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Stinky Bath towels.......help!

Ok I need some advice on bath towel odor. Our bath towels stink after we wash them. They appear to be clean, but once they get a little wet they STINK BAD!!! We have tried everything, different detergant, fabric softeners, low heat, but nothing is working. Has anyone else exprienced this problem with the towels and what can I do?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you for all the great advice, I would have never thought to use vinegar. I put all the towels in the washer and added 2c of vinegar and ran the load on normal wash (hot/cold) second rinse and extra spin. After the load was done I ran the towels again. This time I used 1/2 of organic soy laundry soap and then put vinegar in the bleach dispenser and in the fabric softener dispenser and ran the load on normal 2nd rinse and spin. After all that I finally put the towels and dried them on HIGH heat until they were super super hot and dry (before I would only dry on low). What happen you ask? Well it WORKED! My towels finally smelt clean today when we used them. Aw it was great, Thank you guys for all your advice. I almost threw the towels out because of the odor. I am also now keeping the door open on my front loader between uses!

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I'm saying the same thing as others: Hot water and a cup of vinegar. Vinegar also works to keep lint at bay.

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Try either clorox 2 or regular clorox bleach. Just a little if you are using regular bleach about 1/4 cup should do it. I have had the same problem with my bath towels in the past. Hope this helps.

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We had the same problem at out house too! I started putting oxi-clean in each load and that seems to have helped! I also put 1/2 the fabric softener in with the load too.
I try to use the same towel for about 2 days or else my laundry pile would be HUGE!
I also have a 2 year old named Hayden and he has pretty sensitive skin, and the oxi-clean doesn't seem to bother him.
Hope this helps!

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I work at an Adult Foster home, So I am washing stinky clothing and towles all the time. I have found out that if you put a cup of Viniger in with your wash it will take almost every smell out that there is. It also works great when you leave the wash in the machine to long and they start that mildew smell.
I hope this will help. It may take a time or to, to really get all the smell out.
Good luck
B. C
Vancouver WA

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We had the same problem at out house too! I started putting oxi-clean in each load and that seems to have helped! I also put 1/2 the fabric softener in with the load too.
I try to use the same towel for about 2 days or else my laundry pile would be HUGE!
I also have a 2 year old named Hayden and he has pretty sensitive skin, and the oxi-clean doesn't seem to bother him.
Hope this helps!

1 mom found this helpful

I used the method described on this site involving white vinegar to get rid of the "stink" in my kitchen towels. It worked but I did need to repeat about a month and a half later.


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Use vinegar in the wash cylce. It helps get rid of the odor.

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Hi L.,

Sometimes detergent and especially fabric softener can add to the problem. I would try washing your towels in hot water (cold rinse okay) with a basic natural/unscented detergent (I like ALL free & clear) and some borax (found in most laundry aisles). Put 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of plain white vinegar in your rinse water (no softener). The goal is to actually strip all the detergent/softener residue from your towels which can be 'sticky' on the fibers and make an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Dry thoroughly on a hot cycle. You may have to do this more than once, and it might just be too late for your towels. Towels are made from cotton which is a natural fiber that decomposes just like other natural materials, a process hastened by a possible bacteria issue.

Hope it helps! :)


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I would look at detergent buildup as the likely culprit - I had the same problem and never heard about it until I started cloth diapering our baby.
Here is what I do:
To strip your laundry use a teaspoon or so of dish soap (I use dawn) and wash on hot for as many cycles as it takes for the water to be completey suds-free (no more bubbles) - this can take a while. Once you see no more bubbles run one last cold rinse (I add a little white vinegar to this for additional deodorizing power).
Hang in the sun to dry - and you get the summer-fresh smell.
To keep buildup at bay use no more than half of the recommended detergent (I found it does not make a difference in cleaning power), pretreat stains if necessary (I never do, as I said no difference).
I also sparingly use either Borax or OxyClean every other cycle or so, whenever I feel the need for some extra "cleaning power".
I always run a second rinse on our laundry, or my daughter will get a terrible rash from detergent residue.
Always try to hang in the sun to dry (weather permitting), this will bleach out stains the wash did not get (you should see the wonders it does on my diapers!) and gives you that fresh smell. Sunlight is a great deodorizer and sanitizer (kills germs). If you don't like the coarser feeling of sun-dried clothes fluff in the dryer for a few minutes to soften.
Oh, and before I forget: no fabric softener or dryer sheets - they are bad (leaving chemicals on your clothes) and make things worse (only mask the bad smell with strong perfumes).

