We’ve all been there- wiping down our countertops or drying off pots and pans with what we believe is a fresh dishcloth, only to have a moldy, mildew smell rise up and smack us in the face. Gross! According to laundry experts, that smell occurs in towels, washcloths and other linens when dirt and grime gets trapped in their fibers, along with detergent buildup, and then left wet for too long, either in a hamper or the washing machine. Before you give up and buy a whole new set of towels, know that there is a cure! Follow these easy steps to restore your towels to their original, mildew-free glory:
Wash towels in special vinegar load- Round up the offending towels and throw them into the washing machine on the hot setting, along with one cup of white vinegar. Make sure to wash like colors together to minimize the risk of bleeding. DO NOT add detergent or bleach. Once the cycle completes, toss into the dryer as usual and get ready to enjoy folding some delicious-smelling towels. If a little bit of stank remains, don’t fret- just repeat the steps above, this time using ½ cup baking soda instead of the vinegar. This step is necessary for severely mildewed towels.
Wash your washer- Now that you’ve cured your towels, you want to prevent the mildew from ever coming back. One of the ways to accomplish this is to wash your washing machine. Running a monthly cleaning cycle with one of the many specialty washing machine cleaners on the market, such as Tide and Affresh, is effective, but running a normal cycle with hot water after adding bleach to the dispenser can kill just as many germs for a lot less cost.
Improve your laundry habits- OK, so now your towels and washer are both clean, fresh and free of odor-causing bacteria. Now all you have to do is keep them that way! One quick and easy way to remedy the mildew issue is to remove clothes from the washer promptly, rather than letting them sit there for hours before putting them into the dryer. Additionally, consider hanging wet towels and damp washcloths over the shower curtain rod or towel rack to dry before tossing them into the hamper. And always leave the lid or door to your washer open to allow air to circulate and dry out any moisture. These preventive measures are especially important if you live in a humid climate, where everything takes longer to dry properly.