Stinky Towels HE Washer. What Worked for YOU?

Updated on May 03, 2012
J.T. asks from Victoria, TX
13 answers

We got our HE washer in September and now we can not get the stink out of our towels. We have a top loader and all our other items come out clean. The washer does not smell. We use the tide washer cleaner once a month. We use Oxyclean ,bleach and detergent. We have tried Oxyclean, vinegar and detergent. Neither of these are working. Also putting them in the( non HE) dryer immediately isn't working (completely dry). Hot cycle, bulky settings,reg cycle, heavy duty settings, aren't working either.

Did you find what worked for you? If you have had this problem also, please tell me your secret!!! At this point I do not care about the color of the towels. Its the stink and preventing new towels from becoming stinky. No other washer ever created this stink. Its like the washer is actually the problem? I have sent a personal message to the other person with this issue but the answers seemed more like guess work not what worked for them...personal experience.

What I am asking from you is " we had this same problem and doing _______ worked for us" TY ladies!!! Stinky towels need help.

*********** Its really a top loader. not a front loader. there is not ring to clean or sealed door. it locks when running. But the lid stays open durring non washes and the washer does not smell nor any other clothes,blankets only the towels *********

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So What Happened?

So fewer towels, bleach and detergent, longer drying, regular cleaning of the washer with tide washer cleaner and Lysol medical grade disinfecting laundry liquid (who knows if its he safe?? ) is what works for us. Details of what we tried and failed as follows.

The hubby found Lysol hospital grade disinfecting liquid in a small bottle. It really helps although everthing smells like a hospital. We wash them in bleach, detergent and oxy clean, only a few towels at a time, hottest setting and on heavy duty "super" as this setting sounds like it is actually filling with lots of water. We also dry them extra long as suggested by one of you wonderful ppls. We tried boraox, baking soda, vinegar with the detergetn (seperatly not those three mixed) and none of those helped even the bleach wouldnt kill the bateria (parm cheese ) smell the only thing that worked for us was the Lysol. Never did end up trying the sun bleaching. But now all of our towels have bleach splashes or the weird orangy pink stain from the lysol cleaner. We will buy only white towels from now on. Further thinking about it our kids hoody towels never smelled. Each towel has a hanger so if they were even slighly damp where I couldnt feel the damp they would hang out and dry completely where the other towels seemed to be dry but must not have been truly dry. This I am guessing??? They felt dry but putting them in a dryer cycle longer seems to help?!

Featured Answers


answers from Houston on

It's the towels. Like Lynn said, once that smell is in them, they are ruined. We've had this issue before only with towels. No other clothes had this smell. The washer isn't the problem. Tried all different detergents, used the washer cleaners, bleach, cleaned the seals, leave the door open.. ALL THAT.
Buy some new towels. Good luck.

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answers from Chicago on

Stinky towels can happen no matter the washer - here is what I found works NO SOFTNER EVER for towels. I put vinegar and lemon juice with a dash of Tide (preferred brand), then during the rinse cycle I add baking soda. I ensure to put them in the dryer right away - but if they stink still wash them again - they will dry smelling the same.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Fargo on

I had the exact same problem. It made me sick to have such a nice, brand new washer and nasty towels!

I put 1/2 cup borax in with my detergent and now my towels don't smell. I tried everything you listed, so I know your frustration!

I hope Borax works for you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I have a front load HE and have had similar issues for a while. Not just towels, but mostly towels.

I started very recently using the Tide pods and for me, it seems to be gone now. Maybe with me, dd and hubby all doing laundry, there was inconsistent measuring of soap going on? I mostly do the loads, but they pick up slack when I am busy, they need items, or I am sick. It seems to get worse during these times??

So far so good for me. I still add my Downy, but not each week. I am working under the "too much product" theory. Its a working theory, but so far so good.

Good luck.



answers from New York on

I posted a similar question a while back. Using vinigar with the wash instead of fabric softener is what worked for me!



answers from Houston on

You might need to clean your washing machine with Tide washing machine cleaner.



answers from Houston on

I had them same problem. I got rid of it by washing the towels on hot with bleach and no fabric softener. I only had to use the bleach the first time, but I've continued to not use fabric softener and always wash on hot. This seems to work. I think fabric softener traps moisture and allows mold to grow.



answers from Austin on

In my experience, once something has the smell, it is due to bacteria and every time it gets wet it grows again. So, the towels won't be good again.
As for the machine, they can collect yuck around the rubber rim at the door. 2 things resolved my problem: keeping the door open after washing for about 12 hours and taking a towel under and around all rubber that frames the door to get rid of the yuck. I have not had a single problem for the past 3 years since doing this.
Good luck!


answers from Lakeland on

I had the stinky smell in my front loader but not my HE top loader. I do leave the lid open after each wash to air out the drum. On the front loader I had to wipe out the inner ring where the rubber was by the door. That’s where all the buildup was and it would smell terrible.

I would have the balance and drainage checked in your washer, the top loads do not usually have an odor.


answers from San Francisco on

Does your washer have a "sanitize" cycle? Mine does, and I wash all towels and sheets in the sanitize cycle. The reason they start to stink is because there is still bacteria in them, which grows and smells bad. Sanitizing them (which takes forever in my washing machine, but is totally worth it IMO) is the only way to get rid of the smell that I have ever found. Our old washer was HE but did not have a sanitize cycle, and our towels had that stink to them that just never totally went away. Same towels in the sanitize cycle of this newer washer (Samsung steam washer, front-load) - have never had a problem with the stink. We can use the towels for a week, even during the summer, and they do not smell.

But in theory, steam sanitizing should produce the same effect as bleach. I'm at a loss to explain why bleach and hot water couldn't produce the same results as steam sanitizing.

ETA: I noticed someone else mentioned Borax. I also use Borax in every load to help soften our hard water. Maybe that makes a difference too.



answers from Los Angeles on

the only thing that has worked for me is switching to white towels and bleaching the heck out of them. Even if for some reason they stay in the washer over night, they still won't stink.



answers from College Station on

I have NOT had this problem...but I leave the washer door open when not in use.
I also use Febreeze for laundry every once in a while- in a particularly stinky load like athletic clothes. Maybe that will help?



answers from Washington DC on

I only get smelly towels or clothes in our HE front loader if I leave them in there with the door shut for any length of time. The seal on these is so tight that leaving things in them for even a little while makes things start to smell funky or worse and then I have to rewash. Be sure to remove stuff as soon as the load is done; leave the door open at ALL times it's not in use (and also leave the detergent drawer open); check the rubber ring seal around the door very carefully for signs of any mildew, mold or discoloration of any kind (check under the ring too by lifting it gently). Continue cleaning the washer frequently and run empty "sanitize" loads with nothing but straight bleach, then run again with clean (non-bleach) water. But instant removal of stuff from these washers is important to preventing odors because of the super-tight seals.

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