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You are probably using too much laundry soap. Do you have a front load washer? if you do I know you are using too much soap. even HE detergent formulated for front load high efficiency washers at the cap level is too much. Use about two tablespoons of detergent on hot water with a 1/4 cup of bleach and they will stop having this problem. When you use too much soap it doesn't rinse out of the towels and it causes them to sour. You would think it would make them smell better but it doesn't. Also unless you are bleaching your towels once in a while you aren't killing the bacteria in the towels even when you wash and dry them. If you are using a top load washer try using about 1/4th of the detergent you normally use and bleach and that should eliminate your issue. My husband is an appliance repair man and he sees problems like this all the time. USE LESS SOAP!

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May be is your washing machine. Recently, we had to call a repair man and he showed me all the stuff that got stucked around the drum and he sad that these can cause bad odor later. Try to do a soaking and washing cycle with bleach to see if that will help. If this is not the reason, bleach your towels and do an extra rinse with vinegar, let them soak in the vinegar for a while too. Check the place where you keep your towels for mold too. Good luck!

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Do you throw your towels into the hamper while they're wet...with other wet items? If so,that may be the cause of the stinkiness. That's what happened to us anyway. There's nothing to do but keep washing them and the stinkiness eventually go away after so many washes. To avoid future stinkiness, air try the towels somehow/somewhere prior to throwing them in the hamper with other wet clothing..i.e. bathing suite. Just don't throw them in the hamper wet from the pool, etc.

This did it for us. Hope this help.

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We have this problem and always wash our towels with a cup (or so) of baking soda each time. It helps, but after a few days the bath towels getting stinky again. You can buy the massive sized bag at Costco and just keep it in your laundry room.

We had our basement flood this last year (it wicked up through the floor so we didn't realize everything was soaking wet) and all the towels that were on the floor from the laundry shoot were STINKY! Nothing fixed them - not vinegar, not baking soda, nothing. We had to toss them. :-( I would try the vinegar or baking soda ideas to see if they work. However, they might be too far gone. I would stay away from bleach if you can help it.

Oh, and you shouldn't use fabric softener on towels because it messes up the absorbency. I found that helped too. Plus, make sure they can dry between uses (e.g. don't fold them all up and hang them). Good luck!!

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Try adding baking soda along with your laundry soap to the towels in the wash! And make sure the towels dry completley. I like baking soda because its safe for everything. From eating to cleaning~ Hope this helps...the vinegar sounds like a good idea. I'm going to try that on my next laundry day. Also Suavitel fabric softner works great and getting rid if oders.

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We had that problem growing up, but when I got married my husband taught me a trick. Just put a little bleach in the water along with the detergent before you put the towels in the washer. We use hot water. Make sure you do not overload the washer and it works great. Our towels never stink. Good luck!

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One cup of white vinegar in hot water. Send it through the wash cycle. Then wash the towels a second time with your regular detergent.

White vinegar is GREAT for neutralizing odors. It even works on cat urine.

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Yep, I add vinegar to every load that contains towels, dishcloths, anything that stays moist over a period of days and can develop odor. I also use it on those loads of clothes that occasionally are "forgotten" in the washer and get stinky - just run them through another short cycle with about a cup of vinegar and a few tbsp of detergent. Buy the big jugs of white vinegar and keep them in your laundry room. I'ts cheap and it works like a dream!

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First, never close your washer when it is not in use. (great time for mold to grow) Same for dryer.

Second wash towels (for the time being separately to see if it is only the towels).

