Funky Towel, Towel Got the Funk!

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How do you remove odor from bath towels?

Funky Towel, Towel Got the Funk!

After a bath or shower, water softens the top layer of our skin. Bath towels that we rub all over our bodies pick up these microscopic bits of skin and other flora and fauna and get trapped in the fibers. Eventually, after enough use, the fibers become overloaded with skin cells and give off a yucky smell. (The same thing will happen with dishcloths and bits of food.) This just won't go away, no matter how many times you wash them. You could try bleaching them but if they are dyed this will fade the color- and it's a temporary fix at best. Sometimes, you have to 'throw in the towel' and buy some new ones!



12/12/2006 9:17:26 AM
T said:

I JUST threw away all my towels and it is happening again to my new ones i CANT keep "throwing" away all my towels is there ANYTHING else that could help????!! I heard vinegar would this help?

12/15/2006 1:54:10 PM
Susan said:

This has *never* happened to any of my towels! However, once in a while I'll forget to change one and it will get smelly. In this case, launder normally and then put the *wet* towel into the microwave on high until very hot and steamy. This kills the smelly bacteria.

12/17/2006 4:57:51 PM
moe said:

just how helpful was this helpful hint!!??

12/17/2006 7:35:01 PM
JoyceC. said:

Thank you! Bleaching does not work - toss them.

2/14/2007 1:05:23 PM
Hate the musty towels! said:

I have actually had trouble with this because of my front loading washer, it doesn't seem to get them clean. I have now began washing all the towels together on the hottest and longest cycle. I add a little bleach to the darker ones and a little more than that to the white/light towels. I also only load the wash half full or less. This has been working for me.
I do have to remember to pick up any wet towel or wash rag every couple days and launder, never ever let a wet one sit, it makes it nearly impossible to clean. And, never, leave them sitting in the washer for any length of time after washing.. you'll end up having to wash them over again.

I will be trying the microwave idea that is listed, might be a good trick when you just can't wash it right away. Good luck.

4/3/2007 6:02:20 AM
Diane B said:

I find if I use a disnfect cleaner- (like pine-sol) in my wash with laundry soap helps. If you can hang towels out side. Work for me 95% of the the time for me

4/19/2007 10:38:19 PM
Candi said:

After washing the towels, try using a cup or 2 (depending how bad the are!) of vinegar in the rinse cycle. I have even washed my towels in the vinegar water after washing them through the regular cycle. It's suprising how much soap they have left in them. By the way the vinegar does not smell after the towels are dried.

6/11/2007 12:49:29 PM
MPJ said:

I avoid this by adding a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle when laundering towels. If you have a fabric softener dispenser on your washing machine, add the vinegar here. Fresh and clean everytime!

7/15/2007 2:52:58 PM
Margaret said said:

If you use OdoBan when you wash your towels and bath cloths you will find a big difference in the smell of you towels and bath cloths. Even using this on teeshirts which hold sweat(prespiration) this will even get rid of that. Our clothes would smell soured. Just try it and see how you like it. You can get this at Sam's by the gallon jug with a spray bottle with it.

11/6/2007 12:24:36 AM
Renee Snow said:

Throw them away!!! My husband always seems to leave a house towel outside in the pool house...pheeew stinky by the time it's reclaimed. Try washing with reg laundry detergent and a good splash of antibacterial dish detergent. If you don't want your kitchen sponges and cloths to smell..again choose antibacterial detergent. Make sure you squeeze the water completely out, so they dry b4 smells set in.

12/7/2007 2:14:55 PM
Zara said:

You can try to put baking soda in water and let it soak in that before washing. Also, take the towels out immediately when the wash is done and put them in the dryer.

1/25/2008 1:00:54 PM
Fiona said:

I find that a little vinegar in the wash water helps immensely...also with dirty smelly clothes.

5/28/2008 6:24:15 AM
Courtney said:

I had this problem with towels still "smelly" and the tip I read and used and WORKED is. First break up your towels in smaller loads and on the rinse cycle add a cup of white vinegar. If you use fabric softener (which I did forever) the softner in that can add to your towel problem. I switched to dryer sheets and I have not had that problem with my towels.

5/28/2008 12:08:23 PM
Laureli said:

Wash with hot water, put on extra rinse and hang on the line on a sunnny day. Works every time. If you don't like the way the towel feels after being on the line, put in the dryer to fluff after it dries completely on the line.

5/29/2008 4:27:32 PM
maan said:

I used to have that problem but not anymore. Here's what to do: 1. Wash only a few towels at a time in a lot of hot water 2. Add OxyClean to the wash (or vinegar for whites) and baking soda along with detergent. 3. Dry immediately on high heat with dryer sheet. Works great and I didn't have to buy new towels!

