56 answers

Smelly Towels - Glenview,IL

My towels have an unpleasant smell right out of the dryer. Does anyone know how to prevent this? I've tried changing water temperature, dryer temp, using dryer sheets, and I have a terrific front load washer. Even scented detergent doesn't help, though I prefer no fragrances. Help!

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Featured Answers

You might want to try putting a cup of hydrogen peroxide in with the wash..... believe it or not this gets EVERYTHING clean. There are about 20 different uses for peroxide that no-one ever knows about..

1 mom found this helpful

My mother in law taught me that adding vinegar to a load of wash helps with smells. It works wonders!

1 mom found this helpful

add a little bleach about 5 minutes into the wash. Only about 2 capfuls is needed. This should help.

More Answers

I have a front load washer too. I was told by the manufacturer that the smell comes from all the "guck" buildup in the washing maching. There is a new product on the market called Affresh and it works fantastic. Use all three tablets the first time and then one per month after that.
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

This is a rememdy I learned from my mother. It's safe and cheap!!! PLAIN WHITE VINEGAR!! I buy it by the gallon and keep it in my laundry room. Just add a cup or so to the wash cycle. I have a top loader so I throw it right in when the water is filling with my laundry soap. It's a neutralizer or something because it takes the smell right out AND it also acts as a fabric softener (although I do still use a little softener too cuz I like the smell). Good luck! I feel confident you will have clean smelling towels the next time you try this! I think towels just get musty smelling after a while.

1 mom found this helpful

My gmail account has an ad bar that pops up ads that are relevant to what might be in my emails. When I read my Mamasource request email, this ad popped up. There's apparently a lawsuit a-brewing against LG, Whirlpool, and Sears, Roebuck & Co. because of mildew or mold in their front-loading washing machines. Do you own one of those brands? Here's the website. Check that out if you have one of those brands.


Otherwise, I agree with vinegar or baking soda as a solution to your problem. :)

1 mom found this helpful

My mother in law taught me that adding vinegar to a load of wash helps with smells. It works wonders!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi J.,

Do you think it could be from mildew? If I leave my towels in the wash too long before switching over to the dryer they get mildew-y and really smell.
The way to get rid of this smell is to use your regualr detergent and Borax (sold in the detergent section at the grocery store). Re-wash the towels then add baking soda during the rinse cycle. They also sell large boxes of baking soda (arm & hammer) in the detergent section.
My friend gave me this advice after I had left my son's laundry in the wash over the weekend! It smelled so bad!! I have always just used a cup of each, borax and baking soda.

My friend also has fragrance allergies with soaps. She is not bothered by this combination to clean out smells. It leaves your clothes smelling fresh, but not perfume-y.

1 mom found this helpful

You might want to try putting a cup of hydrogen peroxide in with the wash..... believe it or not this gets EVERYTHING clean. There are about 20 different uses for peroxide that no-one ever knows about..

1 mom found this helpful

So I just saw this commercial and they litterally just talked about smelly towels and they now have FEBREEZE for washers

Hi J.,

I had a similar issue and the problem was that my husband was putting towels int he hamper when they were wet. Then when I would go to wash them, the smell would never go away. The solution I found was to make sure they were dry before they went in the hamper. I sounds simple, but it resolved the moldy yucky smell issue.

Good luck!

Add color safe bleach to your wash for colors and add bleach to your whites.

powder oxi clean I live by it...... my towels never smell and it alos takes stains out in clothes carpet you name it.. I use a scoop with every wash


My husband uses a soap with Sulfur. This sulfur odor permeates the towels even after coming out of the dryer. Take a look at the ingredients in your soap you may have to change it.


This happens to mine if I leave them in the washer too long. Sometimes, I forget about them and they stay in the washer for a day or two and then they stink so I have to rewash them.

Hi J.,
Try Downy fabric softener in your rinse cycle.
There is a variety of different scents even unscented. Maybe you'll find one you can tolerate. Good Luck!

G. R

A lot of advice, so if this is repeated sorry. I too have a front loader. Try using, I bought at Lowe's, tablets called Afresh (I think). They are used to freshen front loaders and also when not in use leave the door open. Keeps the inside from smelling musty. Since I started doing that, no smelly problems for me. Good Luck!

