Stinky Towels

I have a problem with my water, I think. I wash a load of towels or dishrags, and they don't smell very good coming out of the dryer. Then when they get wet, they stink. I have tried everything I can think of bleach, hot water, etc. My clothes don't smell, it's only the towels, washcloths, and dishrags. I was raised on really fresh smelling towels, and I can't stand this. Our house is in the country and we have a septic tank, but we have city water, not well.


Robin M from Cincinnati, OH


Stinky Towels


California Veterinary Supply


I have to take my comforters to the laundromat. All of the machines have a distinct odor to them, I put a couple ounces of XO in the washer and I bring my spray bottle to spray a few sprays in the big dryer and they come out just fine. I don't see why this would not eliminate the odor in your towels. And to freshen my bed between changes I will pull back the covers give a light mist then make the bed, then it smells so nice when I climb in. (06/27/2007)


Stinky Towels

How many of you ladies use powder detergent? I haven't used it in years. Stick with the liquid. I also use the kind with no perfume or powder (ALL detergent). (06/29/2007)


By eyelovecats

Stinky Towels

Thanks for all the feedback. I wanted to let you all know that because of all the great suggestions, I hopefully have solved the problem. It was, in part, because of my front loader. I have used the HE liquid detergent since we bought them. The washer is water efficient, and my towel loads were too heavy, thus they weren't getting rinsed enough. I never did have any trouble with my clothes, only towels.

What I have done is cut my liquid down even more than is called for (instead of 1/4 Cup, I use around 1/8 Cup), 1/4 Cup Vinegar, 1/4 Cup Bleach, no softener, and double rinse. I washed every towel, washcloth, and dishrag in my house this weekend, and everything is maintaining the fresh smell. (07/03/2007)

By Robin M

Stinky Towels

I have a Whirlpool Duet washer and dryer and was having issues with all my clean laundry smelling moldy. I called the local hardware store (not a mega store) and spoke with the gentleman that sold them to us. He said he had had one other person call with this issue.


A Whirlpool tech support told him to run 1 - 1 1/2 cups of Lime Away in the hottest, longest cycle I had on my machine. He also said to quit using liquid fabric softener because it just gums things up and to leave the door open when the machine's not in use. I did that and had to run it through an extra rinse cycle because the Lime Away created so many suds. Then we left the washer door open over night. The salesman/repairman also said to do this about once every six months. We have naturally very hard water here in the Midwest. Even with a water softener, things get gunked up with lime deposits.

After reading everything here I re-washed a clean load of moldy smelling towels, with detergent, borax and then Odoban in the fabric softener dispenser. They smell nice and clean now. I even dampened one to see if I could bring out the moldy smell. But it still smelled great.

I never did see any mold around the rubber boot/seal or anywhere I could look without having to tear the machine apart.


Stinky Towels

I tried the post that explained how to clean out the trap for the pump. I found that the trap was almost completely clogged with a sock and several other smaller items. It is definitely worth checking and only took abut ten minutes. I suggest using a wet / dry vac to suck the water out while removing the trap cover. (07/23/2007)

By Chris

Stinky Towels

I know! I know! Finally! The problem is that there's still bacteria in the towels after washing. This is what's causing the smell. The solution is to dry the towels two complete cycles in the dryer. Even if they feel dry after the first time, they aren't. Today's dryers are energy efficient, they don't use really hot temps anymore. Heat kills bacteria. Drying them twice will eliminate the odor. (07/26/2007)

By Catherine

Stinky Towels

I don't think its the front loaders. I've had the problem too with my top loader. Maybe be the liquid detergent. Could it be you are using too much? I ran the machine through a cycle with bleach. Allowed the drum to dry with the lid open.

Then I started using Tide with Febreze. I used less detergent than the manufacturer suggested and I have well water by the way. Towels smell great and its been a month or so. Seems the problem is resolved. (07/28/2007)


Stinky Towels

The vinegar definitely works. One cup of vinegar in hot water took care of the smell. I didn't even presoak. I was afraid to try the bleach on my colored towels, so I thought I'd give the vinegar a shot. Worked wonders. (08/12/2007)

By Trish

Stinky Towels

Problem solved in our house. Ran the machine on hot with bleach without laundry and let dry with the door open overnight. Next day did a towel load on hot with baking soda and vinegar along with the HE detergent. Mold smell gone, but slight hint of the vinegar. My wife was amazed. Decided to try 1/2 cup 20 Mule Borax with the HE detergent to see if I could get the same results without the vinegar smell. Towels came out perfect no smell at all just clean. We now wash everything with the Borax added and now everything is fresh. Wash cloths that are used for a few days in a row do not even develop the moldy smell.

