How to get smell out of towels and clean them properly

Have you ever come out of a shower all fresh and clean and suddenly caught a whiff of something sour, and asked: Why do my towels smell? If the answer is yes, it's probably time to give your towels the sniff test and wash that stink away.

TODAY Home asked Carolyn Forté, director of home appliances, cleaning products and textiles at the Good Housekeeping Institute, for tips on how to clean smelly towels. Her secret ingredient? Distilled white vinegar.


Why do towels smell?

Towels develop a sour and smelly odor when they’re put away wet. Another source of towel odor, and also the reason towels lose softness and absorbency, ironically comes from detergent/fabric softener buildup.

How to get smell out of towels and clean them properly

So when you notice a musty or sour smell in your towels or they lose softness and absorbency, Forté recommends adding one cup of distilled white vinegar during the final rinse (for a standard top-load washer that fills with water) to remove the odor.


How to get sour smell out of towels

“For high-efficiency top-loaders or front-loaders,” she adds, “I would just fill the fabric softener dispenser to the max level with vinegar so it is automatically dispensed in the final rinse. Otherwise, with these machines, there’s no other way to add it at the correct time.”

When washing towels with vinegar, the vinegar smell is usually washed away in the final rinse, if the smell of vinegar lingers, just rinse them again. As a final tip, Forté adds, “There is no need to always rinse towels in vinegar. Just do it on an as-needed basis.”

If the smell of your towels is more musty than sour and you want to know how to get mildew smell out of towels, you can use vinegar for that too!

Make your towels softer, smell better with this 1 tip

June 27, 201600:46

This article was first published on June 30, 2016.