Third, Use Arm and Hammer Unsented to wash them, maybe more than once.

Forth because it is summer, lay them out on the grass, or if you can figure out a clothes line, dry them out side on a hot sunny day (Mother Nature's bleach).

Also use just bleach and no clothes to run a couple of rinses through your washer. I bet the solution lies in your washer if you have been closing your lid when you are not using it.

If this fails, buy a cheap towel, run it through your washer and see if it picks up the smell. If it does you know the problem is in your washer. Then try your dryer.

Fresh air is always the solution to bad smells.

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Hi L.~
Does that only happen with towels? If so, that's weird, isn't it? I always wash my towels after my whites, which I always bleach. We re-use our towels a few times before they get washed and we never put them into the hamper wet. Whenever I wash my towels and napkins, I use Boraxo along with my wash detergent. If I'm out of Boraxo, (which rarely happens cuz I need it for really icky, sweaty, dirty stuff, too) I use baking soda. If should happen to be out of both of those, I think I would try white vinegar.
I also hang my towels (as well as practically everything else) outside whenever I can. I'm lucky enough to have a covered deck and patio, so I can even hang stuff when it's raining.
Good Luck! ~Mary~

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Hi L.,

OMG! I have the SAME thing! I like the vinegar idea--I might try that next time!

For mine, I add 1/4 cup Lysol disinfecting 4 in 1 cleaner to the wash, the one that gets 99.9% of germs. Either the lemon(yellow), or the citrus(orange) one, it doesn't matter. But I also have to repeat.

Great question!

K. W

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I had that problem too! Only it was with all my laundry. Anyway, I stopped using anything that was scented, no fabric softener (it will sit in the pipes and tubes and ferment), and I use Borax or OxyClean in my laundry.
First I started by running my rags through the washer, with the new detergent and the Borax. I did this several times with HOT water. This will clean out the pipes and tubes, mostly, then wash the clothes and linens that you need to. Never leave anything in the washer for more than an hour after the cycle is finished. And if possible keep the washer open between loads. Leaving it open will allow it to breath and not trap any smells. Mildew and mold are really happy in that environment.
Good luck!

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I know I had the same problem with my towels as well and I started tossing in a scoop of Oxyclean in and use the Downey ball. Also I stopped keeping them in the bathroom so the moisture wouldnt make them damp and musty smelling. I hope you find something!

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1/2 cup of baking soda in the wash helps a lot! If you soak them it's even better. I also just used an oxo clean solution yesterday and that works terrific. I got some from trader joes. It's environmentally safe. Hope that helps. I was very grossed out by this as well.

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Double rinse your laundry. In the first rinse add a 1/4 to 1/2 of white vinegar to the water. This will help cut any soap residue, etc, on your clothes and then rinse again normally. You will be surprised as to how clean and fresh your laundry looks and smells. If the odor persists, your towels mildewed at one time and it will take some work to remove the odor, be thankful you don't have the mildew stains. If at all possible, hang them to dry outside in the sunshine. But using the white vinegar with a double rinse works wonders and is the best laundry tip I ever got when it came to baby clothes and it's one I've carried on with.

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If you have a front-loading washer, these are known to grow mold faster than standard washers. We have had trouble with this and discovered that we needed to remove the wet washed laundry within a couple of hours of washing because our stuff was getting really stinky if it sat it the washer for too long. We've also found that fabrics that have any synthetic fibers in them are much more likely to stink than things made of completely natural fibers (100% cotton rocks!). Anyway, there is a product on the market can clean your washer for you. Before we knew about this product, we found that all of our wash loads were developing that odor even when were changing the load quickly after the wash because the washer itself was so moldy inside that it was transferring the smell into our stuff. The product we've used for cleaning our washer is called affresh, but there are apparently other washing machine cleaners on the market. Hope this helps!

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I swear by OxyClean. I put a scoop in every load and it keeps all the smells at bay. I use it to get stains out as well. If there is anything that won't come out in normal wash, I soak it in a bucket of Oxy and hot water for a couple of hours. Works like magic on almost every stain I've come upon.