I am so glad to have found this page. Saved us from throwing all of our towels out. (09/02/2007)

By Brian

Stinky Towels

I haven't noticed anyone mention it, but most fabric softeners say "Concentrated". You are always supposed to add water after putting it in the dispenser in the machine to thin it. I've gotten to where now when I buy a new bottle, I pour half of it in the old bottle and fill them both to the top with water so they will be ready to pour in the machine. Not as much gunk. I guess it pays to read the labels after all sometimes. (09/19/2007)

By Susan

Stinky Towels

After trying different combinations of products to remove the smell from my towels, I finally found what works. I have a front loading washer and this is what I now do: 1/3 capful Arm and Hammer HE laundry detergent and 1/3 cup Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda on the Heavy Cycle on the Warm/Warm setting. Then dry the towels on the highest heat setting for 75 minutes with no fabric softener.

I also run the washer through a cycle of just bleach every 2 weeks, this cleans the drum and the door gasket and gets the gunk of built up laundry detergent out. After trying all the suggestions people have given me and combinations of the products out there, this is what finally took that disgusting smell out. Hope it works for you. (10/22/2007)

By Karla

Stinky Towels

I have the exact same problem, wash them with a cup or more of powder Cascade and the smell will come out of them, it worked for me at least. I also run a cycle with Lime Away and bleach and Cascade in the washer on hot with no clothes and the smell comes out of the washer, I do this every week to keep the stink out. (10/23/2007)

By Kay Dings

Stinky Towels

Towels if left wet, like after showers will mildew. Isn't your washer. It's simply cotton and moisture. That's why they sell white towels, you know the only kind your grandma used to buy. And white t-shirts for her husband to wear.

She also had a bottle of Clorox bleach around. And separated her laundry. All my towels are fresh and clean. Another option is to put them out in the sun to dry or freshen. The sun will kill the mildew as well.

So to wrap it up, buy white towels whenever possible. And put 1/4-1/2 cup of bleach in white loads, or every 2nd load or so. You towels will stay fresh smelling at all times. (10/25/2007)

By Jim in the woods

Stinky Towels

I notice fabric softener is mentioned a lot in these posts. This is an item you do not need, it actually "greases" the fibers of the fabric so they feel softer. I makes your linens less absorbent, and way more important, can actually cause mechanical breakdown in your appliances, and fires in your dryer (my repairman told me this). Ignore Madison Ave. that has made you think you need to spend $ on such items. If you want your clothing and linens to smell good, make sure they are clean and you also have the options of storing them with sachets, bars of soap, incense, etc. Fabric softener is just not needed and causes too many problems. (02/17/2008)

By Robn E

Stinky Towels

I have dealt with stinky towels for months. I finally found a solution. Wash your towels in Wisk then your towels will be 99 percent better. Dry as soon as the cycle stops. Good luck (04/07/2008)


Stinky Towels

Solution. Run, don't walk to a Lowe's or some store that sells washers. Mine is a front loader. They sell a product called "a fresh". It is tablets that kill the mold and mildew that build up in the tub. I used 3 the first cleaning. Then you use them once each month. Also, leave the door open after each wash to let it air. Happy washing again. It's so nice to not wipe after a bath and smell like. Well you know. (07/30/2008)

By Donna

Stinky Towels

I too have recently run into this problem, but just with dishrags. I tried all of the remedies mentioned, but none helped me. Then I tried using Biz and that seemed to solve the problem. Good luck. (09/02/2008)

By babs15

Stinky Towels

I posted back in July about this problem. The solution, I thought, was in the use of the cleaning tablets that Sears told me I needed to use. They worked for a while, but I got tired of buying them and running my washer with nothing in it. After all, that defeats the purpose of having a water saving washing machine. I have since switched from Tide to Purex, and have not had any smells whatsoever. None. And, Purex is 1/3rd the cost of Tide. (01/14/2009)

By Connie

Stinky Towels

Has anyone brought up the brand of towels that stink? I just wet several towels from our stack, with several different mfg's the ones that are the newest are the ones that stink, they are both the same brand. Maybe it is the dye or the material?

