Musty towels

sharon620August 8, 2010

hi everyone!

I have the musty yucky smell of too much detergent in my towels. I don't know who to blame but at this point it doesn't matter.

I have gone the Charlie's soap route and that didn't work. Besides the fact, I hate Charlie's soap... I did it.

My towels are so stiff now. They are good towels. They now stink and are so stiff :( Yuck

What should I do with them other than throw them out?

Thank you !


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There are too many variables to answer your question based on the information you provided. Can you answer the following questions?

  • What type of machine do you have and what is the capacity?
  • What is the hardness of your water? You can call your water company and ask them, or check their website for a water quality report - look for terms such as hardness, TDS, or total dissolved solids.
  • How much and what type of detergent and/or fabric softener do you use?
  • When did you notice the odor in the towels?
  • At what temperature do you wash the towels and for how long?

Once we peg down some of the variables, we can offer some suggestions. I wash my towels on Very Warm (120°F) or Hot (140°F), use 2-3 TBS of detergent plus 2 TBS of sodium percarbonate in my 4.0 cuft front loader, have soft water (0 hardness due to my whole house softener), and use half dose of Downy Free & Sensitive fabric softener. I have never had a musty towel.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 12:32PM
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I use vinegar in the wash to get rid of musty smells. Then hang them outside in the sun if you can.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 7:33PM
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A musty smell is the nothing more than the odor given off by molds and the resulting mildew they cause. To get rid of the musty smell, you need to get rid of the mold/mildew that's living in your towels. You can't do that with just vinegar alone - vinegar does nothing to kill off the mold spores. High temps, and oxygen or chlorine bleach used in combination with enough detergent for your water quality are the ways to rid yourself of musty odors.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 8:45PM
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If the towels are colored, not white, and you don't want to use chlorine bleach to kill the mold/mildew, Lysol disinfectant (not to be confused with Lysol household cleaner) also kills mold/mildew.

Lysol disinfectant comes in a brown bottle; I have bought it at Walmart. Directions are on the bottle.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 12:17AM
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I took a look inside my Whirlpool front load washer and decided (like some of you suggested) to look inside the rubber seal around the washer. Inside, YES you are correct! MOLD! Not too much but I did wipe it down with some bleach on a rag. I then took out my dispenser. Yep! MOLD! Inside some of the crevices. Gross!
I don't know if this is right what I am doing now but I put bleach into the dispenser (after I cleaned it out and put it back) and now I am running the washer on sanitary cycle by itself.
That mold freaked me out. My washer smelled like the dog and cat shelter where I go to visit and walk the dogs often. The poor things are stuck in cages.
I also purchased Tide HE powdered detergent. I hope this is the answer!!!
Thanks for all your help
Let me know what you think...
Happy Monday


    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 9:25AM
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Sharon, I had this exact same problem after I got my Duets. I began to notice that my nice, fluffy (and expensive) towels were becoming stiff and smelly. After I switched to using HE powdered detergent on my towels...problem solved. My towels were back to fresh smelling and fluffy and clean. I think the problem was the liquid detergemt leaves too much residue on towels and the powder seems to rinse much cleaner and I have not had that problem since. I now use powder on most of my loads and only use liquids on casual clothes. Whites and towels are powder only. I think switching to powder will definetely help.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 9:55AM
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Sharon, does your washer have a Clean Washer cycle? I know that TL Whirlpool HE washers have that. Your washer manual would have that information.

My washer (Maytag Bravos, an HE TL washer made by Whirlpool) has that cycle; the manual says to use bleach or Affresh when running it.

If those don't help, I've heard of other products which are good for advanced mold/mildew. Smelly Washer is one of them. I think the website is -- if so, it's linked below.


Here is a link that might be useful: Smelly Washer

    Bookmark   August 11, 2010 at 7:11AM
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Sharon,we have a Duet washer that never had visible mold but began to stink, despite the fact we used Affresh, did the bleach cycle, etc.

Turns out it was the filter behind the bottom front panel of the washer. Take out the 3 Torx screws at the bottom, remove the panel and unscrew the filter cover (you can't miss it). I was surprised at the amount of water retained, so slide a cookie sheet, with sides of course, to catch this water. I cleaned the filter cover with Clorox, as well as inside the filter itself. All that was in there was a couple of small rocks, but I've read of other people finding lots of stuff in there. Put it back together and it's like brand new. Actually doing it is easier than it sounds. I think I could do the whole process in less than 10 minutes next time.

And be sure and unplug your washer first.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2010 at 3:25PM
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Thank you for all your replies! I have yet to take the filer out but I plan to do that today. I did find more mold inside the washer so I took care of that. Bought the powdered the powdered detergent, etc
Still smells.
I even ran the washer on sanitary cycle. Nope! I am ready to cell it and get a top loader without the agitator ! I am so disgusted.
Let me tell you they first came home like this when my son washed them at college. I think. I am not sure if they went that way or not. At this point I am ready to throw the washer and the towels out! lol
Thanks again

    Bookmark   August 13, 2010 at 8:04AM
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I have found that by opening the door & the detergent dispenser every night it seems to help keep the washer fresher. When I travel I am removing the dispenser & letting it dry out. I may have caught the problem fairly early. I had "forgotten" a load or 2 of clothes/towels for several days & started having a musty smell. I found a small amount of mildew beginning to form on the dispenser & the pink-ish mildew/mold forming in the gasket. I cleaned with antibacterial wipes & Clorox. I love my FL, but can't believe Whirlpool can't make these plastic parts with anti-bacterial material to retard mold growth. I also use Affresh during the clean cycle, but Affresh didn't help until I got rid of the mold beginning to grow. Thanks for the heads-up on the filter. I'll probably check that in the future.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 12:08AM
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Sharon, don't give up. You're on the right track by cleaning your washer and checking the filter. And switching to powdered detergent.

It may take several washings, but eventually you should begin to notice your towels becoming softer and less smelly. Always use extra rinses to be sure you're getting out any left over detergent/suds.

I had a mold ridden Maytag Neptune before I got my LG and I too had musty smelly towels and clothes. I am still using those same towels today and they are soft and fluffier than they ever were and no musty smells.

It takes some experimenting, but you'll find the right detergent and dosage for your needs and then you'll start to see a difference.

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 12:15AM
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