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I would try 1/2 cup vinagar in your wash. Vinager is an all natural cleaning use. I use it to clean just about everything in my home.

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Do you have a front-loader washing machine? We never had this problem until we got a front-loader, and after I did some research, I found out that it's a common problem.

There is a product called Affresh...it's a little cake that you put in the washer and run through a cycle. We've only used it once, and it seemed to take care of the smell pretty well. I like the vinegar idea, though. I think I'll try that the next time.

We also try to leave the washer door open a crack when not in use. Front-loaders are much more prone to mildew growth, so a little fresh air can make a difference.

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Try either clorox 2 or regular clorox bleach. Just a little if you are using regular bleach about 1/4 cup should do it. I have had the same problem with my bath towels in the past. Hope this helps.

1 mom found this helpful

I'm saying the same thing as others: Hot water and a cup of vinegar. Vinegar also works to keep lint at bay.

1 mom found this helpful

In addition to the vinegar advice, make sure that when the towels come out of the dryer they are DRY DRY DRY.

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we've had that problem... try washing them with some bleach. we generally only had the problem when it was winter and the bathroom wasn't kept warm enough to allow the towels to dry well between uses. we used a towel warmer (sounds extravagant..) which worked really well too. make sure the towels aren't bunched up so they dry well... soap with fragrances etc. just cover up the problem. good luck!

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HI L.!
Everyonce in a while we will get stinky towels, but it is usually when our dryer isn't drying very well. So, if we through them in the dryer in the am and they sit in the dryer ever so slightly damp and we fold them the next day (and we think they are dry), they smell when we get them wet as well.

If that's not the case. You might try adding a touch of bleach or vinegar to the wash water to help get rid of any bacteria that's still hanging around on the towels.

Good luck!

Dear L.,

Hot water and Bleach. I have all white towels. Costco sells 6 large bath towels for 19.99. They last years, washed in hot water and bleach every time.
I don't really use any color safe bleach but you could try that if your towels are dark.
If you are enviromently opposed to bleach you can try oxyclean, that is safe for colors also.
Towels become less absorbent and coated when you use fabric softener so I skip that. It might take a few washes to get that off.
Make sure you transfer them to the dryer as soon as you can to minimize the posibility of mildew.
Hope that helps.
R. D

What I have done in the past is put a cup of vinegar in the washing machine. It sounds like it will make it worse, but the smell goes away (and doesn't return when it is wet). I think the problem is hard water. My cousin actually threw away her bath towels and kept buying new replacements until I told her about the vinegar. Try it.

Hi L.! Man, do I have a product you're going to LOVE!
I had the same problem, and with mold, too. Everything coming out of my dryer smelled horrible. Sometimes I'd wash stuff twice. Not any more! My girlfriend showed me SOLUMEL and MELAPOWER and I have used them for a year now, and everyone LOVES the way my towels smell. It's so wonderful to bury my face into a towel just out of the shower and enjoy the fragrance and freshness.
Call Sarah at ###-###-#### and ask her about these products.
Now, you can smile!
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I have found that my towels have to be washed in an extra hot wash cycle. Ideally if you have a newer washer that has a sanitary cycle that works the best since it is probably a mildew odor. This has completely taken away any odors that linger in the towels for me.

Good luck!

I have had the same problem. Mine was caused from leaving them in the washer for a few days and then they get that mildew smell. Then when you dry them it bakes it in. Sometimes the smell will come out if you use the clorox 2 but that doesn't always work. I have had to throw them out and go buy new ones. So now when i do laundry i remove them from the washer as soon as their done. This way I avoid them getting that smell. I haven't had a problem since I started doing this. Good luck.

Try letting them dry in the sun. The sun kills molds and mildews like nothing else can---it even gets rid of the smell of a dishcloth!

It is most likely your washing machine. I bet all your clothes would smell this way when damp. You need to run some white vinegar through your washing machine. If you have an automatic soap & or fabric softner dispenser you need to run some white vinegar through that too. You might need to do this a couple of times and it should fix your issue.