I use a cup of ammonia in the wash. It's great, cheap, and takes the stink out!

I am right there with you. I believe it's a problem with front load washers because water gets trapped in the gasket. I purchased some stuff last week, online, called smelly washer. http://www.smellywasher.com/ So far, so good. I recieved it yesterday and I washed the towels once with the powder, and then again in detergent. I do use a detergent with fragrance, but I thought they smelled so much better this time around. I've yet to shower with them, but so far they smell good.

Good luck...personally, I wish I had purchased a regular washer when I consider these problems, the cost of the special HE detergent, and how much water I've wasted washing things over again because they smelled sour.

I also have a front loader and that happens when I use washing powder instead of liquid detergent. Temp or cycle nothing seems to make a difference, but when I use any kind of liquid it is fine. I wonder if the powder is not washed out/dissolved properly (including the dirt) and that might make the smell. Don't know. Also sun-drying or dryer-drying doesn't make a difference..
Hope that helps.

Hi J.,
Try cleaning out the washer run the washer with just bleach water. Also set a timer so when the wash is done washing the towels get them into the dryer right away don't let them sit.

hope this helps

Are they also right out of the washer to the dryer? I let my towels sit too long in the washer and once dried they smelled like wet dog.

C. T

If you have a front load washer it is more efficient and uses less water. It also is more air-tight than the old washers we grew up with.

It sound like you may have mold or fungus in your washer. There are ways to prevent this. When not using the washer leave the door open so the washer dries out and there is not wet environment for mold to grow. Liquid fabric softner which is made from animal fat encourages the growth of mold so I use dryer sheets. Using powder is better than liquid detergent in these washers for reducing the smell.

I would also suggest wiping around the rubber door seal get underneath with a paper towel; my friend kept getting a smell and a couple of kids sock got trapped there and were moldy. And pulling out the drawer where you load the detergent, taking it completely apart and cleaning it with a tootbrush, mold can collect there as well; I also suggest leaving the detergent drawer open when the washer is not in use so that it stays dry and reduces the chance of mold growth.

Vinegar and the other remedies may work but if you have a really bad problem I would get some Smelly washer; they have a web site www.smellywasher.com and it is the best cleaner if you have a persistent problem. They also have tips on their web site.

Good luck - hope this helps.

just a few drops of tea tree oil along with the detergent works well.

You wont beleive this response was taken from a ghosthunters episode---they are roto rooter guys
They said that water build up remains in your tub, and can cause odors in clothing.
The remedy, according to them, is to run your washer empty, with a cup of bleach in the washer, then run it again without.
Never put the lid down, it traps moisture which will lead to build up of bacteria.
Worth a try!

as someone else suggested, add some plain white vinegar to the wash cycle.

1/2 cup vinegar in wash
rinse, rinse, rinse!

add a little bleach about 5 minutes into the wash. Only about 2 capfuls is needed. This should help.

I tried to read most of the responses before I add my 2 cents as I didn't want to repeat the same remedy that others have posted here. I have definitely used white vinegar with succes, but I also use Ammonia- just a half cup or so. Yes, it smells awful when you are pouring it in, but it neutralizes when mixed in with the detergent and takes out odors. I have left towels in washer overnight and then wash again with this and they come out great. Good luck!

Check the air-out on the dryer it just might have something preventing the air to circulate.....

Add clorox for colors plus your regular detergent and make sure to wash with hot water dry on regular heat

I just purchased these tabs found at Lowes called affresh. they clean you washer. I had the same problem with my front loader(LG). Now it doesnt have the odor smell. Mine was when I used the Sanitary(hot water) cycle only. hope this helps you.:)

The best thing I have found is just white vinegar. Pour in abut 1/2 cup with the detergent or if they are really stinky use the vinegar instead of liquid fabric softener and then use a dryer sheet. Also make sure that you dry them very well. My kids tend to leave damp towels in the dryer because they didn't set the timer for long enough. Hope this helps!

