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How to Make Towels Smell Fresh Again | Towel Supercenter

How to Get Existing Smells out of Your Towels

Part of the reason why your towels smell bad is due to the mildew that develops when you leave them piled up in the bathroom, covered in gym sweat or whatever other activities you’ve inflicted upon your towels. Additionally, detergent, dirt, dust and others build up in the fibers of your towels and become hard to remove. And while the smell of your average grocery store laundry soap may make things smell a bit better, these mainstream washes just cover up the odors rather than eliminate the cause.

The first step to achieving fresh-smelling towels is to remove any existing smells and orders from your towels. While you may think simply throwing the towels into the wash will fix this, there is a chance this will not work. Depending on why your towels do not smell fresh, a simple wash may not be enough to get them smelling clean. One of the most important parts of keeping your towels fresh is reducing the time they sit wet.



To help you out, we’ve assembled a few ideas to naturally help you remove lingering odors and keep your towels in tip-top shape for the long haul.

Add Vinegar to the Mix

If you’ve got a load of towels dying to be cleaned once and for all, try adding a cup of white vinegar as you would laundry detergent to the washer and turn the cycle to hot. The white vinegar rinse should do the trick for moderately smelly towels.

Should You Need Something More Serious, Add Baking Soda

If your towels have long been neglected or just need an extra cleaning, follow the instructions above for washing your clothes with vinegar but add a half-cup of baking soda along with the vinegar, then throw your towels in the dryer. The vinegar smell goes away once the clothing dries, and there’s no need to add any detergent.

Try Soap Nuts as an Alternative to Traditional Detergent

Soap nuts, or soap berries, are an all-natural and hypoallergenic alternative to traditional laundry soaps. Many people believe detergent may contribute to bad-smelling laundry since it leaves a film behind that builds up over time. This residue makes it hard for hot water to break down the bacteria and dirt lingering on your towels and may cause your linens to smell worse.

Soapberries come from a tree and are loaded with a natural surfactant known as saponin, which works to release the icky stuff hanging out on your towels, sheets and T-shirts.

Beyond the Wash: Natural Ways to Keep Towels Smelling Fresh

If you want to prevent your towels from smelling sour or have recently removed odor-causing agents from your towel, you will likely be looking for tips and tricks on how to keep your towels smelling fresh. Preventing mildew and mold buildup are important steps to fresh-smelling towels.

There are several ways you can improve the quality of your laundry smell. That's why we do laundry in the first place, after all. While we've gone over a couple of ways to wipe out the bad smells that might affect your laundry, here are a few ways to get some fresh scents back into your life, naturally:

  • Douse with herbal water: Try using some herbal infused water, like lavender, to liven up your linens. Put infused water into a spray bottle and heavily spray laundry before it goes into the washer. The smell should linger through the wash. You can also give your towels a spray before folding them for a lasting scent.
  • Scented wool dryer balls: The perfect alternative to those wasteful reusable dryer sheets, wool dryer balls provide plenty of softness to your precious towels. Add a few drops of essential oil, like vanilla, lavender, or whatever you desire to the balls before the dry cycle begins to ensure your laundry emerges smelling great.
  • Get some castile soap on the case: Dr. Bronner’s versatile soap is eco-friendly and comes in a variety of scents you know pack a punch if you’ve ever used them in the shower. Try the peppermint, lavender or tea tree oil scents for best results.
  • Make your own scented detergent: Take matters into your own hands, and mix half a cup of borax with a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar, along with several drops of your favorite essential oils (sense a theme here?)—try tea tree oil, orange or lemon for a super fresh experience.



Finally, you might want to consider making your own dryer sheets. You’ll need some supplies: A few scraps of clean cloth, essential oils, white vinegar, a large glass jar with a wide mouth and an airtight seal.