This is what I have done: If the towels are white, use regular bleach, if colored, used color-safe bleach. Use liquid fabric softener, I like using a downy ball so I don't have to wait for the spin cycle. I wash my towels on warm/cold in the permenant press/knits-delicate cycle.
DO NOT leave them too long in the washer. The damp towels will start to smell again.
When I dry them I will use a fabric softener sheet, too. Dry them thoroughly.
Make sure to wash them often. Don't let them sit for too many days. Stinky mold sets in. So do stains.
Hope this helps! Best of luck in defeating the stinky towel!!

I had the exact same problem. I rounded up all of my towels and washed them in hot water with alot of white vinegar, I would say probably a couple of cups. After that cycle I ran it again with less vinegar (like on cup) and a little detergent. After that was finished I immediately put them in the dryer and made sure they were totally dry before folding. I have not had a problem since. Now I wash my towels with about a 1/2 cup vinegar each time and it has kept them nice and fresh

Shaklee Basic G is great for smells and killing germs. I discovered this from washing cloth diapers! It's also great if you forget to move your wet laundry for a couple of days. I'd probably use about a 1/4 per load. Also, Shaklee nutrition is great for getting your body working at it's best as far as fertility goes - and other health issues too.

The towels have bacteria or mildew, that's why they stink. Bleach and hot water usually do the trick. Follow the directions on the bottle so you don't fade the colors but the germs will die and your towels will smell fresh. Also hanging them out in the sun on a clothes line will help instead of drying them in a dryer. Remember how good sheets and towels smelled at your grandma's house? They won't be all fluffy and soft, but they will smell good. Good luck.

I wonder if it would work to hang them out to dry outside?

Good Morning L. and God Bless.
The best thing I have found for "smelly" towels is to add Oxy clean stain remover powder to your regular detergent. Spend the extra on using HOT water and do two loads of towels instead of one. Make sure they get dry all the way and hang them to dry after using instead of just throwing them in the hamper or on the floor. You can try seperating the dish cloths and towels from the bath towels too. also, check the screen in your cold water hose to the washer, clean frequently, depending on your water. If there isn't one there, get one.
Good luck.
One other thing, if you live in a high humidity area, don't store them in a closed up cupboard.
Annie G.

Hello L.,

Try washing the towels separately from the rest of the clothes.
Fill the washer like normal and let it agitate for a few minutes until the detergent is dissolved if you're using a powder or somewhat bubbly if you're using a liquid detergent. After the washer agitates for a bit shut the washer off and let the towels soak for about a 1/2 hr. and then continue the wash cycle after that. I do the same thing with the dishtowels except that I soak them in an empty bucket with some detergent for the same amount of time and then launder as usual.

I have had the same problem and absolutely hated it. I will tell you what I found out and possibly you have the same type problem. I realized my dryer vent was not going directly outside, it was dislodged and venting into the wall which was causing condensation to drip off the outside. Anyway, it was causing some moisture (I guess) to stay in the towels even though they seemed completely dry. I fixed the vent problem and the smell went away. I had previously tried hot hot water, bone dry towels, and tide detergent, nothing worked until I fixed the dryer venting problem. Just check that your dryer vent is taking the air completely out. Hope that helps.

Add a little white vinegar to the wash... it works wonders for getting odors out. Also, check the washing machine for mildew.


Oxyclean and Hot water and don't leave wet towels in the hamper for more than two days without washing them. Better yet, if you don't have time to wash them right away after bathing/showering/swimming hang them to dry before you put them in the hamper.


Easy! You have to wash your stinky towels with Borax. It's the only thing that gets that mildewy stink out. You might have to do it every 3-6 months to keep them fresh, but it works!

i have that problem too. We use bleach or color safe bleach. Also wash them as much as you can. That seems to help us.

