How To Get The Mildew Smell Out Of Towels

One of the worst feelings is getting out of the shower and finding out that you have just wrapped your squeaky clean body in a stinky towel.

This musty towel is an unfortunate experience but also a common enough occurrence.

While towels should only be touching clean surfaces, the accumulation of moisture from the bathroom and from drying off your skin will create an environment just asking for a mildew smell. 

So how do you get that mildew smell out of your towels?

We’ve done some research and will show you how.

Follow the steps below to get the mildew smell out of your towels!

What You’ll Need To Get Mildew Smell Out Of Towels

Step By Step Instructions For How To Get The Mildew Smell Out Of Towels

This issue is so prevalent, do not let it get you down or make you feel like your home is not clean.

In this section, we will give detailed instructions on how to get mildew smell out of towels.

1. Wash Towels With White Vinegar

Put your stinky towels in the washing machine and run them in a normal cycle.

Use warm or hot water for this cycle in addition to your laundry detergent.

Once your washing machine hits the rinse cycle, add one cup of white vinegar.

Let the washing machine finish the load.

If you’re looking for a great cleaning vinegar, try Calyptus 45% Pure Super Concentrated Vinegar.

It’s 9x stronger than regular distilled white vinegar and can be diluted to make up to 9 gallons.

2. Wash Towels With Baking Soda

Keep the towels in the washing machine and run them through on the same cycle with the same temperature.

Rather than adding laundry detergent, add 1/2 cup of baking soda.

Let the washing machine run the entire load without interruption. 

3. Immediately Dry Towels In Dryer 

If you prefer a quicker route, immediately take your towels out of the washing machine and place them in the dryer.

It is essential to do this quickly so that your towels are not sitting damp and forgotten in the washing machine; that will cause them to smell, probably even worse, and reverse all the work you’ve done so far. 

Run the dryer with the towels, but be sure to add in either a tennis ball or a wool dryer ball.

These will help your towels become softer in addition!

The best option is to use a wool dryer ball such as SnugPad Wool Dryer Balls XL Size 6 Pack.

These are 100% organic with no fillers and get excellent reviews on Amazon.

If your towels are not dry after the first round in the dryer, you can run them through again or finish the drying process through line drying outside with some fresh air. 

4. Line Dry Your Towels

If you prefer to line dry your towels, go for it!

Some say they smell better that way!

On an outside clothesline or outside on a drying rack, toss your newly laundered towels on the line.

Be sure that you are giving enough space between the towels so that they do not bunch up. 

Drying fabrics in the sun can also have sanitizing effects through the UV rays killing germs and bacteria.

However, do not keep the towels out for too long in direct sunlight so that you can avoid fading the colors. 

5. Tips For Mildew Prevention

Prevention is going to be vital in keeping your towels smelling good.

First, you will always want to have your towels hanging to dry.

Do not allow for your towels to stay wet, as that is just inviting bacteria. 

While hanging, you will want them not to be bunched up as that will take them longer to dry.

Consider trading in a towel hook for a towel rod to speed up the drying time. 

Last, begin washing your towels more frequently.

Especially if you live in a humid climate, you will have a more challenging time keeping that musty smell out of your towels. 

This proves true inside your vehicle as well.

If you’ve ever experienced a mildewy smell inside your car, check out our article dedicated to teaching you how to get the mildew smell out of your car.

Video Instructions

If you are still not 100% sure on how to get the mildew smell out of towels, follow this video tutorial to lend you some clarity:

Commonly Asked Questions

Why Do My Towels Smell Bad After Washing Them? 

Towels are incredibly at risk of attracting bacteria and can serve as its breeding ground – gross, I know.

It is essential to keep the towels dry; even if you just washed them and used the towel once, it may get a mildew smell.

You need to make sure that you have a towel rack that allows the towel to spread out and not bunch up to dry more quickly. 

Sometimes even right after you dry your towels, you may notice your towels smell stinky.

This is likely due to not moving the wet towels to the dryer quickly enough.

Maybe you forgot them overnight or even allowing them to sit in the dryer rather than running them through the dryer a second time until they are fully dry. 

How Does White Vinegar Help Clean My Towels?

White vinegar, while it has a very pungent smell while wet when it dries, helps to deodorize the surface on which it dries.

Dried white vinegar does not have an odor.

Vinegar even acts as a natural fabric softener.

In addition, vinegar can help to counteract and prevent mildew. 

If I Line Dry My Towels Won’t They Not Be As Soft

Sometimes, yes, line drying does decrease the softness of the fabric.

There are several things you can do to counteract that.

The fact that you are already using the white vinegar serves as a natural fabric softener and will help make your towels softer. 

In addition, you can choose to mostly line dry your towels and then run them through the dryer after they are dry with a tennis ball or wool dryer ball.

This will give you the benefits of the sun and the dryer ball to get fresh smelling and fresh feeling towels.


Have you enjoyed learning how to get the mildew smell out of towels?

Unfortunately, mildew smells, and stinky towels are very common in most households.

It is super easy to fix this issue by using items you likely already have on hand in your kitchen or laundry room.

Following these steps above will help you to get the mildew smell out of your towels and allow you to experience that fresh towel after your next shower.