How To Get Mildew Smell Out of Towels & Keep Them Smelling Fresh

February 22, 2024

Reviewed by
Suze Dowling

How To Get Mildew Smell Out of Towels & Keep Them Smelling Fresh

We've all experienced that unpleasant mildew smell in our towels at some point. It's off-putting and can be a lingering problem if not addressed properly. 

At Onsen, we understand the importance of keeping your towels smelling fresh and free from mildew odor. As a company dedicated to improving life's basics through smarter design, we're here to help you tackle this issue head-on. We’ll guide you through practical steps to eliminate the mildew smell from your towels and ensure they stay fresh longer.

How To Make Old Towels Smell Fresh Again

Here are our tried-and-true tips for bringing back that luxurious smell we all desire in our towels:

Step 1: Proper Washing Techniques

Start by preparing your towels for a thorough wash. Separate your towels based on colors and avoid overcrowding your washing machine. Use a mild detergent, preferably one that doesn't contain bleach, as we want to preserve the integrity of the towels.

Wash the towels in warm water with an extra rinse cycle to ensure all residues are removed. Add a cup of white vinegar during the rinse cycle to help break down the bacteria and remove any lingering odors.

You can then machine wash them a second time with warm water, using a half-cup of baking soda instead of detergent. Baking soda helps to absorb odor and leaves your towels smelling fresh.

Step 2: Effective Drying Methods

Proper drying is important for preventing mildew smell. After washing, give your towels a good shake to fluff them up. Ensure your dryer is clean and set it to medium or low heat. 

Consider using dryer balls or clean tennis balls to further enhance the drying process. These will help to increase airflow and prevent the towels from clumping together.

Step 3: Avoiding Common Mistakes

Avoiding common mistakes can go a long way in preventing mildew smell in your towels. Being aware of these pitfalls ensures your towels stay fresh and free from unwanted odors.

One common mistake is leaving damp towels in a pile or folded up for an extended period. Moisture trapped in folded towels creates a breeding ground for bacteria and mildew. Instead, aim to spread out your towels or hang them up to dry completely after each use.

Another mistake is using too much detergent or fabric softener. Excessive detergent can leave residues that contribute to odor buildup, while fabric softeners can negatively affect the absorbency of towels. Use just the right amount of detergent, and avoid fabric softeners altogether.

Also, avoid using high heat settings on your dryer. While it may seem tempting to speed up the drying process, excessive heat can damage the fibers of your towels and make them more prone to retaining moisture and odor. Opt for a medium or low heat setting when drying your towels.

Lastly, a common mistake that often goes unnoticed is neglecting to clean the washing machine, which can directly contribute to musty-smelling towels. Over time, detergent residue, fabric softener, and dirt can accumulate in the machine, forming a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. These unseen contaminants can then transfer onto your supposedly clean towels during washing, resulting in that unwanted musty odor. 

To prevent this, aim to regularly clean your washing machine by running a hot water cycle with vinegar or specialized washing machine cleaning products. Maintaining a clean washing machine ensures that your towels come out fresh and free from any lingering smells.

Remember, consistency is key. Make it a habit to follow these steps regularly to maintain the freshness of your towels for a longer period.

Waffle-Knit Towels: Designed to Dry Faster

Say hello to our solution for preventing mildew smell in towels — our waffle-knit towels. They are carefully crafted using 100 percent Supima cotton, known for its exceptional strength and durability. 

Unlike traditional towels, our waffle-knit design enhances absorbency and airflow, allowing them to dry much faster. Our towels are designed to dry three times faster than normal towels, drastically reducing the chances of mildew development.

Plus, the superior softness of our waffle-knit towels adds a touch of luxury to your everyday essentials. We believe that functionality should never come at the expense of comfort or style, and that's why our towels are designed to be highly functional and incredibly soft.

Whether wrapping yourself in one of our full-size bath towels or using our Turkish towels, you can rest assured knowing that Onsen towels bring the perfect blend of functionality and comfort to your self-care routine. Indulge in the luxury of soft and quick-drying towels that elevate your daily moments of relaxation.

What Are Some Care and Maintenance Tips for Waffle Towels?

We’re passionate about providing you with quality products, and we also believe in empowering you with the knowledge and tools needed to care for your towels properly. 

Here are some care and maintenance tips from our experts to ensure the longevity and freshness of your waffle-knit towels:

  • Wash With Similar Colors: To prevent color bleeding, it's important to wash your towels with similar colors. This will help maintain their vibrant appearance and prevent any unexpected color transfers.
  • Avoid Harsh Chemicals: While some stain removers or bleaching agents may be tempting to use, we recommend avoiding them to preserve the softness and integrity of your towels. Opt for mild detergents that are gentle on the fibers.
  • Dry Thoroughly: As mentioned earlier, proper drying is key to preventing mildew smell. Ensure your towels are fully dry before storing them away, avoiding any residual moisture that may lead to odor development.
  • Store in a Well-Ventilated Area: When storing your towels, choose a well-ventilated area that allows air circulation. Avoid closed spaces or damp environments as they can promote bacteria and mildew growth.
  • Refresh With Essential Oils: For an extra touch of freshness, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to a damp washcloth and toss it in the dryer with your towels. This will infuse a pleasant fragrance without relying on artificial sprays.

Why Do My Towels Smell?

Now that you know how to combat the sour smell, it's essential to understand why towels develop that unpleasant odor in the first place. Towels often become smelly due to two main culprits — bacteria and moisture.

Towels are designed to absorb moisture, making them a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which thrive in damp environments. This bacteria growth can lead to the mildew smell we all dread. Leaving damp towels in a closed space or folded up can create the ideal environment for these unwanted odors to develop.

Additionally, fabric softeners, oils, and body products can build up on the towels over time, trapping moisture and creating a smelly situation.

The Takeaway

Following the techniques mentioned, you can bid farewell to the mildew smell and welcome fresh, clean towels into your life.

So, next time you encounter that unpleasant odor coming from your towels, remember these steps to make them smell fresh again. Don't let the mildew win — take control and enjoy wrapping yourself in a fresh, clean towel every time!

Check out our collection of waffle towels to bring luxury directly to your home.


How to Clean a Washing Machine | HGTV

Your Towels Are Way Dirtier Than You Think | Time

Why Fabric Softener Is Bad for Your Laundry–And What to Use Instead | Consumer Reports

7 Ways You’re Ruining Your Towels | HuffPost

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