I have had this problem recently. Here are some of the things that I've been doing. But first, the problem comes from leaving them wet in the washer after the washing cycle is done. My Mom and Mother in law do this often. They put the towels in the washer, and then 2-3 hours later, they put them in the dryer. Also, if you put them in a clothes hamper or laundry basket when they are really wet, and left in there for a few days-they also get stinky. Mine got stinky when I got sick for a week. I fell asleep, they were left in my washer for a few hours, and my husband put them in the dryer.
What I've been doing to get the stink out (and it's been working).
1. Wash the towels in Hot water.
2. I have been using Tide detergent.
3. I take the towels out of the washer the second the cycle is done.
4. I use a dryer sheet for fabric softener.

I've been doing these things for the last month. The smell has decreased, but it isn't gone yet. The stinky smell wasn't as bad as it is with my mom's towels. I ended up buying my mom new towels, and she has managed to keep them stinky free. I told her she needed to put them in the dryer as soon as the washer was done, and she has been doing it.
If the smell doesn't go away, then maybe you should think about getting new towels, and then making sure they get in the dryer as soon as the washing cycle is done.

Good Luck

You may want to try using a smaller amount of detergent and double checking that your washing machine is rinsing properly. Other than that, some baking soda in the wash may help.

After experiencing the same thing, I started adding bleach to the towel load. Not alot, about 1/4 if what I uaually use for a load. I haven't had the problem since. I also found that drying them on a high heat removes any moisture that may contribute to the scent.

L. - I, too, use the white vinegar - except that instead of using liquid fabric softener in my washer I always use white vinegar, so mine always goes in to the fabric softener dispenser, rather than the wash cycle.
I do still have some towels that smell bad after a couple uses, especially in the summer. The tea tree oil is a great idea because of it's scent and it's antibacterial properties. Sometimes, though, if you actually have mold on a piece of clothing you're in trouble. I've never gotten mold out!
Make sure the towels are hung to dry completely between uses. Good luck!

Hi L.,
Separate all your "stinky" towels and wash them in hot water with 1 cup of vinegar (this is full
load). If it less then you should reduce the vinegar. The smell of the vinegar will be strong but after washing the towels they will smell fresh.

They are sour- that means that they are sitting too long before being placed in the dryer. They should be placed immediately in the dryer-especially if you live in a warm, humid climate. If clothes sit too long- they start to dry and then when they are remoistened-will smell sour- ie: T-Shirt smells ok initially and then you get warm, perspire a bit and it stinks. That's why. (I have two grown kids- have lived in a variety of climates and regions- have found this to happen if I don't use ie: downy and bounce and then make sure I place items in dryer on Hot for full cycle- til completely , completely dry -and then some- and have been able to avoid it by doing these things.)
Hope it helps :)

Sounds to me that you have tried everything,, try having your water checked,, it might be sour ground water,, then if that's ok,, through the towels out and buy more,, then if they start to stink,, you have other problems????????and that i don't know what it could be??? strange,, good luck,,when you do find out what caused it,, email me k? thank you,, congrads on your birth of your baby girl!!!!!!!!

I haven't heard of the vinegar thing. I'll have to give that a try. I bought a bunch of white towels so I could use bleach on them because I was tired of the smelly towel thing. That works well but wouldn't be so pretty on colors. :)

put a 1/2 cup of vinegar in the wash...
PS add vinegar to you dishwasher to make glasses look like new and spot free.

I have had this problem in the past as well. When adding your detergent add 1/2 C of white vinegar to the wash and you will be amazed. And NO the towels will not smell like vinegar!! ;-)

FYI - Fabric softeners do soften towels but block there absorbing properties.

Who am I? Mom of three wonderful grown children (Matthew 25, Sarah 21 & Andrew 20. I am a Independent Consultant with the Pampered Chef. Love time with my family cooking, camping and attending outdoor events. I also enjoy meeting new people and helping families make affordable, great tasting meals at home with high quaility and affordable tools.

We had the same thing, it was driving me nuts. I finally bought newer, higher-quality towels. It stopped being a problem! I recommend the Fieldcrest Cannon brand which is available at Target. All I can figure is that our old towels had some other fiber content and didn't dry as well.

