best laundry detergent for smelly towels

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Smelly Towels? This Is The One Easy Fix You Need To Try

Whether your bath towels smell a bit weird or if they aren’t as absorbent as they used to be, this 3-step process is the solution you’ve been searching for!

Smelly Towels

So you’ve noticed that your bath towels are smelling a bit… off. Or maybe you’ve notice that your towels aren’t quite as absorbent as they were in the past. Or maybe you’ve noticed both of these things! While these may seem like bad omens for your towels, don’t give up hope just yet! Because there’s actually a very simple fix for both problems, because both problems have the same root cause: detergent and fabric softener buildup.

Because bath towels are so absorbent, sometimes washing machines have a hard time rinsing out all the detergent and fabric softener residue. The residue that gets left behind builds over time, and can eventually attract mildew and even “waterproof” your towels! And that’s how you end up with smelly, non-absorbent bath towels. But like I said before, there’s a simple way to fix these issues, and you can do it in three simple steps!

But before we get to the nuts and bolts of the process, let’s explore a bit about how it actually works.

Smelly Towels

How Does This Method Work?

This method uses white vinegar and baking soda to dissolve all of the problem-causing buildup lurking in your towels. Vinegar contains acetic acid, which helps to break up mineral deposits and dissolve all sorts of grime. And baking soda is alkaline in nature, which helps to neutralize odors while dissolving dirt and grease!

Using them back-to-back as outlined below is an easy way to eliminate several potential sources of odor and buildup as efficiently as possible! And here’s how you can do it at home.

Smelly Towels

How To Fix Smelly Towels In 3 Steps

You’ll need:

1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup baking soda

Smelly Towels



WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BAKING SODA, WASHING SODA, AND BORAXWhile all three are white powders that can help with your laundry, there are important differences between baking soda, washing soda, and borax that you need to know about! Continue Reading

Step 1 – Vinegar Wash

Place the towels in your washing machine along with 1 cup of white vinegar. Start a wash cycle on the hottest water setting your machine offers.

Smelly Towels

Step 2 – Baking Soda Wash

Once the the wash cycle is done, leave the towels in the washing machine. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of baking soda over the towels, and start a second hot water wash cycle.

Smelly Towels

Step 3 – Dry Completely

After the second wash is finished, make sure to dry your towels THOROUGHLY. You can put them in the dryer, hang them on a clothesline, or whatever you prefer.

This one-two punch of vinegar and baking soda should take care of most mildew and odor problems. If the towels still smell a bit funky after doing all three steps, repeating the three steps again should take care of it. (I also want to note that this method is a cleaning treatment, and shouldn’t be used as an everyday wash method.)

Now that you know how to restore freshness to your towels, let’s discuss how to keep them that way! 🙂 Here are a few tips for keeping your towels clean and smelling fresh.

Smelly Towels

My Top Towel Tips!

  • Make sure that your towels are completely dry before folding them and putting them away. Even a small amount of moisture can make towels smell sour!
  • After drying off after a bath or shower, make sure to hang your towel up to dry. (And your hang up your bathmat to dry too, while you’re at it!)
  • Be sure you’re using the correct amount of detergent. Excess detergent leaves behind a residue on towels, especially in high-efficiency washers that use less water.
  • Never use fabric softener on towels. Fabric softener residue will quickly make your towels less absorbent. Instead, add white vinegar to the rinse cycle as a natural fabric softener! It will leave your towels soft while preventing buildup and eliminating static.

Best Overall: HEX Performance Advanced Laundry Detergent, Free + Clear


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One of the best detergents to cut through tough grime, sweat, and odors is the HEX Performance Advanced Laundry Detergent. The unscented formula is eco-friendly, yet it works wonders on smelly, sweaty clothing. 

This detergent comes in 32 ounce containers, and its special formula actually eliminates odors instead of simply masking them—even on synthetic fabrics. It also effectively eliminates stains, and the formula works with all temperature cycles and in high-efficiency washing machines. Plus, the detergent contains no dyes, fillers, perfumes, optical brighteners, or phosphates. 

Once you try HEX Performance Laundry Detergent, you’ll never go back to regular detergent. Many buyers say it’s a total game-changer for workout and athletic clothing, as it removes all traces of sweat odors and leaves garments looking and smelling clean.The 10 Best Laundry Detergents of 2021

Best Laundry Booster: OxiClean Odor Blasters Odor & Stain Remover Laundry Booster

OxiClean Odor Blasters Odor & Stain Remover Laundry Booster

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You can give your laundry detergent a helping hand at eliminating odors and stains with the OxiClean Odor Blasters Laundry Booster. You can use it either as a pretreatment for smelly clothes, in the wash along with your detergent, or both.

