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5 Ways to Make Towels Smell Amazing

Alexandra Frost
Written by Alexandra Frost
Updated September 2, 2021
A mother in a bathroom wrapping her daughter with a towel
Peter Muller/Image Source via Getty Images

Instead of dealing with stinky towels, try these simple, easy, and cheap tricks to refresh your towels and make them smell amazing.

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There’s nothing worse than hopping out of a clean, refreshing shower, only to be met with a dank, musty-smelling towel that has you second-guessing your laundry systems. Towels notoriously become stinky without a little extra attention because they are large, absorb water, and sometimes need special care to stay fresh. Try these tips to refresh your towels.

Rediscover the Power of Vinegar

Vinegar is well-known for curing a variety of issues around the home, from acting as a main ingredient in countertop cleaners to working just as well in a laundry cycle. If your towels smell mildewy, like they’ve been sitting in the washer wet for too long (and maybe they have–we’ve been there), try throwing a cup of vinegar into your next load cycle. Skip the detergent and fabric softener, choose an extremely hot water setting, and let the vinegar do the work for you. 

Separate Towels From Other Laundry

If you’ve ever done a load of laundry and realized that while your clothes came out clean and fresh, your towels didn’t, it may be time to give them special attention in a separate load each cycle. By separating the towels, you also create a smaller load, which helps your washer perform more efficiently, fully cycling the towels around, and helps your dryer completely dry them, eliminating unwanted odors. Separating your laundry also prevents you from turning your towels on a high heat dryer setting, shrinking your favorite t-shirt in the process. Separating the towels also allows you to complete the above vinegar soak without impacting any other clothes, which may need detergent instead.

Strip Your Towels of Buildup

The process of “stripping” laundry through a more complex set of procedures is a common tactic to rid the fabric of a buildup of unwanted smell-causing materials. For example, if you have been using fabric softener, this can leave a film on your towels that hold in smells, keeping them less than fresh. Stripping laundry involves the following steps.

Towel Stripping Steps

Some items require more attention than a typical wash and dry cycle. You can use many steps and products to strip and deep clean these laundry items to rid them of their unfortunate past. Repeat this process every few months as needed for tough to conquer smells.

  • Mix three ounces of borax, powdered original tide, and oxiclean sanitizer in a container

  • Sprinkle baking soda over the container

  • Mix well to dissolve 

  • Soak the towels in the solution

  • Remix every hour for 6-7 hours

  • Wash on a double rinse cycle in the washer and dry completely

Ensure a Properly Working Dryer

A man folding towel in a sunny room
Catherine Falls Commercial/Moment via Getty Images

If you accept slightly damp towels as your everyday norm, you can count on a nasty smell from them over time. Dryers taking more than one regular cycle to completely dry an average-sized load of towels may need some service. Start with a few DIY solutions, such as ensuring the lint trap is completely clean and that nothing obstructs the air vent that leads out of your house behind the dryer. If these steps don’t help, and you suspect your dryer isn’t pulling its weight, consider additional dryer troubleshooting or hiring a professional to give your dryer a thorough inspection and recommend any necessary repairs.

Make Spa-Like Towels With Essential Oils

Who needs a spa when you can use this home hack to make chilled scented towels for a mini facial or other home beauty treatments? Using essential oils, soak 8-10 drops in a large bowl of ice water, submerge your towels, and roll and refrigerate them for future use. These cold towels can cure the puffiness around your eyes, among other beauty treatment benefits. Their pleasant aroma is also a nice benefit.

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