How to get rid of moldy smells in towels


1. Separate towels into their own loads of lights and darks

First, pull out the towels from other clothing and linens. Then separate white and light colored towels from dark colored ones into separate piles. Any towel darker than pale yellow should be in the dark pile. Towels being highly absorbent, white and light ones could pick up the dye from darker ones and become discolored over time. Dark towels, having transferred their dye to the white and light towels, may fade.



How to Dry microfiber towels

Once you’ve got clean towels, whether by machine washing or hand washing, it’s time to dry. To keep microfiber towels absorbent, air drying on a flat surface or line drying are the preferred methods. 

If you’d rather use the dryer, be sure to do the following:

  • Dry microfiber towels separately from other items.
  • Don’t add dryer sheets or dryer balls. 
  • Clean the lint trap thoroughly before drying to avoid any lint transfer.
  • Use only low heat or an air-dry setting.

Causes of Mold In Washing Machines

Before we get into how to clean mold from your washing machine, it’s important to know how it got there in the first place. That can help you prevent it in the future! Here are five reasons why you might have a moldy machine:

  • Moisture in the machine: If you don’t let the machine air dry between cycles, moisture remains in the machine, detergent drawer, and rubber seal. Mold loves to grow in dark, damp places.
  • Washing moldy clothes: If your clothes are moldy, which can happen if they sit in the hamper with wet towels for a while, then the mold can easily get into your washing machine. You will need to use a specialized laundry detergent for removing mold spores and deep clean your machine after washing a moldy load.
  • Wet clothes sitting: Hanging clean laundry up to dry is a chore we all hate. But if you leave a wet load of laundry in the machine for a while, it can quickly lead to mold.
  • Irregular cleaning: You should clean your laundry machine monthly to reduce mold and dirt build-up.
  • Wrong detergent: Make sure to use the right detergent for your machine. For instance, if you have an HE machine, make sure you’re using HE detergent. If you use the wrong detergent, you can create too many suds, leading to a lot of residue in your machine. This can cling to moisture longer and, yep, you guessed it, lead to mold.

Why Do You Suggest Dryer Balls and Not Fabric Softener?

Read my post about mold in washing machines. In short, mold LOVES fabric softener build up which all washing machines inevitably get. Fabric softener coats your clothes and comes off in the wash. Don’t believe me? Look it up. I assure you this is a thing that happens.

How to Get Rid of Damp Smell From Towels

The obvious first solution would be to not let towels stay wet after they are used. Drying them properly immediately after use can help to avoid some of these odors. This can be done either by hanging them up to dry in a place with plenty of ventilation, such as outdoors on a clothes line or by washing and drying them properly with the next load of laundry.

As mentioned before, hanging towels up to dry can still pose a problem if you are hanging them back up in the bathroom where there is not enough ventilation. The condensation from the shower running, combined with the fan being turned off and windows closed, can make for a warm and humid environment — perfect for those towels to start smelling of mildew within hours. Also, in homes where there are little ones or those of us who are a little forgetful, we may intend to start the good habit of hanging our towels up right away, but may quickly fall back to the bad habit of leaving it on the bathroom floor or on the floors of our room.

Just like leaving towels wet too long after a shower can pose problems, so can leaving them in the washing machine too long after a wash cycle. In fact, that could be an even worse situation — the enclosed washing machine makes it even warmer, like an incubator for mold to start growing. It is important to put laundry loads in the dryer as soon as possible once the wash cycle ends. That way, there is no time for unwanted mildew to make its way onto towels and linens.

How to Use Fabric Softener with Towels

Use fabric softener according to directions, but add it only every three or four washes. Waxy buildup from softeners can deteriorate the towel fibers over time and reduce their absorbency. No one wants a towel that's not fluffy, so be careful when using fabric softener with towels.

Can bath towels go bad?

