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Mildew Smell on Towels

Category Odors
Damp towels can begin to grow mold and mildew resulting in a musty odor, even after washing. There are several products you can use in the wash to help eliminate the smell. This is a page about mildew smell on towels.


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By 0 found this helpful
November 9, 2007

How do you remove the mildew smell from towels. They smell OK until they get used again after a shower. The towels are cotton.

Jayne from Minneapolis, MN


By Sally Pifer (Guest Post)
November 12, 20070 found this helpful
Best Answer

Add some Borax to your wash and your towels should start smelling fresh once more.

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November 12, 20070 found this helpful
Best Answer

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.

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By zinagail (Guest Post)
December 2, 20070 found this helpful
Best Answer

I tried borax; I did 3 complete cycles and then tried a load of towels and the odor was not there any more.

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By Kris (Guest Post)
February 16, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

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.

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June 9, 20090 found this helpful
Best Answer

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

November 9, 20070 found this helpful

How can you get the mildew smell out of towels? I wash them and sometimes they still have a mildew smell. And same with my husbands T-Shirts I wash them and the armpits still have a sweat odor to them!

Mandi from Erie


Mildew Smell on Towels

I do not use chemicals because I am the all-natural kind of person. I use an essential oil blend called Thieves ( that smells wonderful and kills toxic mold, bacteria and viruses. 1-2 drops in the washer is all that's needed. The towels come out smelling fresh and clean. It will eliminate the mold in the dryer too. (02/25/2007)

By Maria

Mildew Smell on Towels

Maria can you use any essential oil because I went to that website and that stuff is so expensive? Let me know! (02/25/2007)

By Mandi Curtis

Mildew Smell on Towels

Try putting white vinegar in the rinse cycle. I have a lot of sulfur in my water and the vinegar completely removes any rotten egg smell. (02/26/2007)

By susan

Mildew Smell on Towels

One Word: AMMONIA! Works great for everything in the wash that can't be bleached. Colored towels, funky husband clothes, etc. It's all I use for both. Hope that helps! (02/26/2007)


By Michele

Mildew Smell on Towels

For greatest results and greatest price, use white vinegar. I buy it by the gallon and keep with laundry supplies. Any time there is odor to your laundry, add some vinegar with your laundry soap. It will also soften the water, so use a little less soap. Vinegar disinfects and deodorizes. Start out using about a cup per load of laundry. (02/27/2007)

By Ellen

Mildew Smell on Towels

We've had the problem with smelly towels ( a sour mildew odor) and has taken me some time to trace it"s origin but I believe I have. My wife started using fabric softener about a year ago and about 6 Mo. ago this problem started. We have an Asko front loader and to resolve the problem I removed and cleaned the detergent tray with Clorox Clean-up, installed the tray and poured a cup of Clorox into the detergent compartment and ran a quick hot cycle. I next loaded 3 towels that we use the most,and smelled the worst, and ran on rinse cycle (no detergent). I was amazed at the amount of soap that was released from those 3 towels - the suds completely filled the machine. This is an 18 min. rinse cycle which I ran again with the same results. the suds finally diminished after 4 rinse cycles but took seven to take out most of the suds. The towels smell great for the first time in months. Apparently the fabric softener is somehow encapsulating the soap, not allowing it to be removed and because the softener kills the suds, it appears it is removing the soap but it may be that just the opposite is happening.


Anyway, no more fabric softener in our wash!

Let us know if the fabric softener scenario could be your problem as well. In other words, if you have smelly towels do you use fabric softener or not. (07/06/2007)

By Lonnie Knowles

Mildew Smell on Towels

Okay I have tackled this problem and found the cure the following is a lot of work and will take time to do your laundry but well worth it
U will need the following products

*Oxi Clean® Versatile Stain Remover

*Bounce Dryer Sheets

1) Run your washer on prewash with 1 scoop of oxi clean

2) Run normal modem with 1 scoop of oxi clean

3) Put the smelly clothes/towels into the washer on prewash with 1 scoop of oxi clean

4) Run normal load with clothes and 1 scoop of oxi clean

5) Put them into the dryer with Bounce dryer sheets (

6) Take out and fold.

And there u go no more smelly clothes
Note: it will take 1hr to 2hrs a load
But it works I did it last night
And even made someone shower to test out the towels

By Brian

Mildew Smell on Towels

Please check out the 'washing machine smell" posting on this site! The problem IS caused by mold & fungus growing on the outside of the drum, and in other places we cannot get to (see details on listing above). I'm going to try a product called Purewash - that is supposed to remove the mold. I have tried at least a dozen empty loads with bleach over 2 years and it never helped a bit. I've also tried vinegar, borax, and Cascade, all with no help in the terrible smell. (08/29/2007)

By erika

Mildew Smell on Towels

Erika - Thanks so much for the advice on how to get rid of mildew odor from towels with Purewasher! It not only got our towels and washer smelling like new but I really think mine and my kids' allergies and asthma are gone! A green fungus came out when I cleaned it! It saved us from buying a new washer too! (09/30/2007)

By Siobhan

Mildew Smell on Towels

From reading these responses it looks like people agree on Bleach, Vinegar, and Oxyclean are the three main things to try. I'm trying Vinegar first, then I'll move on to Oxyclean and then finally Bleach if the other two don't work.

Dave (10/05/2007)

By Homestar

Mildew Smell on Towels

All of these solutions have worked to get towels clean smelling, but how is it the very next time they are used, the smell is there again? Makes the whole bathroom unpleasant! Time to toss them? (10/30/2007)

By kate

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February 24, 20070 found this helpful

How do I remove mildew smell from towels?

Diane from Encino



The number one best way to get rid of the smell is to pour a cup of ammonia in with your wash right at the beginning when the water is running. I just pour it in with the water. I have had the same problem with my towels, and this has cured it - thank goodness!!! (10/29/2006)

By Ann

Line Dry

Wash and put extra liquid downey in the wash. Then dry outside on a line. Re-wash one more time if needed. It will take the smell out. (10/30/2006)

By Penny Stoehr


I always add borax in with my detergent with towels and it works great! (10/30/2006)

By Mary


I had an appliance repairman out that explained that musty towel odor is caused by a fungus inside your washer that is caused by detergents. He took it apart and it was disgusting! He cleaned it with a product called "purewash". They buy it off the internet. I don't remember the site but it got my washer AND my towels smelling fresh again! (11/11/2006)

By emmy

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October 29, 20060 found this helpful
Click to read more ideas from older posts on ThriftyFun.
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October 19, 20060 found this helpful
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