And they smell awful. So bad you think you might need to throw them away.
But don’t worry – there is a fix although it may take a little bit of work to make them smell fresh again.
I was asked this past week how to get the stink out of towels and I briefly answered it in the comment section. Here’s a more thorough answer.
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Wash towels on the hottest water setting possible.
If you have your hot water heater turned down to save money, turn it up for this wash. I know the controversy that modern detergents are so great now we can wash everything on cold, but that is not the case with moldy, mildewy towels.
If you have a machine with a Sanitizing option, use that.
Wash on the longest, most heavy duty cycle your washer offers.
Towels are probably the most sturdy cotton material your washer deals with. The ‘heavy duty cycle’ is made for items like this, so don’t be afraid to use it!
The smelly towels need a tremendous amount of agitation to get rid of the stench and possible bacteria. Use a long cycle to help this process.
For more information – Laundry Basics: How to Choose the Washing Cycle
Use a capful of detergent up to the top fill-line.
Now is not the time to skimp on cheapie detergent or use a lesser amount of detergent.
You can be frugal in your other loads of laundry this week, so use high-quality detergent and an ample amount of it.
Do not use fabric softener. Do use a scoop of oxi-clean in the wash and white vinegar in the rinse.
Fabric softener will only mask the smell, if any remains. The next time your towels get wet (ie: when you dry off), they’ll smell icky again.
Use a full scoop of Oxi-Clean in the initial wash and use 1/2-1 cup of white vinegar in the rinse.
You can put the vinegar straight into your fabric softener dispenser or into a Downy Ball.
Dry in direct sunlight if possible.
There is nothing like fresh air and hot sunshine to help get rid of towel stench. It is a wonderful, free cure!
No clothesline? Get a portable clothesline and dry them in any outside space. Wash the towels in two separate batches if you need to, to ensure that they all have ample outside drying space.
If you aren’t able to dry your towels outside, dry them on the hottest setting on your dryer and get them completely dry.
If they are wet at all when you put them away, they’ll be gross again then next time you use them.
If after the initial washing your towels still smell moldy/mildewy, repeat the washing process again before drying in the dryer. Heat sets in all kinds of bad stains and smells. It may even be that you have to repeat the washing process 3-4 times.
That sounds like a lot of work, but it sure beats throwing away a washer load of towels. If you make the effort to get them usable again, you’ll be so thrilled with your result!