After a year or two, the fabric threads of your towels will start to break down. When the fibers are gone, it’s time to purchase new wholesale towels. Once the fibers are stripped, you may continue to use your towels without harm, but they won’t be as soft or absorbent.

6. Set the water temperature to hot (for whites) or warm (for like colors)

Set the water temperature according to the color category of towels as follows:

  • For white/light colors, set the water temperature to hot. This temperature helps brighten white or light towels.
  • For dark colors, set the water temperature to warm. This temperature helps eliminate bacteria yet preserve color.

Washing Towels with Vinegar

To prevent colors from bleeding, wash colored towels with similar shades in warm water for the first several washes. Use about half the recommended amount of detergent while washing towels and add 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar to the water during the rinse cycle. The vinegar helps set the colors and removes excess detergent residue.

Related: How to Clean Almost Every Surface of Your Home With Vinegar

laundry room white open shelves with folded towels and products Credit: Brittany Ambridge

Method 2: Soak towels in hot water and washing powder

1. Use 2/3 of the Oxiclean solution cap

Oxiclean is a popular detergent used to remove stains on clothing. When used, it will produce Hydrogen Peroxide or Oxygen because OxiClean is the main ingredient of Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide. Mix 1 cap of OxiClean in clean water at the ratio of 1: 1. If washing with vinegar and baking soda does not work, you can try soaking towels in hot water with Oxiclean. To begin, pour 2/3 of the Oxiclean solution into a large wash basin.

  1. Gloves should be worn to protect your hands from detergent solution.

2. Add hot water to the washing basin

Add hot water to the washing basin. If the tap water is not hot enough, you can boil water and pour it into the washing basin. Gently shake the wash basin back and forth to dissolve Oxiclean into the water when pouring hot water into the basin. Be careful not to let water stand out from the basin.

3. Put the towel in the basin

After filling half a pot of hot water, put a towel in the basin. Make sure you soak the whole towel in water. After that, soak the towel in the pot for 48 hours.

4. Wash towels in the washing machine

After completing the soaking of the towel, remove the towel from the basin and dry it. Put the towel in the washing machine and turn on the hottest water mode, add detergent and fabric softener.Also, you can add Oxiclean to the washing machine.

5. Dry the towel

Transfer towels to the dryer immediately after washing. Choose a high temperature to dry until the towel is completely dry. Your towel will smell like new after applying this method.

  1. If the odor does not disappear, you may need to change to a new towel.

How Can You Prevent Towels From Getting Moldy?

After bathing, hang your wet towel to dry outside or wash it immediately. Yep – it is as simple as that. There is no other magic trick when it comes to preventing towels from getting mildew or mold.

There are a LOT of ways to prevent bathroom mold however. You will want to check those out. Also, be sure to learn how to get rid of mold in the toilet as well as mold in the shower.


Tossing microfiber cloths in the washer is a great option that doesn’t require much deviation from your normal laundry routine. Follow these steps to learn how to care for microfiber towels in a washer. If the towel has a care label, refer to those specific care instructions.

The Reason Why Towels Can Smell Bad

We’re sure you’ll agree that drying off with a smelly towel is an unpleasant experience. Mildew smells tend to intensify in warm, moist environments, so a bunched-up, wet towel left in the washing machine drum or at the bottom of your laundry basket provides just the right circumstances for that mildew smell to develop.

Additionally, body soils left on your towels either from the use or from poor-performing detergents will break down over time to release a sour, musty smell. In the end, you’re left with towels full of a stink that’s difficult to get rid of. But all hope isn’t lost if you know these smart, deep-cleaning techniques.

Bye, Bye, Mold!

With these steps, you can get rid of mold in your washing machine without the help of a professional.

Always make sure to wear protective equipment and provide adequate airflow for your health and wellbeing.

While you can use distilled white vinegar for a more eco-friendly clean, bleach is best for killing and cleaning mold.

If the methods don’t work for cleaning your rubber gasket, your manufacturer can provide you with a new one.