We noticed the stink with both our old and new washers and we had it right away with the new washer so I really don't believe it to be a soap, mold, or build-up issue. We have always left the door open and Hey, our clothes don't stink when they get wet.

Thackery (02/22/2009)

By Thackery

Stinky Towels

We had issues with towels not smelling fresh right out of the dryer. After the first use (as soon as they got wet) they smelled very musty. Some clothing smelled a little musty, but not as bad as the towels. I contemplated installing a whole-house water filter because I thought it was a water problem. We have a LG high-efficiency washer, and our water really doesn't smell too bad. So we were stumped.

Then I realized the smell started when we switched to liquid fabric softener from dryer sheets. We switched back to sheets and the problem went away, completely. We made no other changes, so I suggest you try this. I have no idea why this would be, but the liquid softener may affect how the load rinses, especially with the high efficiency washers.

Hope this helps.


By iahawkeye

Stinky Towels

I'm sure it's too late for Robert Mastrion, I saw his post from 2007, Robert was moving his machine to the curb and starting over. Sorry Robert that this information comes too late to help solve your problem and save your investment, but hopefully it will help others. One thing that I've noticed reading all of the posts on stinky towels is that the chemical manufactures are loving this they must be having record sales, because of energy efficient front loading washers. Almost every post suggests adding some type of cleaning chemical to mask the problem. Over the last year I have seen a few others that have discovered the true problem with the washers, but it seems to fall on deaf ears.

Even as we were having problems with stinky towels we were also having a problem caused by soap remaining in the cloths causing us to itch. When we finally admitted there was a problem with our new machine we started to try and find out what was causing it. We couldn't leave the door open to the washer because of mildew, at this point we realized that other things beside mildew could be growing in the washer; my wife even thinks this might be the cause of staph out breaks at times with schools using these washers to clean clothes in the athletic departments. Whatever problems stem from this other than stinky towels I'm sure cannot be good. Within a short period of time after we confronted the problem we realized the root cause was too little water used in the process of cleaning and rinsing the cloths. By adding water manually to the washer we were able to solve the problem in a short time.

We determined that soap remaining in the washer and in the cloths was causing all of our problems. The gunk left behind in the washer drain system and in our cloths was providing the medium for growing who knows what in both the cloths and the washer. Once we realized this we knew we had to get more water add to the process, and at $4.00/1000gals, a little extra water cost a lot less than all of those chemicals required to mask the problem. You know a lot of that stuff your adding is being left in your cloths and getting cooked in by the dryer, just to be rehydrated by your body when you perspire.

I spent a lot of time watching our machine wash cloths and began to think back to the days that we had a top loader. When a top loader rinses cloths there is a lot of water in the machine allowing things to be released from the cloths and be flushed down the drain, when it would spin the cloths would be held to the side of the washer drum and water would enter from the top of the washer and cascade over the cloths and then be extracted through the sides of the spinning drum and pumped out of the washer. This doesn't happen in a front loader, at least not mine, the water enters from the front of the machine to fill, well to wet the cloths and when it spins, water is not being cascaded over the cloths so that it can flush the soap and chemicals from the washer. We use every available rinse the machine will allow and then do a rinse and spin cycle after the wash which gets most of the soap out of the cloths.

This was all well and good, we were proud of ourselves for determining the problem, but adding water manually during the wash and rinse took a lot of time. This is when I got back on the computer and started looking for help and help came while doing a Google search where I found a blog by some guy that had built a new control for his machine. The blog is called "". While reading through this blog and shaking my head, knowing that I could never do this for my machine I ran across a reply from a guy that had read the blog and decided to try a different approach. This guy's solution was to make an adjustment to the device that controlled the water level in the machine and it only required a small screwdriver and two turns of an adjusting screw at which point our machine would fill with water on its own not requiring one of us to monitor the wash cycle and constantly add water. What a glorious day that was. Our machine could now wash a load of cloths without us and we could have our lives back on wash day.

We still add extra rinse cycles to the wash and we run the machine through a rinse and spin cycle with the maximum number of rinses, but the small amount of water that we use extra is worth the price to have clean cloths again. Clean cloths without all of those extra chemicals. And hey we can leave the washer door open if we want to, because there is no bad smell anymore.

I would like to thank Joe for his hard work in solving the problem and thanks to his blog we were able to save our machine and enjoy our investment. I hope this will help others solve the problem with their machines.

By Tim T28


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