5/30/2008 8:00:54 PM
Grandmary said:

Try putting in a little ammonia in the washer with the soap. I never have a problem with mine as I wash them after each use.

8/31/2008 3:09:43 PM
Heather said:

Don't throw them away! I wash the towels on cold with the regular amount of detergent plus 1/3 cup of baking soda. The baking soda also gets out urine smells and mold. White vinegar also works. These will not damage the colors either.

9/8/2008 8:46:44 AM
Rita said:

OK...I have the solution!!! You are going to be so excited. One of the reasons your towels smell might be 1) that you use a liquid soap in your washer 2) You use liquid softener. I quit both and my towels are back to smelling clean!!! Liquid soaps and softener tend to hold on to dirt. I do put a dryer sheet in for softening. Try it. It takes about two cycles! YIPEE

11/17/2008 4:55:53 PM
Al said:

I just use baking soda and vinegar in the wash. It works wonders. Don't throw good towels away. A hot water wash will also help.

1/9/2009 9:49:15 AM
Diana said:

I use clear ammonia (follow instructions on bottle for laundry use) along with my regular detergent and rinse twice, then dry throughly. It gets rid of the bad smell and doesn't deteriorate the fabric like bleach does.

3/6/2009 12:02:41 PM
Crystal said:

Whenever I wash my towel (colored)I wash them in hot water and I add one cup of amonia and a 1/2 cip of baking soda. I then follow it up with a healthy dose of liquid fabric softner. If you do this everytime you wash your towel (and wash them more frequently) you will notice that the "funk" is gone for good.

3/15/2009 1:39:50 AM
novice said:

My mom taught me the old trick of letting musty towels do a pre-soak in detergent in the washing machine before washing them. Worked on my towels, at least.

5/9/2009 2:46:45 PM
SusieQ said:

If you can, try hanging them outside in hot sunshine..I heard this is a natural way to get rid of the bacteria?

6/7/2009 11:03:22 PM
Allana C. said:

I can't imagine people would constantly throw out good towels because of an odor that can be removed. A small bit of Lysol cleaner and some baking soda in the wash usually does the trick. If the smell is persistent try soaking them in the wash with baking soda first. Also, hanging up wet towels so they can dry properly and washing your towels every week tends to help prevent the souring smell.

6/27/2009 11:06:11 PM
Sam said:

I wash my towels occasionally with hot water & baking soda

7/26/2009 2:24:20 PM
Liz said:

A cup of vinegar to the final rinse cycle, and then a second full rinse cycle helps immensely! 1/4 cup Pinesol added to the rinse cycle, and then another full rinse after helps as well.

8/26/2009 9:08:35 AM
Patti said:

I use white vinegar, about a cup full and it works. It is great for sweaty clothes also. No vinegar smell residue either.

8/26/2009 2:48:31 PM
Katie said:

I add some color safe bleach and remove after cycle is complete. you can also soak your towels overnight in water with color safe bleach and wash them after.

8/26/2009 4:22:17 PM
Ru said:

What has worked for me at times for my towels is either washing them in warm or hot water and along with the laundry detergent, I also add the same amount of ammonia to the wash (sometimes leaving it there to soak for a couple of hours) and that has seemed to help out the smell for me and if that doesn't work, you really do need to throw them out.

8/26/2009 4:48:44 PM
tas said:

Add 1 cup of baking soda to wash with detergent and use vinegar in the rinse cycle. That will leave towels smelling fresh.

8/26/2009 6:55:01 PM
Sheryl said:

This funky smell usually happens when you toss the wet/damp towel into the hamper and then pile on top of it. You can avoid this by hanging the towel over the tub or shower, or even draping it over the hamper until it dries. Never pile dirty laundry over wet towels/washcloths, or this musty funky smell will happen. This, along with using a color safe bleach in the towel wash load, will stop that smell from happening. As far as dishcloths...I always use white ones so I can bleach them in hot water (and make sure I change them everyday), and that smell never happens on them.

8/26/2009 8:43:35 PM
pw said:

I used fabric softener which was death to my towels! I have read that using white vinegar in the rinse periodically does help with towel funk. I wash mine in bleach every wash - I figure I'd rather use a very clean towel for a shorter period of time, than use a not so clean towel for longer. Same with sheets; I make up for the cost by not buying many towels. But, I also have only one sheet set for each season.

8/26/2009 9:40:51 PM
Frugal One said:

My family has always reused our towels and this has never happened to us. How long are you using these towels?

8/27/2009 2:51:20 AM
Just Cindy said:

A cup of white vinegar and one of the detergents with color safe bleach added to it already fixes the problem. Wash in the hottest water the cloth can stand, then dry in the sun,,,, makes em good as new.

8/27/2009 1:00:07 PM
BobM said:

Be extremely careful of putting clothes or towels of any type in a microwave. Our company had a major fire in our break room because of this. A microwave is not a clothes dryer. Be warned.

