Getting Rid of Mildew Odor in Towels

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Dear Home Ec 101,

I’m not always great about making sure my towels get dried the same day they are washed. This leads to them smelling like mildew. Will the smell go away? Can I do anything to make it go away? Or did I just ruin all my towels?

Mildewed in Minneapolis

Heather says:

*READER WARNING* I don’t think I’ve stopped sneezing because of my allergies since my eyes popped open this morning. I have a kleenex shoved up my nose (hawt! I know) so I can type without getting anything disgusting on the keyboard, and having to write a post on that is not on my list of things I want to do. . . ever. All that is to say I’m in a fairly REALLY foul mood and if I accidentally over-snark, I’m sorry.

Your mildewed towels are not ruined. In fact, towels with mildew odor are a frequent topic here on, so don’t feel too alone in your habit of not drying the towels.

First of all, preventing mildew in towels by drying them promptly and thoroughly is the best tactic; but seeing as how it’s too late for that, we’ll work on remedying the mildew situation.

Check out this post on stripping detergent and fabric softener from your towels. You see, mildew can get trapped by the sticky residue left behind by using too much detergent, or ANY fabric softener. (You do know that using fabric softener on towels reduces their absorbency, right). If you consistently have a problem with detergent build up, go ahead and read this post on whether or not to wash clothes in cold water.

The Home-Ec101 Guide to Household Chemicals and Cleaners
Need to get the lowdown on using oxygen bleach and other household chemicals? We’ve got it.

If there are mildew stains, use oxygen bleach or sunlight to get rid of the mildew spots.  Just be aware that strong sunlight and the overuse of oxygen bleach (or lemon juice or vinegar) can all weaken the cotton fibers in your towels. They can also fade the dye, if your towels are dark colored. Remember weak fibers = more lint; and who needs lint in their laundry? No one, that’s who! Have a problem with lint? Read How to Reduce Lint in the Laundry Room.

Finally, if you consistently leave your laundry in the washer, and you have a front loader; then you may need to read how to get rid of mildew in a front loading washer.

These tips should help you both prevent and solve your mildewed towel problems.

Good luck!

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7 thoughts on “Getting Rid of Mildew Odor in Towels”

  1. Ha, the next time family members make fun of me for the tissue-up-the-nose thing, I’ll tell them I know an internet-famous author who does the same thing! That made my day and I hope you feel better really soon.

  2. My husband and old roommate tease me about using the tissue in the nose.  I think it’s a great solution, personally!

    • hislovendures sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, hawt or not. 😉 Reality isn’t always sexy, I’d love to hear Cosmo’s take on that 

  3. Sorry about the allergies–thanks to last year’s drought and a light winter, they are horrible this year.  I’ve had to take three different antihistamines to hit everything that is bugging me!As for towels, if i catch them when they’re still wet, i just dump in some apple cider vinegar.  i think most of the experts recommend 1/4cup, but i don’t just eyeball it.  This works on sheets the baby peed on too…..

  4. I’ve been doing the tissue in the nose thing a lot this year.  Since I was just diagnosed with high blood pressure, I’m not allowed to tae anything with a decongestant in it because it could make my bp too high.  That OTC junk just doesn’t cut it.

    • bookchick isn’t that how it always goes? I’ll complain about something not working, then it’ll be just fine and I’ll feel silly.


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