Fresh, clean laundry is one of my all-time favorite things. Especially fresh-smelling towels.
However, clean towels aren’t always fresh-smelling towels. What, you ask? If towels are clean they should smell clean, right? Actually, no. It’s not always true.
Lately, I’ve noticed that my clean towels don’t smell clean. They have a bad, mildew smell…right out of the dryer.
The culprits? Fabric detergent and fabric softener. Fabric softener leaves a residue on towels that actually reduces their water absorbancy. When you go to wash them, the detergent cannot properly clean them because of the residue of the fabric softener. This build up is what makes towels, even freshly washed ones, smell like mildew.
Also, not properly hanging towels will lead to this problem. If towels are left in a heap on the floor, you’ll have mold and mildew bacteria multiplying. Gross, right?
Before moving to the South I didn’t have this problem as the water wasn’t as hard as it is here. We have lots of minerals in our water, and it builds up in the thicker fabric of towels. Combined with the fragrances of detergents and fabric softeners, that build-up eventually takes a toll on those linens and you end up with foul-smelling, clean towels straight out of the dryer.
How to Get Fresh-Smelling Towels
After working wonders on set-in oil stains, I decided to try baking soda for our towels.
What You’ll Need
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 1 cup white distilled vinegar
- hot water
Note: this is the method I use on my HE washer, so it should be safe for yours as well!
In place of laundry detergent, use baking soda to wash the towels. I usually sprinkle it right in the drum of my front-loader before adding the towels. (Sometimes I use the detergent dispenser, but since I have to remove a piece when using powder detergent, I usually opt to just put it directly in the tub.) If you have a top-loading washer, you can add the baking soda before the washer fills with water.
Start the load using HOT water. The next step sounds strange but it works!
When it comes time for the rinse cycle, use white distilled vinegar instead of fabric softener.
After the rinse cycle finishes, put the freshly washed towels into the dryer. Out come clean and fresh towels without any hints of vinegar.
How this method works
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) dissolves dirt and grease while neutralizing odor. Vinegar breaks up mineral deposits in water and it acts as a fabric softener. This is why you don’t need to add a fabric softener. Fabric softeners make water “slippery” so that those same minerals don’t remain in the fabric.
Your towels will definitely smell clean, but they won’t have the smelly residues that the fragrances of the detergents, fabric softener and hard-water create. This method also works for those towels that have been stored in a linen closet for a long time. I have been using this method for over three years now and it never fails.
Had I not experimented with baking soda and vinegar for a “no-poo” experiment I wouldn’t have believed that vinegar conditions, but it actually does! Just like my hair, the towels don’t come out with any smell of vinegar.
Because I love the smell of Downey fabric softener and my Tide detergent, I only do this every few weeks, or as soon as the towels get that funky smell.
Try it. It works. I promise.
Would you try this all-natural method to cleaning towels?