  1. Mix a cup of white vinegar with at least 20 drops of your favorite essential oil. Combinations like mint and citrus and lavender and vanilla come to mind, but whatever scent strikes your fancy is perfect.
  2. Fold the cloth scraps and place them in the jar. Add enough vinegar and essential oil mixture to moisten the cloth, but be careful not to soak them.
  3. Close the jar and store it until needed.

When it’s time for a dry cycle, add one sheet to the dryer along with your clothes. Don’t worry about the vinegar smell — it evaporates as the clothes dry, but the essential oil goodness is left behind.

Why Do Towels Smell Bad?

One of the most important steps to keep towels from smelling and achieving odor-free towels is to understand common reasons that are causing your towels to smell in the first place. While you cannot see the buildup of bacteria, mildew and mold, these microscopic elements are stuck within the fibers of your towels, leading to an unpleasant smell.

There are numerous things that may increase the risk of your towels beginning to smell, including leaving your towels in the washing machine or damp after a shower or bath. When towels remain wet for extended periods, bacteria, mold and mildew begin to form and can multiply fast, quickly causing your once-fresh towels to smell sour.

Other possible causes include detergent buildup or fabric softener residue. While fabric softener and detergent are designed to keep laundry fresh and clean, they can sometimes be the very reason your towels may not be smelling as fresh as you want. The oil within the fabric softener can cause detergent or mildew to become trapped within the towel's fibers, leading to a bad smell.

When you use too much detergent when washing towels, it becomes nearly impossible to remove all of the detergent, which can begin to attract and hold onto dirt, debris and mildew. Finally, you might view your washing machine as one of the cleanest places your towels can go because it provides a sanitizing rinse to rid the towels of dirt and grime.

While you may not think about it, your washing machine needs to be cleaned too! Without proper cleaning, your washing machine begins to collect the very debris, dirt and mildew it takes away from our clothing. That can eventually lead to unpleasant smells when you wash your towels. Fortunately, there are a few simple tricks to keep things fresh:

  • Wash your washer and dryer: These guys get dirty, too! Wipe down your large appliances here and there to remove residue from previous washes or particularly dirty clothes. Additionally, because washers hold onto a lot of moisture, like your wet towels, they’ll grow mildew. Keep things clean by running a hot cycle with hot water and a cup of baking soda to kill any lingering bacteria.
  • Consider where you’re storing your clothing: Keeping your clothes smelling fresh for the long haul may have a lot to do with how you store them outside of the laundry. Ideally, you should be keeping your clothes and towels in a clean, well-ventilated area, but we don't always have control over the tiny, cramped closets life gives us.
  • Soap bars: An easy, eco-friendly way to improve the smell of your storage situation is to tuck a fresh bar of soap in a drawer or between linens in your closet. Just be sure to wrap the soap in a thin cloth to avoid getting residue on your clothing or favorite towels.
  • Potpourri: While you can easily buy potpourri at any perfume shop or home goods store, it’s just as easy to make your own. Use any leftover fabric scraps to make a sachet and stuff it with your favorite herbs. Add cedarwood chips to make your potpourri blend insect-repellant, along with aromatic favorites like lavender, mint, rosemary and eucalyptus. Anything goes! Tuck your sachets in drawers or between towels and replace them about every month or two for maximum sensory output.


  • Baking soda: Take this old fridge trick and extend it to the closet. Pour some baking soda into a shallow dish and place it in your linen closet. The baking soda absorbs both moisture and odors, so your linens stay fresh without the need to add any extra scents.
  • Activated charcoal: This is essentially the same as the baking soda option mentioned above, but charcoal blocks are reusable. Stick charcoal blocks in an open container in the closet, and every so often, let the blocks sit out in the sun. The sun helps release the absorbed odors, making these blocks work their best. You can use a single block for up to two years, so you don’t need to do this too often.
  • Stop forgetting your towels in the washer: Just because you used soap doesn’t mean your freshly laundered towels are free from mildew. Just like when they’re sitting in a moist pile in the bathroom, the washing machine is the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. When you do a load of laundry, be sure to put the linens in the dryer or on the clothesline immediately.
  • Wash your linens at the proper temperature: Unless you’re washing a batch of delicates or a load of laundry you’re a bit concerned about ruining, the best way to eliminate any bacteria hanging around — particularly on towels or gym clothes — is to wash and dry on the highest temperature. The heat does wonders eliminating odor-causing bacteria and invisible mildew growing between the fibers.

