See how you can get mildew towels to smell fresher. See why your towels have a mildew smell even after being washed.
Towels Smell Like Mildew
Why does a bath towel smell like mildew? There are three reasons that freshly washed towels can develop that distinctive mildew odor.
First, mold thrives in warm, moist environments, such as your washing machine. Always leave the door open a few inches in between loads.
It's also a good practice to wash your whites last, so you end by giving your washer a dose of bacteria-killing bleach. You can get the same effect by running the washer without clothes for a short cycle with 1/4 cup bleach.
Second, if you use a towel to wipe off sweat or soil (like many kids do) and don't wash it right away, the high humidity of the bathroom will allow bacteria to grow.
Then, if you don't wash it properly (as explained below), you won't kill the bacteria, which will make it just return.
Another mistake is washing towels and letting them sit in the washer. After an hour, smelly bacteria will start to breed. Even if the towels smell clean when they finally come out of the dryer, as soon as they get wet again, they'll emit that putrid odor.
So what can you do about these last two problems? Start by always washing towels on the hottest setting possible. Use a strong detergent with high levels of enzymes to remove perspiration, or a laundry booster. In addition, don’t overload your washer.
Towels are heavy and absorb a lot of water. There needs to be ample room for the water to circulate so the detergent can penetrate the towels and then get rinsed out.
If your towels are smelly already, unfortunately, there's no sure solution. You can try following the directions for washing them above and drying them on the hottest setting, but at least you'll know how to prevent this problem in the future.
Updated March 16, 2012
Try Bamboo Towels
The antibacterial effects of bamboo fabric does eventually wear off. While present, however, this quality keeps your towels smelling fresh in between washing