The Easiest 6 Step Guide On How To Get The Smell Out Of Towels

As much as we all need towels for cleaning and drying off, they can unfortunately pick up unwanted smells incredibly easily and in no time at all.

The Easiest 6 Step Guide On How To Get The Smell Out Of Towels

This is mainly a result of soap residue accumulating in the fibers of the towels which then stops it from absorbing as much water as possible and preventing them from drying the way that they should.

Bacteria will gradually start to build up in the fabric and before you know it, your towel will have that unwanted mildew smell that a lot of us are so familiar with, but wish we could get rid of easily. 

Luckily it only takes a little bit of time to remove these stenches completely and therefore we have compiled the easiest step by step guide to removing these nasty smells so that your towels can be smelling fresh as a daisy again in no time.

Will Putting A Towel In The Washer Get Rid Of The Smell?

For many people, a simple way to seemingly get rid of some nasty smells in a towel is to throw them in the washing machine at a high temperature and wait for the problem to fix itself, out of sight out of mind after all.

However, if you don’t take the proper precautions this can still easily lead to that unwanted smell lingering around the towels, and putting them back in the washer for a second time won’t make them any better.

Therefore you will want to make sure that rather than spending hours washing and drying, you instead wash them the right way with the correct equipment to remove the smells all in one go.

What Will I Need To Clean The Towel?

All that is required to clean a towel thoroughly is 1 cup of white distilled vinegar, a half cup of baking soda and of course, the washer and dryer machines.

These will help cleanse the towel completely and leave it feeling soft and fresh when you come to use it again. Here is the step by step guide on how to easily clean a towel thoroughly.

Step 1) Make Sure Front Load Washer Is Clean

Before you start, there’s no point trying to separate a few towels from the stench they’ve picked up if the washing machine itself will just add more unwanted smells.

Therefore, before you start washing, just make sure that you fully clean away mold or mildew that you might notice in the front load washer gasket.

Once it’s all removed and the washer look’s clean, it’s time to get cleaning!

Step 2) Fill The Washer With Warm Water 

First you will want the washer to fill up with warm water so it can soak the towel while also helping to kill bacteria and any potential mold that may have started building up that can begin to smell horrible when left for too long.

Make sure the heat setting here is either the highest setting possible or just under so that the water is warm enough to clean the towels as best as possible. 

The Easiest 6 Step Guide On How To Get The Smell Out Of Towels

Step 3) Add The Vinegar 

Next, you will want to add in the vinegar. This can either be poured into the fabric softener compartment of the washer, or if your machine doesn’t have this compartment then you can simply pour the cup in once the washer is full of water. 

The reason vinegar is necessary here is because it is an acid that kills mildew as well as mold and bacteria in general, therefore making it perfect for ridding all the unwanted smells out of a towel.

At the same time, it will also remove any built-up excess left from soaps, making sure the towel is as clean as possible.

Step 4) Second Cycle With Baking Soda

Once you’re towels have been washed once with warm water and vinegar, you will want to make sure that the vinegar is completely removed and that the towels are as soft as they possible can be, after all if you’re already removing the smell, you might as well make the towels as comfortable as they can be at the same time. 

Put the towels in for another cycle, but this time add a ½ cup of baking soda to make sure the towels are cleansed of the vinegar entirely. 

Step 5) Move The Towels To The Dryer 

After the two washes are complete, move all your washed towels to the dryer and tumble dry them on a low setting until they are completely dry which shouldn’t take too long.

Step 6) Quickly Remove And Hang Up Towels 

Once finished, your towels will not only be completely dry with not a single patch of dampness, the vinegar and baking soda combo will also have removed any nasty smells making the towel good for a few uses. 

However, a good tip is to always remove the towels quickly from the drier as soon as they are finished since if they are left in for too long, in the warmer months it can allow humid air to seep it’s way into the dryer vent which can end up making the towels more moist than they were originally and can cause the smell to come back sooner than later. 

How To Keep A Towel From Getting Smelly After It’s Washed

This method detailed above  is the easiest way to remove all those nasty smells that will build up on a towel in just a few cycles and can easily be done in the background for the evening or afternoon, however the simplicity of this method will lose its charm when you are forced to repeat it every week. 

There are a few ways you can make sure a towel stays fresh for as long as possible after you cleanse it of all its smells:

The Easiest 6 Step Guide On How To Get The Smell Out Of Towels
  • Try using a heated towel rail to dry the towels much faster right after the shower 
  • Keep older towels for odd jobs such as only drying your hair, cleaning pets etc. 
  • Allow as much space as possible to circulate around the towels by keeping them on a hanger or rack at all times, especially right after they have been used. Leaving them on the floor is an easy way for them to pick up smells due to it being much harder for them to dry thoroughly. 
  • Avoid using commercial fabric softeners as they can coat towels with a very thin chemical layer that ultimately makes them less absorbent 

Can Borax Work For Removing The Smell From A Towel?

If you’ve ever thought if the common cleaning product known as Borax will work to thoroughly clean up a towel, luckily if you have some spare lying around then it can be used in exactly the same way as the baking soda in the guide above. 

Simply pour ½ cup of Borax where you would usually put the baking soda and and fill the fabric softener with a single cup of vinegar.

This can actually sometimes only take a single cycle since Borax can work incredibly well to remove essentially each and every smell from the towel.

Most people are more likely to have baking soda lying around the house than a mixture of Borax, however if you do have this substance or are looking for the very best ingredient for cleaning a towel thoroughly, Borax is an excellent substitute to test out.

How Long Will A Towel Stay Fresh After Being Washed?

This does majorly depend on the quality of your towels and especially how you care for them, however the general rule of thumb to keep a towel as dry as possible and resistant to picking up any harsh smells is a regular laundry clean after every three uses.

This is an easy and simple way to keep a towel consistently fresh so you won’t have to spend multiple hours getting the smells removed in the near future. 

There are a few situations where you may want to clean the towel sooner than this however and preferable after each use instead, these include:

  • Any towel that has any body fluid should be washed after a single use
  • Gym towels that are damp with sweat or that have been in a gym bag for several house should be washed straight after use 
  • If a towel is kept in a damp bathroom where it won’t fully dry it should be washed after each use 
  • If you have eczema or sensitive skin, wash all of your towels after each use to prevent any further irritations 


Luckily cleaning a towel and removing each and every nasty smell from it is easy to do and just requires some vinegar and a little bit of baking soda, however always make sure after you do a wash this way that you regularly clean the towel in a regular cycle after every few uses.

This way, it avoids having to remove the smell constantly which can save a lot of hours but also ensures that you always have a warm and comfy towel waiting for you every time you step out of the shower. 

Maisie Park