In general, there’s a lot you can do to improve your towels' smell and overall cleanliness, which should keep them in good shape for a long time. While some of us are reluctant to try eco-friendly laundry methods, there’s something for everyone, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make your own detergent and line-dry everything like we did in eras past. Nowadays, eco-friendly washing can mean taking a few relatively easy steps toward eliminating the use of toxic chemicals from your routine. Keep reading our site for more information about eco-friendly towel care.


Why Are Dryer Sheets Bad for the Environment?

We understand just asking you to do something without any explanation isn’t exactly the best way to urge you toward making a major change — some of us are major dryer sheet fans, after all. Here’s a quick primer on the unintentional downsides of dryer sheets.

Dryer sheets contain a lineup of toxic chemicals that may affect your endocrine and central nervous systems, as well as cause permanent damage to one’s sense of smell and even long-term respiratory issues. Here’s what your average dryer sheet contains:

  • Alpha-Terpineol: Used for its aromatic compounds, this additive may cause headaches, damage the central nervous system and trouble controlling muscles and respiratory problems.
  • Benzyl Acetate: Used for the pleasant scent it leaves behind, this ingredient may cause red eyes, skin irritation and, if inhaled, a sore throat and a burning sensation in the nasal passages. It’s also been linked to pancreatic cancer. In most use cases, handlers wear protective gear like goggles and gloves, so it’s strange this is a standard ingredient in dryer sheets.
  • Benzyl Alcohol: An alcohol used for its aromatic properties, this ingredient is added to your laundry supplies to make cosmetics and household products smell just as advertised. It may cause respiratory irritation, particularly in the nose and throat, as well as damage to the central nervous system.
  • Camphor: Though it’s derived from pine oil, camphor is firmly on the EPA's hazardous waste list. Camphor is a central nervous system stimulant and can cause confusion, dizziness, upset stomach and, on a more ominous note, convulsions and loss of muscle control.
  • Chloroform: Carcinogenic and neurotoxic, chloroform was once a common anesthetic but has fallen out of widespread use due to sometimes-fatal outcomes. Aside from its well-known ability to knock people out, chloroform has anti-static properties, making it an essential ingredient in many mainstream dryer sheets.
  • Ethyl Acetate: Another member of the hazardous waste list, ethyl acetate is used in dryer sheets and fabric softeners due to its ability to soften fabrics. In many cases, this ingredient may irritate skin or cause burning in the throat or eyes. It also has a narcotic effect and may cause headaches.
  • Linalool: A component that occurs naturally in many cases, it may cause damage to the nervous system, such as a loss of control in muscle and motor functions, as well as a drop in heart rate.
  • Pentane: A flammable liquid often found in petroleum-based substances, pentane may cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting. Inhaling pentane vapors may cause damage to the central nervous system.

On a lesser note, dryer sheets aren’t just bad for the planet and your body — they’re also bad for your dryer. While the chemicals included in softening sheets don’t typically cause permanent damage, they cause your dryer to operate with less efficiency. That same residue that makes dryer sheets work on your towels, jeans and whatever else also gets left behind in the dryer — and unless you’re cleaning it with any regularity, it’s cutting the lifespan of your machine short.

Ready to Start Anew?

Shop Towel Super Center! Should you feel as though you’d like to start fresh with a new batch of towels, there’s no better place to find them than Towel Super Center. We’ve got all kinds of towels that fit any price range, from hand towels to beach towels and beyond — as well as a range of linens that’ll take your bathroom to the next level.


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