Last month, our hot water heater had a major leak...what a mess! We grabbed every towel in our home to try and mop up the water and keep it from getting on our carpet. Well, one of those towels got left behind, and I found it a few days ago...it smelled sooo bad! I had noticed a mildew smell in our laundry room, and finally found the stinky towel wedged behind our washing machine. I threw it in the washer with my laundry detergent and washed on hot, but it still smelled like mildew. I decided to try an old trick that I had read about in one of my magazines that helped get rid of the mildew smell. Well my friends, this works like a charm! Let me show you how to remove mildew smell from towels and clothes too!
Here is the culprit...stinky mildew towel...yuck!
All you need is 1 cup of distilled white vinegar.
Turn your washer temperature to high, and start your wash. DO NOT ADD LAUNDRY DETERGENT! Simply pour your cup of vinegar into the wash and let it work its magic!
Put your towel in your dryer with a dryer sheet or dryer balls, and they should come out smelling fresh and new! If they do not smell better and have extreme mildew smell, throw back into the washer and instead of vinegar, add one cup of baking soda to the wash...still no detergent. This should completely rid your towel of the musty mildew smell!
***This works on clothes as well!
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Regarding the stinky towels, I have a front loader washing machine. Do I just pour the vinegar in the detergent cup dispenser instead?
Yep...it works just the same! ~Jess
What if my dryer doesn't get hot
Then you probably need to replace your heating element. It sounds like it isn't working properly. Hope this helps!
Can you use other vinegars? Like organic apple cider vinegar?
I wouldn't because the smell is stronger, but you could definitely give it a try if you like!
Stefani S. says
I just put the vinegar in the tub with the towels or clothes that smell. Works like a charm!
PATRICE Theriault says
With my high efficiency I just poured the vinegar on the towels and let it soak into them in the washer then I put in the top compartment salt and dish washing soap and let it run thru. Helped with the mildew smelling In high efficiency washer too !
Great tip...thanks so much for sharing, Patrice!
Hello, just a quick question. How much salt and dishwashing soap. Vinager did not work in high eff. Washer. Since surgery hubby doing clothes and has left afew loads to sour and with summertime sweat combined tide is not cutting smell in washer and neither is vinegar. Washer is actually transfering bad smell to other loads. How do I get fresh clothes and towels back?
2 caps bleach with one cup vinegar in an empty machine then run it on high heat (still empty), and viola!
You should never clean with these two ingredients combined. Mixing chlorine bleach, which contains sodium hypochlorite, with any type of acid like vinegar creates chlorine gas, a dangerous chemical that's deadly in high volumes
you do not need to use high temperature water in your machine to get rid of the mildew smell. warm water will work with the vinegar just as well.
Thank you! I was searching the comments for this.
Do you still need to wash your towels with detergent after you wash them with vinegar?
next tip: how to remove vinegar smell from towels! :)
Melody R. says
Actually, the vinegar smell goes away after a little while... it's best if they can air dry outdoors... just don't let the towels dry if the mildew smell hasn't gone away (even if the horrid vinegar smell is there now too!)... repeat this as many times as you have to... if it's more than three-ish times you may want to make sure your washer doesn't have the mildew smell too... if it does, you need to go through the washing machine cleaning process too...
Mom of three says
I have washed my towel in my smart washer about three time and I still can't get the smell out what am I doing wrong?
If it's a high efficiency washer, that's the problem. We are on our second one. The first one didn't even get everything wet! Do you have an "extra water" option? You can also set it to do a second rinse. Kind of defeats the point of high efficiency appliances, but I always did think they were a joke.
Add 3 to 5 drops of essential oil in the soap compartments. Works great!!
Jodie patrick says
What kind of essential oil did you use ?
What is the ratio....let's say I have about 6-8 bath sheet size towels to wash...should I use more than one cup of vinegar?
