How to Clean Smelly Towels - The 3 Step Process

by Grace Druecke

How to Clean Smelly Towels - The 3 Step Process

Do you ever worry about having smelly towels? Smelly towels aren't just a nuisance. They're a problem that shouldn't be ignored. That's because the smell coming from stinky towels isn't just a bad odor. It's a symptom of bacteria growing. 

Why do they stink? There's lots of different smells caused by different culprits. Like a mildew smell. That's caused by bacteria (mold) and sour/garlic-y smell is caused by oil build-up.

Essentially, the smell is something lingering on your towel. And you need to remover whatever's clinging to the fibers.

If you have smelly towels, here's how to clean towels in 3 steps. 

1. Clean Your Washer

Especially front loaders. They're known for that mildew smell. And if your washer has a mildew smell, it's likely it's depositing that mildew on anything you wash in it (including your towels). 

A quick way to clean your washer: 

Run a wash cycle with 4 cups of vinegar

Wipe down inside and out

You can also use cleaning packets specific for your washing machine. And of course, follow your washer's recommended process for cleaning.

2. Soak in Dawn

This step is for degreasing. If you're dealing with an oil smell, Dawn is the best de-greaser in town. 

Oil buildup. Oils are everywhere. Body oils, essential oils, bath oils, kitchen oils.  On hand towels this can also be from kitchen oils. So it's likely a smell is from oil buildup.

You can do this in your washer or in the sink or tub, depending on how many towels you're washing. 

Per Dawn's website just add 2 teaspoons to your wash machine and run the wash cycle. You can also use Dawn to pre-treat. Apply Dawn right on the stain and gently rub in before tossing in the wash. 

3. Wash with Washing Soda and Vinegar Rinse

Add 1/2 cup Washing Soda (it's better than Baking Soda, but you can use it in a pinch) and your detergent as normal. 

Add 1/2 vinegar to your rinse cycle


Remove from washer and tumble dry immediately. 

Air dry if weather permits - this makes them feel stiffer but gives them a lovely fresh air smell. 

Why this works:

Washing Soda lifts the debris from the fabric and the vinegar helps wash it away. 

This process will help remove most of the smell from your towels. But it is possible to prevent bacteria from growing on your towels in the first place.  

How to Prevent Stinky Towels

  • Hang after every use
  • Don't let them sit wet in the washer
  • Avoid fabric softeners
  • Wash more frequently
  • Use towels that dry quickly

What Causes Towels to Get Stinky? 

According to The Spruce: 

"Musty towel smell is the same issue that happens with unsanitary mop heads that are not left to dry properly or cleaning sponges that fail to dry out between uses. A warm, moist environment is most conducive to germs. When a towel gets a sour, musty smell, it is a sign that a bacteria colony is breeding and growing."

Towels are supposed to get wet. But they're not meant to stay wet. When they stay wet they harbor bacteria growth. A stinky towel is a sign of a bacteria colony forming on the towel.

So how do you avoid stinky bacteria from growing on your towels in the first place?

If a wet towel is the culprit, the best way is to start with towels that dry quickly. 

A quick drying towel is essential for reducing stinky towel syndrome, because it stops bacteria from growing in the first place.

The Bali Market towels are designed to dry-quickly. That's because they're woven from a special cotton exclusively grown in a tiny region in Turkey. This cotton has really long fibers compared to traditional cotton. That longer fiber is the key factor to making a towel that's lightweight, super absorbent, and quick-drying. 

I really want more people to try these bacteria-reducing towels.

So that's why today you can buy one full-sized bath/beach towel and get one free (up to $44 value). 

I call it the Stink Free Offer and I hope you take advantage. It's available for a very limited time, so don't wait.

You just need the code: STINKFREE to claim this offer. 

Remember that code. You'll need to enter it at checkout.

You can mix + match different styles and colors and you can find them all here: Buy One Get One Free Bali Market Stink-Free Towels

Just add 2 bath/beach towels to your cart and use code: STINKFREE at checkout to get the second towel free.  






Grace Druecke
Grace Druecke

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