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Musty Smell on Clean Towels

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It is completely baffling and frustrating to find that your clean towels have a musty odor. This is a page about musty smell on clean towels.


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April 3, 2011

I have relatively new towels and wash cloths that are stinky. What can I do to get rid of the odor?

By Franolson from Palm Springs, CA


April 4, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

I would try a thorough wash in hot water with some vinegar in the rinse. If that doesn't work, try another hot wash with about 1/2 cup of baking soda in the wash cycle (or even in a soak cycle).

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May 10, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

Ours does that from time to time, hubby says it is because all of the detergent, and some water doesn't sling out in the spin, sits in the washer, and gets musty smelling. The baking soda and vinegar worked well for us, as well reducing the number of towels per load, and making sure they didn't sit in either the washer or dryer after the cycle was done.

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

April 3, 2011

I have musty smelling towels after washing. How do I get rid of the smell? Our water smells like rotten eggs, too. It's a new house. Please help!


Jillann from Belleville, IL


Musty Smell on Laundered Towels and Wash Cloths

If your water smells like rotten eggs, you may have a sulfur problem. Call your county agent and see what kinds of tests you can have done, also, you want to check your water for bacteria. They can help with that also. (10/12/2008)

By Nancy Adkins

Musty Smell on Laundered Towels and Wash Cloths

Be sure your towels go into the dirty clothes hamper "dry". Mold and mildew can start multiply quickly and it is hard to get rid of it.

I use GAIN liquid detergent and that really seems to help get rid of odors. Plus, it has a great, clean scent.

You may also want to double rinse.


By Susan D.

Musty Smell on Laundered Towels and Wash Cloths

If your water smells like rotten eggs and you have a well, it could be a bad tank. That's what happened to us, as soon as the tank was replaced everything was fine.



By Kathy in CT

Musty Smell on Laundered Towels and Wash Cloths

These are all good suggestions, and it seems that there can be several causes of musty or sour smelling towels. One thing that has worked for me is the ammonia, however, I found that it discolored the dark towels over time. I would not use it again. I would suggest baking soda instead as it is a base like ammonia, but not as strong, so less likely to cause fading.

Just a reminder to everyone not to combine these products. Vinegar works; baking soda works, but put them together and they neutralize each other and do nothing. And bleach with ammonia or baking soda releases chlorine gas, which is poisonous. Vinegar and bleach is a dangerous combo as well. (10/14/2008)

By Louise B.

Musty Smell on Laundered Towels and Wash Cloths

I use Borax, it's inexpensive and a little in the laundry really helps. It's a great additive to any cleaner and really boosts the cleaning power. (10/15/2008)


By falldowngobump

Musty Smell on Laundered Towels and Wash Cloths

I use one cup of ammonia. Sometimes I forget the clothes in dryer that has run one full cycle, but are still damp, and oops, then they get that sour/musty smell. I used to use vinegar and baking soda, but the ammonia works much better, and is cheaper. Good luck. (10/17/2008)

By Annie Rios Hill

Musty Smell on Laundered Towels and Wash Cloths

I cringe every time I see someone saying to replace this and replace that (hot water tanks, well tanks etc). All that work costs lots of money, and this site is about saving money! What I did, and it works very well, is get a whole house filter that goes on the water line coming in from the street.

I got mine at Lowe's for about $40.00 and the filter inserts are about $35 each. I installed it myself. I change the filter once a month. It removes lead, sulphur, iron, and other "nasties" in the water for a very low cost! Something to consider! (11/08/2008)


By Heather

Musty Smell on Laundered Towels and Wash Cloths

Boil the towels in a pot with a spoon of washing soda for thirty minutes or longer, be sure your hands are clean when you dry them. I think the soap with acid ingredient is easy to smell. (11/21/2008)

By marry

Musty Smell on Laundered Towels and Wash Cloths

I finally got my towels to lose the musty smell! The only thing that worked for me was a hot wash using 20 Mule Borax in the detergent dispenser (filled to the max allowable). Note: towels had been washed and dried, but still smelled so I didn't use additional detergent when I washed solely with the borax.

Things I had tried in previous attempts prior to borax only: 1) cleaning the FL HE machine first with an empty hot wash cycle with bleach followed by another empty hot wash cycle with vinegar + wiping down rubber part of washer; 2) adding vinegar to the wash; 3) adding baking soda to the wash; 4) using Clorox 2 added to liquid detergent; 5) using different detergents; 6) using vinegar + baking soda together; 7) using bleach.


None of it helped. I've had the smell issue for a while and haven't had any luck at all. I can't tell you how thrilled I am that the borax worked!

As a side note, our towels get stinky from staying on the bathroom floor wet. We remodeled and don't have anywhere to hang our towels to dry properly yet. The musty smell has not been in/on our clothes, towels only. (11/22/2008)

By L.A. Songster

Musty Smell on Laundered Towels and Wash Cloths

We moved into a new house a few years ago and I was not happy when I found the water smelled of rotten eggs as well. We had an iron filter installed and it solved the problem. We had our filter installed by Ecowater and it has been great ever since. We used another company first and it didn't work so be careful who you use. (12/11/2008)

By Cathy Daich

Musty Smell on Laundered Towels and Wash Cloths

The problems is not your washer, your detergent, fabric softener, etc. It is the towels. So many of the towels now must be made of low quality material that is imported from who knows where. Even the expensive towels aren't immune to this problem. I have noticed that my old towels are fine, the newer ones are the problem. Dish towels and dish clothes are the worst! In addition I've bought several new bathmats and my cat uses them for a litter box because their smell is so bad! FYI - I have the same front loader washer I've had for over 10 years. (03/24/2009)

By Jackie

Musty Smell on Laundered Towels and Wash Cloths

To avoid that musty smell on my towels I put about 1/2 cup of pine cleaner (the cheaper the better; I use the off brand at Target) in each load of towels I wash. This usually keeps the musty smell away and they don't smell like pine after the dryer. It's also great for urine and perspiration smells. Summer is the worst time for this, so wash towels more frequently then. If you do get some really resistant mildew smells, place the wet towels in the sun for several hours. The sun kills the mildew. (08/05/2010)

By katturn

Musty Smell on Laundered Towels and Wash Cloths

I am so happy I finally solved the issue! Whether it was my cheap towels from Target or my expensive towels from Restoration Hardware, it didn't matter, they all smelled gross! I finally solved the problem. In a "sanitize" load (extra hot wash with steam on my washer), I put all the towels, my regular detergent and 1/2 cup of Arm and Hammer Laundry Booster. It worked! The smell is finally gone after two years of trying everything else (bleach, vinegar, etc.). The laundry booster is only about $5 per box, a cheap and effective solution! (01/16/2011)


Musty Smell on Laundered Towels and Wash Cloths

I switched to Tide. Problem solved. I use hot water. (02/19/2011)

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