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How to get the smell out of towels

Do your clothes have a moldy, mildew or sour smell? Learn this quick trick on how to get the smell out of towels?

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I know you’ve all done it, left the clothes sitting in the washing machine too long.  When you go to pull them out, they have a horrible mildew smell.  I just went to do laundry and had our pool towels stuffed in my tall laundry basket.  Man, those stinky towels had been in there a long time!

If you’ve ever tried to wash them the regular way, you know that doesn’t really take the smell out.  I’ve washed them 2 and 3 times before and the smell just doesn’t come out.  Keep reading to learn how to get the stinky smell out of towels.

ou've all left clothes in the washer way to long and they've gotten that horrible smell. Read here to learn about how to get the smell out of moldy towels.

How to get the smell out of moldy towels

Getting the smell out is so easy.  I was talking to my sister-in-law the other day and she had no idea how to do it, but I’ve been doing it for years.  

You load your smelly clothes or bath towels in the washing machine as you’d normally do for a load of laundry.  Don’t stuff your machine or do a large load because you want the towels to have room to slosh around and get nice and clean.

Pour one to two cups of vinegar and run the wash cycle like you normally would without adding detergent.  Usually, I don’t measure it out, I just give a good pour!  Many times I use the speed wash cycle for this step. Use hot water.

Male hand holding wooden laundry basket with white towel inside near washing machine in laundry room.

How to get mildew smell out of towels using baking soda.

Yes, there is another way to get the smell out of your towels and clothes. Baking soda is a natural deodorizer.

After your vinegar wash, instead of going straight to the regular wash, you can sprinkle 1/2 cup baking soda on your clothes or towels. Run your machine on another wash cycle.

You can stop here and dry your towels or wash them another time using your normal laundry detergent. The underlying moldy smell should be gone.

stack of white towels with lady places her hands on top

Drying your towels

 Make sure your dry clothes completely!! 

I normally need to dry my towels longer than the normal load, because they can still be a little wet. Even if they are a little damp, a new moldy smell will start.

Tip: Stuffing your dryer full of clothes takes longer to dry and they may not dry completely. Think about doing smaller loads.

Can I use fabric softener on towels?

Everyone wants their towels to smell good and feel soft, however, you shouldn’t use fabric softener on towels. The liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets make towels less absorbent. It should be okay to use every once and in a while, but I wouldn’t make it a habit for every load of towels you do.

More cleaning tips

Try this great natural way to get that smell out of moldy towels the next time you get that awful whiff.



Wednesday 6th of March 2019

I put vinegar in every load of wash I do. Cuts back on detergent and makes my laundry soft and towels very absorbant. There’s no vinegar smell either!


Friday 26th of June 2015

Does the vinegar work for front loaders too?


Friday 26th of June 2015

Yes! I have a front loader and I just pour the vinegar in where I would pour my liquid detergent.


Thursday 25th of June 2015

omg! I just bought all new towels because I couldn't get stink out of my gym towels! I'll definitely try this!!!!