How to deodorize smelly towels

© Quinn Dombrowski

It’s hot as the beejeesus here with high humidity, which means that our garden apartment is prone to getting moist. For those living outside of NYC, a garden apartment is at least partially below ground. What is nice about that is that we stay somewhat cooler, but the tradeoff is the possibility of mildew. We are able to prevent that by running either the air conditioner or dehumidifier.

The room that is the hardest to keep dry is our bathroom. Our bathroom doesn’t have a window, so there’s really no place for the steam to go. And that, combined with the summer humidity, leads to stinky towels.

What was all the more disturbing, was that the smell never seemed to go away completely. I washed the towels and let them dry outside in the sun, which I thought would be enough to kill any yucky things causing the odor. However, as soon as the towel met with a person fresh out of the shower, the moisture seemed to awaken the smell. And lest you think I don’t do laundry often, this smell would be activated on the first use of the towel!

I decided to turn to my friend, the internet, to figure out what I could do. I waded through many, many pages that suggested bleach or other things I generally try to avoid. I finally found some sites recommending doing a wash with vinegar and hot water. That was more up my crunchy, green alley, so I decided to give that a try.

I added about 1 1/2 cups of vinegar (they suggested white vinegar, but I only had cider vinegar) to the wash. I have a puny apartment-sized washer, so you could add 2 cups if you have a larger one. I ran the wash on hot and didn’t add any detergent. It was suggested that I run the wash through a second time with detergent to get rid of the vinegar smell, but since I didn’t notice a vinegar smell and I like to try and conserve resources, I decided to stop at one wash. I hung them outside to dry, which also helps makes them smell wonderful.

How did the experiment turn out? There has been no trace of any bad smell on the towels, and we’ve been able to use them longer than before and have them still smell fresh. Yea!

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2 thoughts on “How to deodorize smelly towels

  1. Musty towels are an unpleasant childhood scent memory. As an adult, I now have a special horror of this smell.

    I love that you’ve found a green solution to this problem.

  2. This tip was a life-saver, just last week! Thank you!

    We bought some new tablecloths, but they were icky and musty. A quick rinse in a vinegar and water bath, and an hour out on the clothesline, and they were no longer stinky.

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