By Lynda (crabby) from Kearny, NJ
I am late in posting this, but I found that once you have that "smell" in your towels and facecloths, it is really hard to get rid of. I used ammonia, about a 1/2 cup, in the wash (or maybe it was the rince, I don't think it matters), and that got rid of the smell. I may have used it several times; it was quite some time ago. However, I did find that it changed the color of the towels somewhat. I had dark kelly green towels, and now I have an olive green shade.
The color fade was quite gradual, so if you have dark colored towels, you may not want to use ammonia. I would try baking soda, if I were you, as it is a base, like ammonia, and not as strong. It should not fade out your towels. I suspect that hanging outside would also help, but I couldn't be bothered with that. I find I prefer to use a liquid softener with my towels, and then use dryer balls in the dryer. I think the towels are softer that way. And I like the smell of the softener. Once I got rid of that smell, I did not have it again.
I had the same problem. I starting adding some baking soda to my wash and haven't had any musty smelling washcloths or kitchen cloths since.
I'd say you need to open up the bathroom. Sounds like there is not enough ventilation.
I have only light colored towels and washcloth and they all are washed with clorox bleach added.
It kills the germs and they never smell bad.
Try using a disinfectant, like Lysol liquid all-purpose cleaner, in with your regular detergent. I use about 1/2 - 1 cup per susceptible load--germy, smelly work and T-shirts, clothes that have been wet too long, etc. (Disinfectants say that they "kill germs that cause odors", and are more safe for fabrics than chlorine bleach.) Bonus; you can use less detergent that way, too. An extra rinse might be good, especially if anyone in your house has sensitive skin. After that, you can use the vinegar or fabric softener that others have suggested, if you want. Also, I put a little disinfectant in the armpits of "habitual BO-ridden" T-shirts, just as a habit. Works great!
I had to switch to all cold water for most of my clothes, and use a little vinegar in the rinse, instead of fabric softener. We had several months where all of the towels and wash cloths were like that, but you couldn't tell until they were wet. It works, as long as I wash the load, dry it immediately, and the remove from the dryer and put where they belong. If they 'set' longer than a couple hours, it will go right back.
I had a batch of washcloths that smelled no matter what I did. I think it had to do with the fibers (they were made in India or something), as I had others that were made of US cotton in the same wash with the same water. Stored the same and handled the same and everything. I finally decided it was the dye or maybe some camel hair woven in, haha.
Anyway, I pitched them and bought some from JC Penny's and problem solved.
I used to have that problem with my towels. I started using vinegar instead of softener and the problem was solved. I use dryer sheets only.
Add 1 cup of white vinegar to the wash load and let it soak 30 minutes before continuing the wash cycle. Add liquid fabric softener to the rinse. Also use a fabric softener sheet in the dryer.
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