By Wendy from Long Beach, MS
Maybe too much detergent in the wash, cupboard could be giving off fumes. Rinse in vinegar water, hang them on the line. Wash shelves off, use a liner of some sorts on them, leave the door open. Then see if you get a smell. Some clothing/items that come from across the ocean are packed in preservatives that smell like cat pee. I had this issue with new baby pajamas from Sears and reported it. They replaced them and found out the product was not USA made, and this was sprayed with the preservative. I find my fabrics I buy the same, I make sure they are USA fabrics.
I would recommend using baking soda in the wash water. It also is a good odor remover. Use about a cup per load. I find it works better than the vinegar. Ammonia also works even better, but it will slightly alter the color of your towels. If you have new dark colors, you won't want this. If the colors are light or the towels are somewhat faded and it doesn't matter, use about a cup of ammonia in the wash water.
After you have gotten the smell out of the towels, try to prevent a recurrence by being sure that towels are hung up to dry, using the bathroom fan, and not leaving them damp in the washer.
Another way to get out odors and to freshen them up is to hang them outside in the sun and wind and fresh air instead of drying them in the dryer.
The cabinet where you store the towels may be the source. I would empty it, wash it down with hydrogen peroxide followed by a wipe down with a sponge moistened with a vinegar water solution.
I have had good luck using 1/3 cup borax in the wash water on towels that have "soured". It can be hard to remove the smell that comes back when the towel is damp.
I agree with some of the others. I also put vinegar in the washer when I wash the towels. I try to always separate towels. I have 3 bins, one for bath towels (any of the personal use kind: washcloth, hand, bath,etc.), another for kitchen only. I use a bar mop every day for when I am cooking. It cuts down on the paper towel use, but I also have the usual kitchen rag, and towel too. But the bar mop ones, pee-u! I wouldn't want them with my bath towels! Then, the third bin is strictly for cleaning towels and small rugs. They get stinky, too. So vinegar works great for the smelly laundry from all areas. I guess my point is, separate and use vinegar.
How many times are they used before they are washed? Do they dry well inbetween? I noticed a funky smell on some of my towels once and started washing them more often. That worked.
Do you have a cat? Some cats do like to pee on damp towels after they are used. You didn't say if you owned a cat.
I'm taking a page from the ThriftyTip readers and this summer (and maybe forever) I'm using white vinegar in the rinse water. Makes laundry soft and fresh.
I am terrible about leaving a load of towels in the washer overnight and then drying them the next day. They smell great right after the dryer but smell musty after used again. I have found that rewashing them with a capful of vinegar, plain old distilled vinegar, added with the detergent works wonders! I now add it automatically to my towels and whites. It's a clean booster as well.
Towels tend to smell this way esp in summer. Wash towels everyday, do not leave them wet in basket or hamper, hang them to dry until you can wash. Adding oxi clean or a little bleach may help. We found tide with febreeze works best and then use downy/febreeze. Do not leave them sit in washer wet, dry immediately oir hang on washline.
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