We have cotton towels that have developed a terrrible mildew smell,
regardless of how clean they are. This is frustrating, because you
come clean out of the shower and walk away dry and smelling like
mildew. I suspect that if all our laundry was that thick, it might
have the smell as well. I suspect that it is related to our water
softener, which I am sure is having problems. We do not have well
water. The water softener makes a horrendous noise when it is done
doing whatever the heck it does, it sounds like it is knocking or
shuddering to a stop. After it runs, the water flow from all faucets
sputters and hisses until all the excess air is out of the lines for a
minute or so. My wife thinks that the washing machine water, (which
pours its excess water into a verticle pipe that is connected to the
waste pipe and usually overflows ) is the problem, that perhaps it is
backing up into the laundry. I disagree, because the laundry doesn't
smell like that. I really don't care who's right, I just want to get
rid of the smell. I know a lot of this could be solved by a plumber,
but we can't afford that right now. HELP!
Yep. Nan's right.
Unless they smell that way before you dry them.
If that's the case, run out and buy some cheap smelly toss in the dryer
fabric softeners to cover up the smell. Then start saving up to pay a
To rid these particular towels of the smell, you might try laying or hanging
them out in the full sun for a few hours after the next wash. You wouldn't
have to do this every time, just a time or two to get the smell out.
And then to prevent the reoccurrence of the smell, consider the following:
You might be putting too large a load in the dryer at one time. (Also make
sure your washer load is not too crowded so that they can get really clean.)
It is really possible that the towels were taken out of the dryer before
they were completely dry---or you might have left the finished load in the
dryer for a while without realizing that although most of the items were
dry, the towels weren't. Ditto if you unloaded the dryer into a laundry
basket not realizing that the towels really weren't quite dry.
And also---if you dry towels in a low temperature, this might keep the
current mildew smell from being removed and even make the current smell
worse. Better to routinely dry towels in a separate load at a higher
temperature, not in a mixed load with lighter weight clothes.
I found some links that deal with this more in depth and with other ideas
using bleach, vinegar, etc.:
I found these links by Googling the following phrase: removing mildew
from towels I'm sure there are plenty more websites that deal with this.
Good luck-----you can fix this!
Misery likes company. We have the same problem. All of the replies you
received nothwithstanding, we cannot get rid of the odor either. We have
done the high heat to no avail; I know the towels are dry .. not damp ..
when folded. We've done the sun bit. It is less noticeable on "newer"
towels, so we have been getting rid of the older ones.
But today, over a relatives house, I noticed the odor on some wash towels
and mentioned it. And she is on public water without softener system while
I am on a well with a softener.
it's a common problem & it happens due to towels being unable to dry out
_properly_ after being used so often (as towels are). it doesn't have
anything to do with being washed or not. if a towel is constantly dampish &
doesn't get sun on it, it will smell, & that's all there is to it, really.
(so will any other kind of fabric).
at our last house (shady bathroom) we had the problem all the time - i used
to hang them in the sun between washings, just to make sure they dried out.
now we have a sunny bathroom & the problem just doesn't exist any more, no
effort on my part.
tea towels can have the same problem. things which get wet all the time need
to hang in the sun. (that's what clotheslines are for.) trying to cover the
smell is never going to work; it's a bacterial &/or fungal problem due to
Except in areas where clotheslines aren't practical or permitted,
you're right about constant dampness. I don't have the issue during
the winter when the forced-air heat dries the bathroom quickly. In
the summer I keep an oscillating fan in the bathroom and it helps
quite a bit.
This has nothing to do with water, and everything to do with the warm, damp
conditions in which mildew thrives. Once the smell is in clothes or towels,
the fastest way to kill it is to use bleach. Not a problem with white
towels and laundry, but more problematic with colors. Do your best to keep
it from developing to begin with by drying completely and quickly, but if it
does develop, do the following and you will no longer have the smell.
Fill your washer with cold water, detergent and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of bleach and
let it agitate to mix before adding the towels/clothes. (Use the smaller
amount first to see if it will do the trick for you). I have had lightening
in some really dark (red) towels, but for the most part, even blue jeans can
be treated this way if need be.
Guarantee it works!
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