The OxiClean Odor Blasters Booster comes in a 40.5-ounce bottle, and the formula is specially designed for use on smelly socks, musty towels, and sweaty clothes. It’s color-safe and can be used in all washing machines, including high-efficiency models. The laundry booster helps get out stubborn stains and odors, even from pet beds and sports clothing, making it a must-have in busy households.

Best for Body Odor: No Sweat Laundry Detergent HE Sport by No Sweat

No Sweat Laundry Detergent HE Sport by No Sweat

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Do the armpits of your favorite shirts retain a stale odor? If so, you can get them clean with No Sweat Laundry Detergent, which is specially designed for athletic clothing. The formula actually kills the bacteria that leads to body odor smells, leaving your clothes smelling fresh and clean once more.

No Sweat is a hypoallergenic, antibacterial detergent that you can use on all laundry, from your undergarments to your workout clothes. It comes in a 32-ounce bottle and contains a combination of cleaning enzymes that bond to bacteria and dirt, removing them from the fabric. The detergent can be used in all washing machines, including high-efficiency models, and it doesn’t contain any dyes, fillers, or optical brighteners. 

No Sweat works wonders on gym clothing, work uniforms, undergarments, and even smelly pet beds. Many buyers say it removes musty smells that other detergents left behind and you only need a small amount of detergent for good results.The 8 Best Smelling Laundry Detergent of 2021

Best Pod: Tide PODS 4 in 1 HE Turbo Laundry Detergent

Tide PODS 4 in 1 HE Turbo Laundry Detergent

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Laundry detergent pods are undeniably convenient, as they save you from having to measure out detergent. If you’re looking for a pod that’s good on odors, one of the best options is Tide PODS Plus Febreze Sport Odor Defense, which comes with 61 pods per container. As its name suggests, this product is ideal for workout and athletic gear, since the pods pack six times the cleaning power of regular detergent. 

These 4-in-1 pods include detergent, stain remover, color protector, and odor defense in their unique multi-chamber design. The pods can be used in all temperatures and don’t produce excess suds. This detergent is ideal for getting the smell of sweat out of clothing.

Best for Sweat: WIN Sports Detergent

WIN Sports Detergent

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If you exercise frequently, you may find that your workout clothes have lingering sweat odor or sweat stains. The Win Sports Detergent is formulated to combat sweat smells on workout clothes, making it ideal for fitness enthusiasts and athletes. 

Win Detergent comes in a 32-ounce bottle and is ideal for synthetic fabrics like spandex and polyester—typically what workout clothes are made from. However, it can also be used on cotton and other common materials, and it is compatible with high-efficiency washers. The detergent works by breaking down the sweat oils lingering on your clothes, so it removes them instead of just covering up the smell.

This detergent is one of the most effective ways to combat the smell of sweat, making it ideal for sports uniforms and athletic clothing that is usually tough to freshen up. However, several note that it is quite expensive, so they only use it on workout clothes—not their regular laundry.

Best Stain Remover: Tide Ultra Stain Release Liquid Laundry Detergent

Tide Ultra Stain Release Liquid Laundry Detergent

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Got odors and stains? Then you need a detergent like Tide Ultra Stain, which is widely acclaimed for its stain-removing abilities. This popular laundry detergent comes in extra-large, 138-ounce containers, and it boasts six times the cleaning power of normal detergents.

This stain-fighting formula helps to remove 99 percent of everyday stains, including grease, food, and more. It even includes a unique pretreatment cap that has scrubbing bristles to help you loosen up stains before the cycle. This detergent can be used with high-efficiency washers, and reviewers say it truly does a better job than other detergents at removing both old and new stains, as well as odors.The 9 Best Laundry Stain Removers of 2021

Best Green: Method Free + Clear Laundry Detergent

laundry detergent

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If you prefer “clean” products, the method Free + Clear Laundry Detergent is known to be effective on lingering smells. This naturally-derived formula comes in 53.5-ounce bottles, and it’s dye-free and cruelty-free, so you can feel good about using it.

The concentrated formula works in both standard and high-efficiency washing machines, and the plant-based ingredients are effective at removing stains like coffee, red wine, and chocolate. There’s no added fragrance, so you can really trust that the detergent works to remove stains, not just mask them with added fragrance. This formula is ideal for anyone with sensitive to fragrance, and many love that you just need to use a small amount since the formula is so concentrated.

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