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Stop Using Fabric Softener to Prevent Musty Towels


In response to the folks out there with musty towels. We've tried a lot of approaches and only one actually worked. The first thing we did was get rid of the liquid fabric softener. We then cleaned the washing machine by brush, using bleach and water.

We found that by running through 2 full hot water loads using only oxy clean and white vinegar (2 cups) that the machine smelled much better. We then washed our clothes using a mixture of oxy clean and borax with the white vinegar in the rinse dispenser. Works like a charm. The culprit is the Downey type products. They are not good for the machine, the pipes or the clothes. You must try this, if you want to end the problem, for once and for all. Good Luck

By Joe V. from Liverpool



By susan 2 14 10/20/2008

Joe is right. I quit using fabric softener all together earlier this year and wish i had done it sooner. i fill the automatic softener dispenser with white vinegar at every wash now and have noticed a serious reduction in lint, static, and, especially, that funky smell that laundered items sometimes take on if we don't wear them "right away". not to mention that it is so much more economical than FS. i don't know who first came up with white vinegar but i think that's the guy who should be winning the nobel prize! i also add about 1/8 cup of baking soda to the detergent dispenser. it helps the soap work better and is also a natural deodorizer.

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By Louise B. 6 2,541 10/20/2008

I would just like to come to the defense of liquid fabric softener and Downy products. I use them all the time and DO NOT have musty towels. They may react differently with different water or with different types of machines, and I don't doubt that this was the case in your situation. However, it is not always the case. The liquid fabric softener works very well for me, and my towels are hard and flat without it.

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By (Guest Post) 10/20/2008

I also never had a problem with fabric softeners until I got my front loading washer! They do need to be cleaned with bleach occassionally and left open to air out. I have narrowed it down to fabric softeners, and I hate to say, my favorite, Downey scented ones (not the original one). Not all items smell funky, just washcloths and some towels. When they are used, set out to dry and when they are dry they smell! I have been using ammonia in the wash water and that takes care of it.

What a disappointment this has been, I really love fabric softeners! I also use Tide HE, I wonder if that reacts with some of the softeners? I never used Tide before the new washer, it was always some of the less expensive ones and I never had a problem!

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By Maryeileen 76 1,143 10/20/2008

I read somewhere that you shouldn't use any type of fabric softener (liquid or dryer sheets) for towels because it reduces their absorbancy. I don't use fabric softener when I wash or dry my towels and they come out fluffy, not dry and flat.

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By ethel (Guest Post) 10/21/2008

I'm not sure about the softener bit. I use liquid softener (mixed 1 part softener to 1 part vinegar or 2 parts vinegar to 1 part softener) for years and never have had a musty smelling towel. Even when I didn't use the vinegar and just used straight softener. What we do is we NEVER put a wet towel of any sort in the laundry basket or bundle it up on the floor or anything else.

We always hang it on our towel hooks to dry completely before they go in the dirty laundry. I only wash towels every couple of weeks and if I didn't do this my towels would become so stinky in the dirty laundry. I have never had a stinky towel before but know plenty people that do and they all say they do not let their towels dry before putting them in the dirty laundry.

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By Barbara Brathwaite 2 17 11/04/2008

I too have had musty smelling towels. I do not or ever have put them in the hamper while wet or damp. I think that it has something to do with where you live and the humidity. I never use fabric softener's any more, they are loaded with petrochemicals.Vinegar and borax work well to eliminate the musty smell, and soften.

I have also found that a good line dry on a bright sunny day will work wonders. When I can't do that I will take them to the laundry mat and run them with some bleach. I only have to do that every so often. I was a fabric softener JUNKY for many years and it was hard to give up at first.I would never go back, My clothes are soft and fresh smelling.

My problem is static cling in the winter with all the fleece sweaters and blankets. Dryer sheets are out of the question, Any suggestions for something natural to add to the dryer to cut down static cling? I do not use gimicky things like dryer balls, As seen on tv stuff rarely works. Thanks to all. Thrifty fun is awesome!

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By Gail 3 6 11/08/2008

I have always used liqiud fabric softener and never had musty smelling towels or clothing. The only thing that will cause this smell is dampness. Make sure all cloth articles includign towels are completely dried before placing them in a hamper. Also if too many items are put into your dryer they will not get dried properly and will smell musty. Complete drying is the key.

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By Darlene (Guest Post) 12/29/2008

I live in the tropics and have a serious problem with musty clothes. Even the wood in the closets become trapped with odors. I always dry the clothes outside in the sun. I dry my towels and wash clothes completely and never put them in a hamper wet and they smell musty. I am going to try leaving out the softener, I have been using more to try to cover the scent. I also notice here fabric softener seperates after several months and can't be shaken back to original consistency. I'll let you know how the vinegar and baking soda goes, I don't think I can buy borax here. I also have a question, I put fabic softener in a load with a curly throw I washed. It completely ruined it. I have washed it several times without softener and it hasn't improved. Any suggestions? I will try the vinegar.

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By (Guest Post) 01/03/2009

Go spend two bucks on a pack of tennis balls and throw them in the dryer with your towels. This also works great for down comforters and anything else that is hard to dry.

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By A (Guest Post) 01/29/2009

I don't think that the musty smell has anything to do with climate. I live in North Dakota and even in the winter when the air is so dry we get bloody noses, my towels still get musty. I am going to try the vinegar trick though. Thanks

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