I first came across this idea on Pinterest and I knew I had to try it! There comes a point in the life of every towel when it’s just not smelling quite right. No matter how much Clorox for colors I’ve used, there was still an ‘off’ smell.
(My latest updated tips for this method are located at the end of the post.)
To the best of my knowledge, the original source for this method is Wikihow. But it’s really hard to figure out where these ideas originate!
‘Recharging’ your towels with vinegar and baking soda is right up my alley because they’re my two favorite household cleaners.
It’s a really simple process:
1. Wash your towels with hot water and 1 cup of white vinegar, (don’t use any detergents or fabric softeners).
2. Run the towels through a second wash with 1/2 cup baking soda and hot water, (again, no detergent or fabric softener).
3. Dry your towels on the hottest setting until thoroughly dry. You can also hang them outside in the sun for additional freshening.
If the ‘off’ smell persists, run through this method again. This time use 2 cups of vinegar and let the towels soak in the hot water/vinegar bath for a few hours before continuing with the process.
Both vinegar and baking soda ‘strip’ the soap and fabric softener residue from your towels. Fabric softener in particular coats the fibers of your towels with chemical oils, making it difficult to get your towels truly clean. Vinegar not only strips residue, but it also acts as a fabric softener and it’s so much cheaper.
I’m really pleased with the results of washing my towels this way. They smell great, and as a bonus they’re also much softer!
One final note:
Do not mix the vinegar and baking soda in the same load because the two together cause a chemical reaction that foams which might cause your washing machine to overflow! Even though I’m a big fan of ‘two for one’, but in this case there are no shortcuts. Luckily the washing machine does all the work! I’ve personally added both to a top loader machine and not had problems with overflowing, (I have heard of of other people having a foaming overflow though, so maybe that happens with front loaders?) But this method does work best when you wash first with vinegar, then run a second time with the baking soda.
I originally wrote this 5 years ago now, and it’s still one of the most popular posts on the blog! So I figured it was a good time for a bit of an update since I’m still using this method 5 years later.
- The first thing I’d like to add is, if your towels are extra smelly, you might need to repeat this process until they smell fresh again! I’ve had this happen a few times with extra stubborn smelly towels.
- Another thing that really helps eliminate smelly towels/clothes is sunshine. So a couple times a year, I’ll wash my towels with this vinegar then baking soda method, then hang them outside until they’re almost dry. Then they get a quick fluff in the dryer to soften them back up. And let me tell you what, that works magic on smelly towels or clothes.
- And finally, this method works wonders on workout clothes that shouldn’t go in the dryer, (or even socks if they get smelly). I’ve also started hanging all our workout gear outside to dry because they don’t tend to grow that smelly bacteria if they dry quicker. This even works in the winter, you can hang your workout clothes outside and they will freeze dry most the way. I’ll hang mine outside before work, then bring them in at the end of the day to finish drying inside. Even if you don’t want/can’t hang your clothes outside, you can still fix the smelly issue with this vinegar/baking soda method.