How to Make Old Towels Smell Fresh Again: Quick & Easy Tips

How to Make Old Towels Smell Fresh Again

Towels often lose their freshness over time and develop a musty smell, making it unpleasant to use each time you dry off. In this article, we will explore methods to give your old towels a fresh lease of life and help them regain their original, fresh-smelling charm.

By learning how to properly wash and care for your towels, you can breathe new life into your once fluffy, cozy companions. We will discuss simple techniques using household products like vinegar and baking soda to eliminate odor-causing bacteria and add an enjoyable scent to your towels.

The Importance of Fresh Towels

Why Do My Towels Smell Bad Even After Washing

Fresh towels play a vital role in maintaining personal hygiene. Stale or musty-smelling towels is a sign that the towel harbors bacteria and mold which, besides being unpleasant, can compromise skin health and even trigger allergies.

If you participate in swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, and various other water sports, you will be using towels to dry off often. Without properly caring for your towels, you would frequently be exposed to black mold and mildew.

Even someone who doesn’t participate in any water sports can potentially encounter this problem in their own homes. When towels are not allowed to fully dry or properly washed, you will also be at risk of encountering mold and mildew.

Washing Techniques for Old Towels

Using Vinegar and Baking Soda

When it comes to refreshing your old towels, one effective technique is using vinegar and baking soda. Both of these ingredients work together to eliminate odors and remove detergent build-up from your towels.

Start by washing your towels with a hot water cycle and adding one cup of white vinegar alongside your regular detergent. After the wash cycle, add half a cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle, and run your machine as usual. This simple yet effective solution will help bring your old towels back to life.

Using Borax and Bleach

Borax is another helpful ingredient that can be added to your washing routine for old towels. It helps to remove stains and unpleasant smells, leaving your towels feeling fresh and clean.

To use borax, add half a cup of borax powder and half a cup of bleach to their proper receptacles in your washing machine in addition to your regular laundry detergent. Set your machine to a heavy wash cycle and use the hottest water setting your machine allows to deep clean your old towels.

Keep in mind that bleach can be harmful to some fabrics and colors, so be sure to check the care label on your towels before using bleach. If you prefer not to use bleach, you can substitute it with vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.

Hot Water and Detergent Solution

Finally, washing your old towels in hot water can also be an effective way to eliminate odors and bring them back to life. Hot water helps to break down any grease or oil that has accumulated in your towels, as well as remove bacteria and mold.

Add a small amount of laundry detergent to the hot water cycle and wash your towels on the hottest setting your washing machine allows. This process will help to clean your towels thoroughly and make them smell fresh once again.

Remember, the key to maintaining fresh and clean towels is consistency. Regularly using these washing techniques will help to extend the life of your old towels and ensure they always smell fresh and clean without a fabric softener.

Drying Tips for Maximum Freshness

In order to make old towels smell fresh again, it’s important to follow proper drying techniques. This section provides some useful drying tips that can help retain the freshness of your towels.

Outdoor Sun Drying

One of the best ways to make sure your towels stay fresh is by drying them outside in the sun. Sunlight plays a crucial role in eliminating germs and bacteria that cause foul smells. When hanging towels to dry, spread them out to ensure optimal air circulation. Keep in mind to:

  • Hang towels as evenly as possible, without folding or overlapping them
  • Leave enough space between towels for proper airflow
  • Allow towels to dry completely before storing them indoors

Tumble Drying

If outdoor drying is not an option, tumble drying is another effective way to keep your towels fresh. Follow the care label instructions on your towel and use dryer sheets for added freshness, softness, and static control. To achieve the best results, remember to:

  • Separate towels from other laundry items to avoid lint transfer
  • Select the appropriate fabric setting on your dryer
  • Periodically check the towels during the drying cycle for even drying

Following these drying techniques will keep the freshness of your towels and prolong their lifespan.

Additional Deodorizing Methods

In addition to the widely known methods of deodorizing towels, there are some other ways to keep your towels fresh and pleasant-smelling. In this section, we explore the use of essential oils, fabric softeners, and refreshers.

Essential Oils

Essential oils can provide a natural and fragrant solution to musty-smelling towels. Simply add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the washing machine during the rinse cycle, making sure to dilute it with water to avoid staining.

Lavender, tea tree, and eucalyptus oils are all popular choices for their antibacterial and refreshing properties. These oils can help eliminate bacteria and leave your towels with a fresh, pleasant scent.

Fabric Softeners

While fabric softeners are not recommended as a primary solution for smelly towels, they can provide a temporary fix by masking unpleasant odors.

Keep in mind that fabric softeners should not be used in place of properly washing your towel, as it would only mask the smell and not fix the underlying issue: that it’s dirty. Therefore, using fabric softener as a supplementary method to other odor-eliminating strategies.


There are also towel refreshers available that can help keep your towels smelling fresh between washes. Some examples of refreshers include fabric sprays and odor-neutralizing sachets that can be placed in your linen closet.

These products work by absorbing moisture and odors, helping to keep your towels fresh while they are in storage. Keep in mind that refreshers are intended as a supplementary method to proper washing and should not replace regular laundering of your towels.

Preventive Measures for Future Smells

Ensuring that your towels remain fresh and odor-free requires following some basic preventive measures. In this section, we’ll discuss proper towel storage, as well as developing a regular washing and drying routine.

Proper Towel Storage

One of the key factors in preventing musty odors from developing in your towels is proper storage. Follow these steps to ensure your towels stay fresh between uses:

  • Avoid damp environments: Store towels in a dry, well-ventilated area to prevent mold and mildew growth. Avoid keeping towels in damp areas such as the bathroom, where humidity levels can be high.
  • Store in a ventilated area. Whether that means there is an air vent, an open door, or open window, the storage area should receive airflow so as not to get musty. The exception is if the humidity is high outside, then you should keep towels indoors with a dehumidifier or fan on.
  • Fold or hang towels properly: After each use, fold or hang your towels neatly to ensure they dry completely. This will help prevent odors from developing.
  • Separate damp and dry towels: Do not mix damp and dry towels in the same storage space, as this can cause a moisture imbalance and lead to musty smells.

Regular Washing and Drying Routine

Developing a regular washing and drying routine can help keep your towels smelling fresh and clean. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Wash towels frequently: Wash your towels every three to four uses or more often if they start to develop an odor. This will help keep bacteria at bay and prevent musty smells.
  • Use vinegar and baking soda: Adding a cup of distilled white vinegar during the final rinse can help remove odor-causing residue and bacteria from your towels. You can also use baking soda to boost your detergent’s cleaning power and remove tough odors. I highly recommend this as it’s not only effective, but uses natural products as well.
  • Dry towels completely: Make sure to properly dry your towels after washing them. You can either hang them in a well-ventilated area or use a dryer to ensure they are completely dry before storing them.

By following these preventive measures, you can keep your towels fresh and free of unpleasant smells, ensuring that they remain clean and pleasant for future use.