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How to Get Mildew
Smell Out of Towels

June 20, 2022

If your family’s towels smell like a locker room instead of home sweet home, the culprit may be mildew. When damp towels pile up in the laundry basket or lay on the bathroom floor too long, mildew can grow. That musty odor you smell is caused by mildew that is attracted to the damp, dark fibers of your towels. But knowing how to get mildew smell out of towels requires a bit more than just a wash.

To get mildew smell out of towels for good, you have to tackle the sources that cause the mildew. From using too much detergent in the washer to waiting too long to dry a wash load, there are many reasons your towels never seem to smell fresh anymore.

In this blog, we’ll get into what causes mildew and how you can prevent nasty odors from returning soon. But for now, let’s get that musty smell out of your towels for a fresh start. Here’s how to get mildew smell out of towels using safe and natural ingredients that are tough on musty odors but easy on your wallet (and your health!).

Here’s how to remove mildew smell from your towels:

Wash With Vinegar and Hot Water

Wash your musty towels on the hot water cycle with one cup of distilled white vinegar. White vinegar is a natural cleaner and deodorizer, so it’s an ideal solution to get mildew smell out of towels. Don’t add any detergent, bleach, or fabric softener. Run the towels through an additional rinse cycle to get rid of vinegar odor and residue.

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Wash With Hot Water and Baking Soda

If your towels still smell mildewy after washing them with vinegar and hot water, try baking soda. Baking soda is a natural cleaner, whitener, and deodorizer that works wonders on foul odors like mildew. Use a cup of baking soda only and wash your towels on the hot water cycle. Double rinse your load of towels to remove any baking soda residue. Baking soda is also handy when you’re figuring out how to get musty smell out of towels.

Dry the Towels

If washing doesn’t get the mildew smell out of your towels, don’t dry the towels just yet. You may need to wash the towels twice to get out all the mildew. Once you no longer smell mildew, you can dry the towels as you normally would in your dryer. If it’s a warm, sunny day, why not give your towels a break from the wear and tear of the dryer? Hanging towels in the sun to dry is more gentle on fabrics and you get some natural disinfecting in the process.

Now that you know how to get mildew smell out of towels, you can save yourself some housework by learning what causes mildew odors. Whether your towels smell musty even after washing or after each use, understanding how mildew causes odors is a priority.

What Causes Towels to Smell Like Mildew?

When you’re learning how to get a musty smell out of towels, it’s essential to understand what causes those odors in the first place. While a clean bathroom helps, it’s not enough to prevent mildew growth on damp towels. Like many odor-causing culprits, bacteria are responsible for mildew and unpleasant aroma. When bacteria combine with moisture in your towels, mold grows to create that lingering odor.

Ironically, your washing machine could be to blame for those never-ending musty odors in your laundry. Washers deal with dirt, grease, and grime day after day and can eventually get dirty. Add in the detergents, fabric softeners, and other laundry products, and all that buildup and residue takes its toll.

When a washing machine is dirty, it can’t clean properly and can leave detergent buildup in fibers that lock in the musty odors. Front-load washers can also have mildew and mold growing around seals which transfers to every load you wash. If your washer isn’t clean, your towels and other laundry will never be as fresh as they could be. If it’s been a while, give your washing machine a good cleaning to help get rid of mildew smells in your towels.

Fabric softener is another surprising cause of musty-smelling towels. Because fabric softeners contain oils, the oils can eventually build up on fabric fibers locking in odors and dirt. If your towels need softening, use a half cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle instead of using fabric softener.

How to Prevent Towels From Smelling Musty

Even when you get mildew smell out of your towels, it’s important to know that it can always come back. To prevent your towels from smelling musty, a little preventative maintenance can keep mildew under control. Remember, leaving damp towels in a dark environment is just asking for mold, mildew, and odors, and a dirty washing machine only adds to the problem.

  • Don’t let damp towels pile up and if you aren’t going to wash damp towels right away, hang them to dry to minimize bacteria and mildew smells.
  • Keep moisture at bay by venting the bathroom for 30 minutes after showering or bathing.
  • Make sure your washing machine is clean so it can clean towels and other laundry efficiently.
  • Keep in mind that washing towels repeatedly using detergent and fabric softener can capture odors and cause them to linger.
  • Don’t let damp towels sit in the washer too long either because mildew can begin to grow quickly.
  • Remember to clean your lint filter on your dryer regularly so towels and other laundry can dry as quickly as possible.
  • Make sure towels are completely dry before folding and storing. Even a small amount of moisture can attract mold and mildew, and a dark linen closet is the perfect place for them to grow.

Getting rid of unpleasant odors is just one of the reasons 96 percent of our customers would recommend The Maids to family and friends. We take dirt, grime, and odors seriously, and we are proud of how we help create cleaner, healthier homes across North America.

Now that you know how to get mildew smell out of towels, what’s next? Whether you invest in our affordable residential cleaning services or tackle the work yourself with our handy housekeeping guides, The Maids has you covered. Get a free online estimate today and find out what we can do for your home.

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