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Mar 9, 2009

Remove Mildew Smell from Towels

The smell of wet beach towels or used bath towels can be sickening. Often, the smell is caused by mildew that is tough to get rid of. Your best bet is to keep towels from becoming moldy in the first place, but if you cannot avoid it, there are easy fixes. Here are some ways to remove that mildew smell and get back to having fun.

Put your towels in the washing machine, using the hottest water available. Add one or two cups of white vinegar. Do not add detergent, fabric softener, or any other products at this time. Run the washer.
Leave the towels in the washer and wash the same load again just as you would normally with laundry soap. Again, use the hottest water available. Don't use fabric softener or any other products.
Dry the load in the dryer using a high heat setting. Towels should be thoroughly dry when you pull them out. If they're not dry, put them back in, or move them immediately outside and hang them in the sunlight.

The Ammonia Method

Put your towels in the washing machine.
Add a normal amount of detergent.
Use the hottest water available. Do not add fabric softener or any other products.
Watch for the rinse cycle and add one cup of sudsy or clear ammonia during the rinse cycle.
Let the washing machine finish.
Move the towels out of the washer immediately. Fully dry the load right away using normal dryer settings, or hanging on the line on a sunny day.

Repeat and Soak if necessary

Smell the towels when you have completed one of the above methods. If the towels are not completely free of musty smell after the first attempt, try soaking overnight.
Fill the washer with the smallest amount of hot water necessary to cover the towels.
Add one cup of ammonia. Agitate for a few minutes and allow to soak overnight.
Add detergent in the morning, and let the wash cycle complete.

An empty towel rack makes for moldy towels
An empty towel rack makes for moldy towels
Avoid getting towels moldy in the first place by hanging your towels to dry right after you have used them. This is especially important with bath towels. Use that towel rack in your bathroom! It is there for a reason.
Alternatively, wash your towels immediately after use. It is especially good to throw your kitchen towels in the wash on a daily basis. Not only does this prevent mildew from getting started, but also helps to keep germs down, so that family members will stay healthy. Frequent washing and drying of kitchen towels will prevent mold and mildew from forming in the damp towel.
If you have a window in the bathroom--leave the blinds or curtains open during the day to get the sunlight in the room. This will keep the towels from getting mildewy while hanging.
Use a laundry detergent with an antimicrobial/bleach additive. This helps fight the mildew smell and can help prevent mildew from forming.
Once they are done in the wash cycle, remove your towels from the machine immediately so that any microorganisms continuing to cling to the fibers of the towels will not fester in the humid and airtight environment of your closed washer, which is a perfect place for molds to grow.

If you live in a place with sunshine and clotheslines, dry your towels in the sunshine. Guaranteed mildew killer.
Before you try any of these, check your washer to see if any of the odor is in the washer itself. If so, run the washer with hot water and 2 cups of bleach (no laundry). This will clean out any smells already in the water that collects at the bottom of the washer in between cycles.
Just washing your towels twice, normal settings, will most likely get rid of even the nastiest odors.
For kitchen towels, a good trick to kill all germs is to rinse briefly, and then put the towel 30 seconds in the microwave.

Do not use bleach and ammonia in the same load, as these combine to form chlorine gas which is poisonous and can be fatal.
When using the ammonia method, do not leave the load in the washing machine long after the cycle is finished. Move to the dryer immediately.