8/28/2009 12:25:23 PM
Susan said:

This is insane! Sure, microwave a dish rag, but towels? Come on! I do a load of WHITE towels everyday, and not always with bleach and dry them in the dryer or by hanging outside to dry and there's nothing wrong with them. Some are old as the hills, too! This is so true of people who have enough money to throw away but I'm goning to worry about other stuff. Talk about getting OCD! (obsessive complusive disorder) Everyone line up for their daily dose of zoloft too! Nursing homes, hospitals, hotels, motels,etc, use all white linens. Gosh, after reading this, no one will use them again.....YUCK....makes me itch just to think about it! I think people over bathe as it is! Use the same towel after two showers! I remember my grandmother having to carry water from the river to do lauhdry on Monday and then ironing everything on Tuesday. There you go. Solves the problem. Forget the mircowave...iron everything! Gosh, again, worry about something else. Yes, I'm old as the hills too, and sometimes I use my towel a week! Funk, you say! Naw, I use a wash cloth to dry off with first. Now there's a dirty rag. Replace them if you want, but way! Not until they are nearly thread bare! Then, recycle. A nicely worn towel can make an excellent cleaning rag. Oh yeah, I call them wash rags, too. "Clean enough Granny!"

8/29/2009 4:09:21 PM
LisaW said:

My grandma taught me to add borax and baking soda to the wash and viola no more musty towels. If they get really bad, my grandma would boil hers in a big pot on the stove.

8/30/2009 4:07:12 PM
angie said:

I have had the same problem. But towels are expensive who can afford to throw them out. baking soda and vinegar wash as normal just add half a cup of each let sit for around 15 minutes then make sure to put them in dryer as soon as wash is done. Works every time

7/3/2011 10:37:42 AM
idea said:

Use vinegar! I put it by itself in the liquid fabric softener container of my front load washer on a regular wash cycle(with soap of course) or you could put it in mid-load in a traditional washer. then you just put your washed load in the dryer with a dryer sheet. It really kills the smell! I'm very touchy with smells and it as always worked. If it's the first time maybe use more vinegar or let it soak and then just throw in about 1/2 cup of vinegar ev'ry time you wash your towels! that simple! don't throw your towels out, ouch that must be expensive!!!

7/30/2011 2:47:49 PM
Lee said:

Soak towels in oxyclean or similar product. The intense oxygen environment breaksdown organic molecules. Then wash normally and make sure to get them very hot and dry.

7/30/2011 7:28:54 PM
Julie L said:

To get any kind of smell out of anything you can throw in the washing machine put in a cup of white vinegar.....with your washing detergent and I don't use any fabric softener either it will actually take all of the extra grime that the softener leaves behind too! When I dry them I sometimes use a dryer sheet but either way you will have soft, not smelly towels or whatever you wash and no vinegar smell either!!!

8/24/2011 7:53:58 PM
loren prutzman said:

Use sudsey ammonia in the washer when you launder them, added to other products except no bleach! It works very well and freshens !

10/17/2011 6:14:33 PM
DebiP said:

always wash towels in hot water and never put softener on them. softener has oils that hold moisture on a damp towel. if you don't want to use a little bleach on colored towels, use a pine cleaner (about 1/4 c. per load). i never get a mildew/musty smell on my towels even if i don't wash them right away or they sit a little damp till they dry. i always hang mine up but my kids let theirs drop on the floor but, i still don't have that problem. using softener on towels also makes them less effective in drying you off because the oils repel the water back to your skin.

10/26/2011 6:35:03 AM
Anisha said:

This will not happen if after having your bath just quickly rinse it in water and dry your towel in the sun. Once in a week give it a thorough wash and dry it in the sun. You towels will remain clean and fresh for a long time

10/29/2011 8:47:33 PM
SJ said:

I live in humid Florida. Soak them in a strong vinegar for clothes that are left in the washer an get funky, as well as towels. I put them in a bucket and soak them in probably a 50/50 vinegar water solution overnight, then wash. It's probably a bucks worth of vinegar, but that's cheaper than tossing things out.

11/29/2011 4:18:36 PM
Christine said:

I recently found out that using vinegar instead of fabric softener works well. I have done this for the past few weeks, and my clothing comes out fine. The vinegar smell goes away once dried in the dryer and no static electricity either. Everything is fresh and the washing machine is incredibly clean too!

5/29/2012 8:25:15 AM
Melody said:

I tried baking soda and vinegar. I left some clothing and a few towels in the washer for a few DAYS!! It was a horrid smell!! I tossed about 4-5 good handfuls of baking soda on top, added white vinegar to the fabric softener cup, AND the bleach cup (I rarely use bleach). I still used my regular laundry soap.
It took two cycles, but after the second cycle, everything was nice and clean and very fresh smelling!!


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