I live in south Florida and find that sometimes I get that faint greasy mildew=y smell in the bath towels....usually I have not used enough detergent...so I wash them again, very hot water, GOOD detergent and a goodly amount ( within reason, read the package ) and throw in some Clorox bleach. ( my towels are all white. ) That gets them really clean. Then I use a fabric softner sheet in the dryer.
Andromeda LeTourneau says
O...M...G... The vinegar soak truly worked! It's so rare that an at home remedy I try off the internet actually works! Thank you soooooooo much! I have washed our towels 6 times before and it never got rid of the smell! I wish I would've found this site before so I could salvage my brand new bra I had to throw out due to the mildew smell. But, you saved my towels and I'm ecstatic! You are awesome! ????
I'm so glad it could help you...wish you could have saved your bra too ;)
I picked up a pair of jeans at Goodwill and noticed when I got them home they smelled musty. I tried this, and it just didn't work at all. I ran it through once with just vinegar, then once with just baking soda. Still musty. I repeated each again, but using extra vinegar and baking soda, followed by a regular wash. Still musty. And it isn't my machine (which is a top loader), because all my other clothes, towels, sheets are just fine. It's not a huge loss since I bought them resale for cheap, but these are my favorite cut of jeans they don't make anymore (style be damned! I'm only interested in comfort), so I was really happy to find them. :(
If you wash them and then let them dry in the sun it will do the trick. My husband left some clothes in a plastic bag that were wet for 4 days and I did the vinegar and sun trick and it worked for me.
G. Sherman says
Is there a way to remove mold smell from clothes that are not washable. It would cost a fortune to take to cleaners.
Barbara Zimmer says
Cold water, gentle cycle and Woolite.
Tanya Montes says
If i have like 3 or 4 towels how much vinegar do i use?
I would still use a full cup so it can really soak into the towels.
I don't agree with your comment about putting fabric softener sheets in with your towels. Fabric softener, either liquid or sheets, is made from silicone oils. The oils coat your towel and destroy the absorbency of it.
I agree, Tina...I use white vinegar in my fabric softener cup (filled to the allowable level) when I was towels. Rinses out the excess soap & towels dry fluffy AND absorbable.
I have done this before and it works. Another way to get rid of mildew and the ammonia smell in cloth diapers is to dry them in the sun.
Rebecca Payne says
Thank you for this tip. I am going to try it. I always enjoy your tips.
My front loader machine has a compartment with a tub that you pull out remove the cap and drain the water that sits in the machine that smells like mildew. I do this every couple of washes and it helps a lot also leave the front loader or other machine door open to dry out the tub and it will help a lot the next time you use the vinegar
Linda Hickey. says
I look at your blog and enjoy it very much. Don’t usually leave a message. But I love this idea of yours about getting the mildew smell out of clothes. I know of friends with the same problem. So I shared your idea on my Facebook page and told them this is from your blog. So maybe more of my friends will start looking at your blog, so all of us will get more great ideas from you. Thank you for sharing and looking forward to more great ideas from you.
Can you use detergent and vinegar at the same
You can if you like, but it isn't necessary. The vinegar alone will remove odors.
William (Stuart) Gibbs says
How about the baking soda and vinegar at the same time?
They say they will cancel each other but I read somewhere that mixing them will create some fume which is not healthy however I noticed when I cleaned my machine mixing both it did get clean and did not have any smell left, so I guess this fume or gas kills off bacteria’s. Try it
Ever made an erupting volcano as a kid?? Baking soda and vinegar is what you mix to make it bubble over. While I'm sure you'd have to add a good amount of both to your washer for it to bubble over; you don't have to worry about it creating any toxic gases. However, NEVER mix bleach and vinegar (or bleach and ammonia; or bleach and much of anything...).
I have 2 towels that I can not get the mildew smell out. I have tried 3 cups of vinegar only and wished and hung dry or put in the dryer. Its been 5 cycles and I am out 1 gallon of distilled vinegar. Sill have the smell as soon as it gets wet. I really don't think this vinegar works. I guess its time to buy new towels.