Add some Borax to your wash and your towels should start smelling fresh once more.
If the towels are bleachable, that will get rid of the smell, I think. Vinegar is a good alternative if you have dark colors. Ammonia works, but will bleach out dark colors just as bleach will. Baking soda should be less destructive to the color than ammonia because it is not as strong. Don't use any of these products together. Some may make dangerous combinations, and vinegar and baking soda or ammonia cancel each other out and will do nothing if used together.
I have found that the towels smell if they do not dry out enough hanging on the rack, if they are not washed often enough, if you do not use hot water to wash them.
Another thing to try is just to wash them in hot water and hang outside in the sun. If they are not too smelly, this might just do the trick.
I tried borax; I did 3 complete cycles and then tried a load of towels and the odor was not there any more.
An appliance repairman told me that the mold problem with the front loading machines is caused by too much detergent being used and not using the high efficiency detergent. He says the machines are great but you have to follow the manufacturer's instructions.
First, the "mildewy" smell on the towels and t-shits is from human bacteria that detergent just doesn't kill or remove. Detergent and bleach only bring a temporary (if any) solution. You might even notice that the towels smell okay when they come out of the dryer, but when they get wet again...ugghh.
But here's how to get rid of the smell and get your clean-smelling towels and t-shirts back again:
- Add a cup and a half to two cups of white distilled vinegar into your wash along with the detergent. Then run an extra rinse cycle to remove any lingering vinegar.
Studies have confirmed that regular 5% acidity white vinegar (the kind you can buy in the supermarket by the gallon) kills 99 percent of bacteria, 82 percent of mold, and 80 percent of germs (viruses).
Give it a try. I guarantee you'll be amazed at how fresh-smelling your towels will be.
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