Tip: Don’t add other items to your cycle – the towels should ride alone!

Method #2: Baking Soda and Vinegar Combo

You may remember the baking soda-vinegar combo from your grade school science class days (think: homemade volcano), but these two kitchen powerhouses work well outside of the beaker, too! For this strategy, you’ll run two towels-only cycles. In the first towels-only cycle, add a quarter cup of baking soda and then run the hottest cycle possible. Then, during the second cycle, add a full cup of white vinegar. Think of it as a one-two punch to knock out bacteria and mildew.

Method #3: Microwave Your Hand Towels

If your stinky culprit is a hand or kitchen towel, moisten it and pop that baby in the microwave for 30 seconds. The zap from the microwave will kill bacteria. Important: Let it sit in the microwave for about 10 minutes before removing the towel to avoid a burn.  

Method #4: Double-Whammy Detergent

Sometimes, a double-dose of detergent over two cycles is all your towels will need to kick bacteria to the curb. Keep the load “towels only,” and run the same load back-to-back using your normal amount of detergent in each cycle. Tip: Avoid using fabric softener because it can add residue to towels and make them less absorbent.

If None of These Work: Still got must or mildew? The problem may be your washing machine itself. (This is especially true if you use a front-load washer.) If so, run an empty cycle on the hottest setting and add two cups of white vinegar. This will kill any bacteria lingering in the machine. 

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