I add a bit of tea tree oil in the soap dispenser - it's antifungal/antibacterial.

Try some vinegar in the rinse cycle when washing, and be sure to tumble dry on *high heat* until they are completely hot and dry--the slightest bit of dampness will continue the problem.

I know exactly what you are talking about! It seems that there is something in the water here at the beach that causes that kind of stench......but I found the solution!

I am a customer of a wellness company that provides all kinds of products, but one of the lines has to do with cleaning and laundry. I add a capful of this 'booster' when I do my husbands laundry or rags (stinky stuff!) Well, I no longer have to wash them in hot water 2x.....this stuff is awesome!

The best thing is that I am saving my septic system and environment....plus it's all healthy for my family and costs LESS than the local markets....even Costco!

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If all the above still doesn't work, just get new towels. I did, ours were 11 yrs old. Our washer was new and only the old towels came out stinky. The problem is with tide and other detergetns they leave in a residue that is for brightening or whitening, it rots after a while. I saw this on Sara Snow. I tried vinegar, hot water, bleach did help a bit, borax, baking soda. Nothing really took it away. I decided after all this new towels were the option. I now use an earth friendly detergent too. Better for us and skin.

The advice about vinegar is right on. So is sunshine.

But, you can also try a product called Bac Out, made by Biokleen. It will naturally eat away odor causing bacteria without harsh chemicals. Bleach will do the trick too, but it will deteriorate your towels by eating away at the fibers and it is harmful to your body and the environment.

Also, too much detergent can cause odors too. After washing your towels, try an extra rinse and see if that helps as well!


Hi Lacy,
I have had this problem, have teenaged boys that "hang" towels in the floor, and they can get to reeking!!! I found that using vinegar in the rinse water helps some. I make my own herbal vinegars, and use lavender vinegar for the rinse cycle. On some of them I gave up and tossed them out. Hope this helps...

I've been in the same boat!
The source of the smell is actually bacteria that has not been gotten rid of. There are a couple of culprits...
1. you didn't get to the load of wash soon after it ended and they started to dry on their own in the washer, you thought you got to them in time and threw them in the dryer :P.
2. Your washer has the bacteria in it and so no matter how fast you get to the load it will always smell like that.
So several fixes...
1. buy Afresh tablets at your local hardware store (like Lowe's) you follow the directions but bacially run one load with just the tablet with hot water to clean your washer.
2. make sure you let the washer dry out every now and then between loads (it's almost impossible at my house)
3. Wash all the towels in hot. If you don't think they came clean you can do it a second time.
4. throw all of them away and start over :(

We have this same problem from time to time as well. I thought I was the only one! I found some info on my washing machine and saw that running a cycle without clothes but with vinegar was supposed to help. I would recommend looking at your owners manual or calling them to find out the best way to clean your machine. It took a couple of tries, but we finally got the odor to go away. Good luck!

Throw them away and buy new ones! I have had the same problem and couldn't find any solution.....

Either use a detergent with bleach in it or add a powdered bleach to your wash. You'll never start with smelly towels again.

Wash them in hot water with actual laundry SOAP not detergent. You can get in at Mother Nature's on 26th and Clinton in SE Portland. It is the same stuff I wash my cloth diapers in. I had the same problem with towels and it solved it. The detergent builds up in the fabric and never rinses clean it just covers the odor until the fabric gets wet. Also do a extra rinse. Let me know how it works for you.

I have found that putting about a half cup of white vinegar in with my soap when i wash my clothes help.. cus i have the problem of my daughter wetting her bed and the stench of urine staying in the bed sheets..but if i wash them with the soap and white vinegar no more smell, then come out fabu.. have used too when you know you get really busy and forget a load in the wash and when you realize they have the kind of that sour smell, works on that too...hope it helps you as it has me...

Just resolved this issue myself 2 days ago. I noticed all of our towels (even the good ones we bought less than a year ago) were stinky, but our clothes did not have that problem.