My son can not have dairy or soy..... he has always had Rice Milk (enriched) since he finished nursing. While I was nursing and could not have dairy or soy due to his allergy, I drank oat milk and/or almond milk.

Good luck.

J., I had to laugh at this email cause your husband sounds just like mine, LOL....I am so happy you asked this question!!

Mom of 3 great kids, Ryan 12, Troy 9, & Audrey 3. Wife to and awesome guy for 19 years today!

I wish I had some advice for you but I have noticed the same thing with only some of my towels. It seems like it is the cheapy ones all the time that I bought. They were fine for about 6 months and then Ewwwwwwwwww.... It smells like a chemical almost oily like smell ( I think it was the dyes breaking down?!?!). I have no idea what it is but found that I just had to replace them all. I have tried everything also and they still stink... especially once they get wet again and then the smell is all over me once I dry off or all over my dishes. So my only advice is replace with a better towel... if this is your problem also.

Good luck and if you do find something that works please post it on here so if I have this problem again I can do it!


After using the towels, make sure they have time to completely dry before throwing them in the laundry basket. If you don't, they may be mildewing. Also, don't let them sit in the washer--get them right into the dryer. A little bleach or vinegar in the washer may also help. I also use:
Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda. That works for me!.

Towels are great at getting a mildew smell. The best thing I have found is adding about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of bleach to the wash. As long as you are careful not to pour the bleach directly on the towels (put it in the water before you add the towels), you shouldn't have to worry about the towels getting bleach spots or fading. Hope it helps!

I might suggest a few drops of lavender or tea tree essential oil in the washing machine. Tea tree oil has natural antibacterial properties -- I use it in my diaper pail and put some in when I wash my diapers. Lavender oil just smells great! If you think the problem might be mildew, I use Oxo-Brite, a natural oxygen bleach. I also have a front-load washing machine. I mix 1/2 to a full scoop with some hot water and put it in the dispenser with the detergent. Good luck!

We have that problem with our brand new gas dryer in a brand new house. We had the same issue in our previous house and different dryer of make and model. We had the new dryer checked for temperature, cleared exhaust ect. The common denominator in both houses were chemical fumes. In the new house it was from the newly finished hardwood floors and in the old house it was an open bucket of paint thinner.
What happened to us is the fumes were sucked into the dryer and mixed with the natural gas and into the the towels and clothes for a gas smell. As you know natural gas is odorless and additives are added so you can smell leaks. Well we magnified it.
The solution was opening windows and allowing as much fresh air in. The odor in the clothes went away but the towels still have a hint despite all the extra detergent, softener, etc. so our problem came from the dryer.

I use tide detergant, gain liquid fabric softner, and oxyclean stainfighter(it is a liquid formula). I have a new HE washer and dryer and I found that this is the BEST. We are a family of 6 and get some pretty stinky clothes-this is the best system I have come across so far. I know that there was one time I put too many clothes in and they came out GROSS-maybe check that. Good luck!!

First I would run the washer empty with nothing else but one cup of vinegar as the "detergent" and a usual amount of bleach in your bleach dispenser. Then I would put in a load of towels (don't overfill!) using 1 cup of vinegar with the regular amount of detergent that you use. Your towels will not smell like vinegar, but the smell should be gone. I hope it works!

Are you talking about that smell that happens if the towels have been left in the washer too long? If that's the case, just rewash with a little chlorine bleach. Just a 1/4 cup in hot water, mix well then load your towels. If it's not the case, run your washer 2 times without clothes....once with 1 cup bleach w/ some detergent in it, second w/ some white vinegar and hot water (a little detergent is okay, too). You are getting Lake Michigan water so your water source shouldn't be an issue.

But you are talking about the dryer.... I had a situation happen in this Summer (was going to MAMASOURCE the question out but I resolved the issue!) Suddenly, all my clothes STUNK after coming out of dryer. This went on for a couple weeks...on and off. Our front-loading dryer seemed to work fine and all seemed well, except for the stench! I called a repairman and rather than charge me for a visit, he said, sometimes, on gas dryers, the additive smell that is used in natural gas can build up in your dryer. He asked me if we were able to clean all vents and ducts thoroughly (without his services) and would come out if it persisted. We cleaned them out and within a week, the smell dissipated. We also were able to reconnect our dryer so it wouldn't have as many elbows in the duct work.

