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Have you ever had a clean towel that smelled bad? Keep reading to find out how to clean towels with vinegar and baking soda and get them really, really clean!
When was the last time you felt like your towels were really clean? Our large families go through a lot of towels in a day. It’s really important to us that they are fresh and clean, not musty or sour smelling.
After one long summer of towels that never smelled completely clean I started researching the best way to get the smell out. I’m so happy to report that I found it!
Why do clean towels sometimes smell bad?
In the middle of my smelly towel frustration an interesting thing happened. Our new washing machine kept throwing a weird code and shutting off. We called the repairman and he gave me some laundry-changing information. All of the work I was doing to try to get my towels clean, really clean, was doing the exact opposite!
The code was being thrown on our washer because a tube in the washer was filled with gunk – fabric softener residue.
Back when we purchased our washer and dryer the manufacturer recommended not using dryer sheets. It was said that dryer sheets can cause a residue build up on the sensors which will cause them to not sense when things are wet or dry.
Why do they smell?
Because of that recommendation we had switched over to liquid fabric softener. Turns out that was one of the reasons our towels were starting to smell.
The second reason they were starting to smell is this one. Using the recommended amount of laundry soap is WAY more than what is needed.
Our repairman said that especially with towels, excess soap and liquid fabric softener can weigh down the towel fibers and prevent the towel from absorbing as it should.
This is also why towels take forever to dry in the dryer which increases the likeliness of removing them from the dryer before they’re all the way dry.
Fabric fibers weighed down with soap and fabric softener prevent the fabric from being able to dry all the way. Repeated washing and NOT completely drying causes the smell that doesn’t go away.
These were the reasons why even though I thought I knew how to clean towels really well I was still getting the never going away smell.
What’s the secret for getting towels really clean?
The great news about our repairman is that he didn’t just tell us what the problem was, he told us how to fix it. He recommended using baking soda and vinegar to get the washer really clean. Then he recommended using them to regularly clean our towels to get rid of the build up.
Our repair man recommended switching back to dryer sheets. While liquid fabric softener can help with build up on the sensors he said you can prevent it by using a baby or Clorox wipe.
He said if we really need to use liquid fabric softener to dilute it with water and reduce the amount by a LOT.
Why Vinegar and Baking Soda?
Baking soda and vinegar both strip residue from fibers in the towels and vinegar is a natural fabric softener. This makes them ideal for getting the smells OUT!
Ready to learn how to clean towels with vinegar and baking soda? I mean really, REALLY clean your towels? Keep reading!
Please note – this is NOT a stain remover or even really a cleaner. I always start with clean towels and then do these steps. I call it a fabric rejuvenator or a fabric refresher. It will literally make old towels feel and smell new again.
Let’s clean towels with vinegar and baking soda.
Before you toss your towels into the washer you want to make sure your washer is clean too. If you notice your washer is starting to smell add 1 cup of baking soda to your washer and run it through on the hottest wash cycle your machine has.
Then do the same thing with 1 cup of vinegar. I like to make sure that my washer door is left open when not in use so it has time to dry out and doesn’t start to smell.
Now that your washer is clean grab your baking soda and vinegar and all your towels.
Start with Baking Soda!
Follow the steps below and you’ll be drying off with towels fresher than the day you bought them. Did you know that when you buy towels they usually have chemicals on them that make them feel so soft? When you’re done with these steps you’ll have soft towels without chemicals making them feel that way.
1. Put your towels in the washer.
(I have a front loader, if you have a top loader I would suggest starting the water and adding the baking soda before adding your towels.)
2. Use 1 cup of baking soda in place of laundry soap.
3. Start your washer on the hottest cycle and let it run through.
(I don’t mix white/colored towels, my colored towels are old and I haven’t noticed any bleeding/fading but I still wouldn’t risk it)
Finish with Vinegar.
4. When the full cycle is complete add 1 cup of white vinegar in place of laundry soap.
5. Start your washer on the hottest cycle and let it run through.
6. Move towels from washer to dryer and dry thoroughly.
It’s really important to make sure your towels are completely dry before folding them and putting them away. If they’re even a little bit wet they can start to smell. Having them folded makes it nearly impossible for them to finish drying.
In the hot summer months I love to use a clothesline to help decrease the use of my dryer AND make sure my towels are completely dry.
Vinegar is a safe and natural fabric softener. You can use it in place of a fabric softener, I do it all the time. I add it to the fabric softener spot on my washer and let it do it’s thing. You’re going to love how soft your towels are and they won’t smell like vinegar at all once dry.
Why start with Baking Soda?
I’ve seen a lot of people recommend washing with vinegar first and baking soda second. Because so many people recommended that I thought maybe I misheard our repair man. I tried that, but no matter how hot of water I used the baking soda smell was SO strong even after drying. Any time we got a towel or washcloth wet it was almost as bad as the other smells.
Personally I don’t want to have to worry about smelling like baking soda after showering haha.
I switched back to baking soda first and vinegar second and haven’t looked back. My towels are clean, really clean and smell fresh without a lingering baking soda or vinegar smell.
How often should you clean towels with vinegar and baking soda?
I do not do this every time I wash my towels. We are a family of 9, if I did this every time I washed towels…I would wash nothing but towels every day for the rest of my life.
I recommend doing this every 4 to 6 weeks if towels are just having normal use. If towels have been left sitting at the bottom of a hamper (thanks kids) or left overnight or longer in the washer with the door closed I will do this sooner.
Since I learned about this laundry tip and started using it regularly I haven’t had smelly towels without there being a reason behind it.
How will I know it’s time to refresh my towels?
How will you know? The most obvious sign is smell. If your clean towels smell do this!
That being said, smelly towels isn’t the only sign that fibers are being weighted down by laundry products. If it seems your towels are taking forever to dry, or never seem to dry all the way it’s time for a towel refresh.
I know I’m alone in not knowing how to clean towels. I hope these tips on how to use baking soda and vinegar to clean towels will help you out like they helped me!
If you’re interested in more laundry room tips check out my Top 5 laundry room tips here!