We have a new front-loading HE all that special jazz washer and dryer and it has the sanitizer option. I have run all of my towels with this cycle (with the extra rinse) and suddenly our problem is no longer. As I was moving them from the washer to the dryer, I smelled them to make sure they really were clean. They were! The sanitizing cycle does take a long time (like 2 hours) and it uses Extra Hot water, so use caution if you have colored towels that haven't had the excess dye rinsed out. Vinegar would help in both the dye issue (helps to set it) and the smell issue (natural sanitizer).

I also run the clean washer option, which uses a cup of bleach and really hot water, and leave the door open after the cycle is over. If your washer doesn't have this specific cycle, just do a short wash with the hot water and bleach. Clean your washer often, and your towels shouldn't have that odor anymore.

Try using a little bit of baking soda in the wash. You can also try using vinegar... Good luck

Unfortunately, I only have found this to be the case since I began using a dryer. In warmer climates, one hangs the washing outside on a line to dry, and there is nothing like the fresh smell of air on the linen when it is dry. And for some weird reason, it stays that way for a few uses at least. I don't know if it is the combination of the fresh air and the sunshine or what, but even cloth nappies would bleach in the sun just flapping in the breeze on the line. I miss that, even though it takes more effort...

Yes, I've had the same problem. I discovered that using a powdered detergent, or Oxyclean does the trick.

do not over stuff the washing machine, wash in hot water, and add about 1/2 cup of baking soda to the wash with the detergent. I have this happen to me also periodically when I do not wash the towels often enough and when they stay damp in the hamper. The baking soda does the trick.

Oh this is too funny....lol I have just been thru the same thing. But it seemed to me that it was just my dark towels. So I thought we left them in the washer before putting them into the dryer to long. So I thought it was my fault and the stink never comes out. Me to I've tried everything. Thru them out. I'm with you then what's going on?.....lol

I've had something similar with this. I noticed a strange odor coming off the towels when wet. Especially after I had tried to wash them. I changed my fabric softer and the smell went away. I'm not sure if that had anything to do with it...but it might. Also, I know that if my towels are even just the slightest bit damp when they come out of the dryer and I don't notice it, but fold it up and put it away, that a smell would emanate from them. :D Hope this helps!

Try 1/2 cup Arm&Hammer soda in wash water and 1/2 cup WHITE vinegar in rinse water and hang out in sunshine to dry, even if you have to drape them over a fence. Hope it solves your problem..

C. H. (MOM to 5 earthlings, 1 Angel, 14 grands,and 17,or so,great-grands...they keep changing the number...)
Cave Junction,OR

Add about 1/2 cup of vinegar to the wash, and voila, no mildew odor. Someitmes if very bad, I soak for awhile. This works for me when my 2 teenaged sons leave wet towels on the floor, in their soccer bags, and in the car. Works for stinky socks too!

Believe it or not Listerine in the bleach dispenser works. Use 1 capful which is approx 1/4 C. don't use bleach for that load, just the Listerine and laundry soap. If the towels are really raw!!! Use more Listerine.

My sister had this problem when the kids were leaving the towels wet and not gettig them into the laundry quick enough. I think she finally tossed them and got new ones and made sure they got into the wash right after being used. Sorry no grand fix.

I thought it was from leaving them in the washing machine too long but still no matter how fast I am they stink!

My washing machine has a sanitary function so I use that with bleach and it kills any odor.

I'm going to try the vinegar thing too though.. I hate using bleach.. we shaklee's Get Clean biodegratable detergents so I hate using bleach..

I'm gonna try vinegar too.

I use Tide origional scent, liquid, along with Downy liquid fabric softener in the little ball and wash them on warm. I make sure that they don't sit in the washer for more than 20 minutes before they move to the dryer. (Or I get the same yucky smell you are describing later.) Then in the dryer, I use high heat along with 2 bounce dryer sheets, the outdoor, fresh scent ones. My clothes smell great after that.

Hope this helps!

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