Hope this quickly resolves for you. Good luck.

Check your machine's owner's manual. Mine (a GE) has a "basket clean" cycle you run empty with just bleach to clean the inside.

I suspect that the problem is with the washing machine not the dryer. Make sure that you do not leave the towels in the washing machine for long after the cycle is done. Take them out right away.

Are you using HE washing detergent, it is specifically made for front loaders, you use much less as it is very concentrated, ... I use Tide Free (no fragrance) and have had no problems, since swiching


How long are they sitting in the washer before you put them in the dryer? Ours will smell if they are left in there for too long.

A small dab of bleach! H.E. bleach of course. I have a front load as well. I always put a very small dab of bleach in, kills all bacteria and as long as you don't put much it won't hurt the color of your towels. An organic/better option is also a product from Shaklee called Basic H2.

I too had this problem and read on here to try white vinegar in the rinse cycle. Problem solved!!! Use about a cup with each load. You will smell it in your laundry room but not on the laundry. It also worked on my boyfriend's work clothes that always smelled HORRIBLE! We would wash them 3 times and they would still smell. Now we wash them once with about a cup of white vinegar as well. Tada - fresh smelling clothes everytime! And you can't beat the cost. A gallon of the generic brand is around $2 or a little less. Good luck.

Happens to me too when I leave them in the washer too long. How long is too long...have not figured that out yet. Try getting them out right away and see if that helps at all.

I started using white vinager in with liquid softner which seemed to really help and to make towels softer. I don't know what could cause the problem but for me the problem was any wet towels sitting for a full day or longer, especially my dish towels. This hasn't been a problem since I started using the white vinager.

I have had the same problem (even with the nicer/expensive) and basically your towels are not drying properly after each use. Also, are you putting your towels ina bin or enclosed spot after washing? I have found that contributes to that "stinky towel" smell. I recently switched my towels to ones from Target and have not had any problems. Sometimes the more expensive ones are not the best.

Hi J.,

I would try using a detergent with a baking soda in it. I used to have that problem, my towels smelling "musty". I started using a detergent with natural ingredients from a company called Melaleuca. I use the whole laundry line and it is awesome. If you would like to find out how to use these products please feel free to email me back or just give me a call.

K. L.
Peoria, IL

I use one cup of baking powder along with detergent & fabric softner and it knocks it right out!

My husband has a twin! He complains about this too, like everyday!! I keep my whirpool door wide open when not in use and I use bleach all the time, still there is a smell. I read the mannual and whirpool says to clean the washer gasket everytime after use, seriously like I have time to do that everyday....I am going to buy those tablets and see if those work. Tired of husband complaining about this too and buying new towels to keep him quiet, hopefully it works!

That happens here sometimes too. I try baking soda in the wash and then vinegar in the rinse. If that doesn't work I put a little bit of bleach in and that takes care of it everytime.
Good luck! I hate stinky towels!

J.--we have had that problem because I have left loads in the washer too long and they soured. You have to get rid of the bacteria. I use a small amount of bleach (like 1/2 cup) and fill the washer before I put in the towels so they don't get white spots. I don't know if you can do that with a front loader, but the bacteria will survive being washed and dried. Vinegar works in larger quantities, like a quart and then you don't have to worry about the bleaching, but the bleach has a residual effect for several loads. Yes, I use this for colored towels too. Then make sure you dry them promptly. Good luck!

the only thing that's worked for us is tide with febreez. works great, we had that problem especially in the summer for years

Do all your towels smell like this? If so, they might have mold or mildew in them. A couple of things to consider:

-after a shower or bath make sure the towels can dry; spread them out over the rack

-when you wash the towels, make sure they go right into the dryer so they don't sit in the washing machine, wet and attracting odor

Sometimes it takes only once to ruin the towels by forgetting that they were in the washing machine. I had to throw out all our dishrags and towels one time because I left them wet in the washing machine for a week...and boy were they awful!

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