How To Salvage a Musty-Smelling Towel and Make It Like New

Readers, a quick post this week:

Have you ever detected a musty or mildew smell in your bath towels? Even after you've recently washed them?

And when you discover that regular laundering won't get rid of the mildew smell, do you usually downgrade these towels to carwashing duty--or just throw 'em away?

Don't spend extra money replacing these towels any more. Instead, read this post. In fewer than 300 words, you'll learn a technique to restore them back to their original, clean, new-towel state. I call this technique "bleach and torch."

Here's how bleach and torch works:

1) First, wash your old musty towel(s) in your washing machine in hot water with both bleach and detergent (feel free to wash your other bleachable whites along with your towels in the same load). I use a relatively generous amount of bleach: about 1 cup of bleach to a medium-size load, or 1 1/2 cups bleach to a large/extra-large size load.

2) Next, dry the towel in your dryer on its hottest setting. Dry it until it's completely dry. Give it a serious torching in there.

3) Use the towel a few times. If you can still detect any mildew smell at all, repeat steps 1) and 2) again.

That's it! It's not rocket science. Basically the "bleach and torch" method murders all the mildew. You can go back to using your towel just like always.

A few follow-up details:

1) Yes, your towels may fade a little. But so what? You were going to throw them away anyway, right?

2) A reminder for those readers who may lack experience using bleach. Never pour bleach directly onto clothes or towels. It will ruin the clothes. Instead, follow this procedure:

a) If you have a top-loading washer: let the washer mostly fill up with water, then add bleach and detergent, then add your clothes. (PS: Be careful not to splash the bleachy/detergenty water onto the clothes you're wearing either!)

b) If you have a front-loading washer: just add the bleach into the bleach dispenser according to your washing machine's specifications.

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Cara said...

I started using soap nuts instead of detergent on my towels and haven't have musty odor problems since. I think a lot of the problem is that the detergent builds up. It might also work to just wash them in very hot water with no detergent several times to get the excess out.

Aleah said...

I personally do not use bleach. Ever. I have a (most likely unfounded) distrust of bleach that I've never found a good enough reason to overcome. I have found vinegar-and-torch gets the musty smell out of my towels or anything that has been left sitting in the washer too long, and as an added bonus I don't have to worry about lost color. It does not leave a vinegar smell, though an extra rinse cycle couldn't hurt if you were concerned!

Sally said...

I always use bleach on towels and bed linens. They're all white, so I don't need to worry about fading.

Anonymous said...

OK, this is what has worked for me and it wasn't bleach. It was borax. I let the towels soak in hot water with borax for a couple of hours and then dried. Not a trace of odor left.

Little Les said...

use vinegar rather than bleach. works just as well and doesn't fade or damage the fabric like bleach does.