On a weekly basis, I get a large amount of email about towels. There are lots of questions surrounding towels and they mostly go like this:
- My towels smell horrible – like mold. How can I get rid of that?
- We have towels everywhere I look, all over the floor. What are some good solutions to hanging towels?
- I wash 3-4 loads of towels a week for my family. How can I wash fewer towels each week?
Each of these inquiries deserves its own post, so today I’m going to tackle the question of mildewy, moldy towels.
I’ve written an in-depth guide on how to revive smelly towels. So if you’ve got a stack of bad smelling linens, follow the directions in the post on how to get them back to smelling fresh again.
In my experience, the key to fresh-smelling towels is prevention of the mold and mildew. There are a few simple things you can do to avoid having to go through the hassle of getting rid of the stink.
I’ve used these tips for years and they have never failed! Use these tips to help prevent smelly towels in your own house. You’ll be thrilled you did!
Always hang towels to dry. Period.
Letting wet towels sit around on the floor or allowing them to sit in a ball on the edge of the sink is only going to breed gross things.
Hanging them up allows air to circulate, which causes them to dry faster.
These towels? This is not how you should hang them.
The goal is to have wet towels hanging only one layer thick if at all possible. If they are layered any thicker than that or if they are bunched up (like in the picture), they dry very poorly.
The longer they stay wet, the easier it is for them to grow mold.
Don’t let wet towels sit in a laundry basket until wash day.
If you have used a towel for the last time, hang it to dry and then put it in your laundry basket. Towels that sit in dark wetness for a long time are just asking for mildew.
Not only will the wet towel mildew, it will cause other towels around it to do the same. And then you’ve got a gross, moldy problem to deal with.
It can be easily prevented by putting only dry towels in the laundry basket.
Set one day of the week as Towel Day.
Make sure you’ve got a Towel Day set aside in your laundry routine.
Just in case you’ve let a wet towel slide into the basket, you will have possibly caught it in time if you have a specific day to wash towels.
If you only wash towels once every three weeks or so, it will likely do mold damage before you find it on Wash Day.
Circulate the air in your bathroom.
This post contains affiliate links. You can view my disclosure policy.
Most people hang towels on a towel rack in the bathroom. But bathrooms can be humid places where the air doesn’t circulate well.
Open a window or turn on the fan to get the air moving in your bathroom. A towel is not going to dry well in a steamy bathroom in which the air is still.
Just a side note: My husband recently installed timers on our bathroom fans. Either my kids would 1) forget to turn on the fan completely when taking a shower or 2) forget to the the fan off after taking a shower.
And then the fan would stay on for hours.
So these little fan timers from Amazon have worked beautifully!
Do you have trouble with towels?
List all of your towel woes in the comments and make sure to reply!
More Help with Bathroom Towels
There are many resources here at Mama’s Laundry Talk related to bathroom towels.
- Does My Washer Make My Towels Smell Soured? – A reader questions if it is her washing machine causing her towels to smell like mildew
- How to Revive Smelly Towels – Have towels that smell horrible, even when clean? Here’s how to fix them.
- Should You Wash Clothes with Towels & Sheets? – 3 reasons why you should not wash your clothes with towels & sheets
- How to Fold Bath Towels
- How to Fold Towels in French-Fold Style
Thanks. This is one area I am very good at. Keep my towels washed and put up. I waste water, but I keep them clean. Do not like to use used towels!
I always hang my towels and any wet cloths to dry before putting them in the hamper. However when I get a fresh wash cloth out I’ll use it and when I go to use it at night it’s smelly already. Please help I’m getting tired of buying new ones each week. Debbie
i never had stinky towels until i start to use the front load machine i think when i replace this machine i will go with the old faction. i replaced the towels and the new ones stink
The only thing that concerns me about bath towels is fungus growing on the towel or anything to incubate on the towel so I bought a steamer.
I live in small apartment with a small bathroom. I cannot do laundry as often as I want, have to drag to the laundromat. I have tried hanging wet towels till they dry, but don’t have the room. Also what about wet dish towels/rags, that may be soiled or greasy? I can’t hang all these things up before putting in the hamper. Needless to say, I have constant mildew odor in bathroom hamper. When I do wash them, I have to use hot water and bleach to get out the odors. What can I do with these wet/soiled items, if I can’t hang them all to dry first? Any good ideas for me?
I live near the beach and after I wash and dry and fold the towels they smell great. Then I go to use one 2 days later and they smell like mildew. I’m thinking I should get a dehumidifier, but the rest of my home doesn’t stink. Any suggestions?
Do you keep your towels in the bathroom? Is there another place you can store them? Yes, a dehumidifier would help tremendously.
If you DO store your towels in the bathroom, make sure you have great ventilation in that room. You need to be able to open a window, or have an adequate bathroom vent fan to pull the steam/moisture out of the air.
Otherwise you’ll have the same trouble over and over.
Once you can get the stink out of your towels and get the bathroom to be less humid, your issue will go away. 🙂
i believe it is the new washing machines. we never had this problem in 40 years of marriage. since we got the new machine even when we use the hottest temp the towels start to smell moldy
My towels always turn mildewy after a period of a month or so. I buy perhaps 8-12 towels yearly. I share a bathroom with the wife and her towels are never mildewy. There is proper circulation, I always hang them to dry and wash them weekly.
Im beginning to think perhaps it’s my skin itself? I have a certain type of bacteria on my skin, perhaps?
Any advice would be appreciated
Hey John –
Hang your towels in a different place in the bathroom for a couple of weeks. Switch hanging spots with your wife and see if that has any effect.
Also, are your towels the same type as your wife’s? Maybe yours have a synthetic fiber in them? That would cause them to hang on to smells, moisture, mildew, etc.
Lastly, I would trying stripping them to get rid of the mildewy smell. Here’s how: How to revive smelly towels
How can I keep in-laws from putting wet bath clothes and damp towels in hamper when they leave? I’ve even made sure the towel rack above hamper is empty. They still overlook it every time they visit.
Hmmm. Honestly? If it were me, I’d just let it go. I’d go pick up the towels as soon as possible once they had left and then wash them. I would be concerned that mentioning the towels over and over might cause a rift. 🙂
Have you actually asked them to hang them up? If so, and they still refuse (or forget), just make sure they’re collected as soon as they leave and then washed.
In-law issues can be tricky. 🙂
Thank you for the detailed explanations and insightful how-to’s.
We currently live in a rented apartment in Toronto, our bathroom is tiny, and it has no vent or window.
So far I have been making sure to hang the towels to dry after each use on doorknobs in our bedroom, and overall it does the trick of drying the towel. However, I recently noticed a mild mildewy smell right in the middle of the towel edge (where it holds onto the doorknob)…
Would you happen to know of a solution for small spaces with no air circulation? Ideally, an alternative to having a laundry rack unfolded in the middle of the bedroom all the time?
Even though we have a balcony, our climate is too finicky to use it for the laundry or towels: hot muggy summers and cold wet winters…
Thank you so much,
I was and dry my towels. They smell awesome. I store them underneath my bathroom vanity. The next day I go to get a towel and it smells horrible. It’s a new home. What is causing this. Help!!