I received this email in my Mama’s inbox:
Help! My towels are smelling of mildew, even though I just purchased them a few months ago. I’ve never had this happen before and I’ve been washing clothes a long time.
Do you think my washer is the problem?
Thanks for any help you can offer-
Renee’s problem seems to be popular, as it was the third email I received around the same question: Can your washer cause your towels to be smelly and soured?
The simple answer is: probably not.
It is very possible to have a smelly washing machine. You smell the mold/mildew when you open the door or lift the lid. If you inspect closely, you can see actual mold on the inside rubber seal or around the drainage holes. Bleh.
While this is gross and you need to clean your washing machine today, it is highly unlikely the cause of soured towels.
If the culprit was in fact the washing machine, all loads of laundry would smell like mildew – not just towels.
So what did cause the soured smell?
Towels that have a perpetually soured smell have been left in a dark, damp place for a period of time and were probably wadded up to some degree. The possible spot could have been the bottom of a laundry hamper, the inside of a plastic gym bag, or in the corner of the bathroom floor. Regardless of the place the towels were left, you can rest assured that they weren’t hung up to dry.
Towels can also sour if you leave them wet in the machine. I know none of you have ever done that, because I surely haven’t. Ahem.
Lastly, a buildup of fabric softener can cause towels to be awfully smelly. Fabric softener doesn’t allow the cotton fibers of the towel to rinse cleanly, so it hangs on to detergent and softener. These left on particles attract dirt, grime and smells and all of those things surely lead to stink.
The Fix for Smelly, Soured Towels
Soured towels need to be stripped. I’ve written detailed instructions on how to strip your soured towels, so make sure to stop by and read that post.
Most importantly, try to get rid of the stink before you send them through the dryer. Dryer heat sets in stains and smells in a fierce way, so try to catch them before that.
Better yet, dry them in the sun. The sun is the ultimate in stain removal and eliminating smells, especially of a mildew/moldy nature.
Do you have specific questions about moldy/smelly/stinky/soured towels? Leave them in the comments and I’ll help you sort through your towel troubles.