Recharge Your Towels

Recharge Your Towels | Get Inspired Everyday!

How to Recharge Your Towels will banish smelly towels forever! This method works well for everything from towels to workout clothes.

Recharge Your Towels | Get Inspired Everyday!

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.

Recharge Your Towels | Get Inspired Everyday!

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.

Recharge Your Towels | Get Inspired Everyday!

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.

New Notes:

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

72 Comments on “Recharge Your Towels”

  1. I am puzzled by the reference to towels smelling – it’s not a problem I’ve ever had.

    Do all those contributing to this routinely dry towels in a tumble drier?

    If yes, there is actually a much simpler solution – dry them on the line – MUCH better for the environment, your pocket and, it would seem, your towels!

    Having said that I am trying this because there is also mention of softening the towels and removing residues (I find our flannels go hard because of soap residue), so I’m interested to see if they are different after I’ve used this method!

    Thanks everyone for your contributions – an interesting read!

    1. You’re definitely right about line drying your towels and that’s exactly why you don’t have any smelly problems! I line dry my sheets and all my workout type clothes as well and they always smell amazing and I never have problems with my workout clothes that other people do. However it’s pretty cold here most of the year and line drying towels can be a challenge, so I do put them in the dryer for at least 6 months a year which is why this method is so handy for me when they start to get smelly!

  2. I searched for “how to remove fabric softener from towels.” I cannot stand the way it makes my towels feel. I have a long-term guest staying at my house.m who insisted upon using it in spite of my asking for that not to happen. I swear it only happened once, but my towels still feel slick. It reminds me of how Kleenex with lotion feels.
    Do you think this method will work to remove the lingering residue?

    1. I definitely think this vinegar and baking soda method would help you out with the fabric softener feel in your towels. Depending on how much they used it may take a couple of washes before it finally comes out. I hope you’ll let me know how it goes, or if you have anymore questions!

  3. Do I run the 1st cycle completely through (Wash, rinse, and spin) and then repeat with the added baking soda? Or do I wash with the vinegar and when it’s finished washing do I start the wash cycle over?

    1. I just run 1 full cycle for each because it’s the easiest for me, but you could start over once the first wash is done and skip the rinse and spin. I hope this helps and be sure and let me know if you have anymore questions!

  4. I don’t have hot water function in my washing machine. In such case, there was an instruction I found online, as follow:
    “Let your towels soak in hot water with the vinegar and baking soda for 30 minutes. Once the time is up, scrub them, and let them soak for thirty more minutes.”

    Could please you confirm and clarify on that method? Or if you like to suggest a better one? Thanks!

    1. I’m not sure about the the method you mentioned as I haven’t tried it myself, but you could try heating water on the stove to add to your washing machine, but be careful not to add too hot of water to anything plastic the might melt/or warp. I hope this helps some and you can always try this with whatever temperature of water you washing machine does!

  5. This works like magic! I was a little skeptical at first but I’m a true believer in the power of vinegar and baking soda now. I was about to throw away 4 towels because of the awful smell. They smell brand new, it’s amazing. Thank you thank you thank you, you have helped me saved a good chunk of money!

    1. It’s so amazing isn’t is!?! I couldn’t believe it myself when my towels smelled brand new, and I love how soft and fluffy it makes them!

  6. OMG. Thanks for this post. My towels are much softer.
    Yesterday I thought I’d try the method out on a towel that the cat urinated on. Normally nothing gets that smell out. It’s worked wonders!!!!! I wish I’d known this when we had the last mouse plague! Oh the money I could have saved!!! I’m already sharing the method with others.

    1. I’m so glad to hear it’s been working for you! It’s definitely worked wonders on my towels, they’re always nice and fresh since I started doing this!

      1. Hi! Lovely post. Do you recommend soaking towels in a vinegar or baking soda solution in the bathtub as an alternative to the washing machine? I live in a major city and unfortunately don’t have access to my own washer and dryer, and I think my local laundromat would raise a stink (no pun intended) if I poured vinegar or baking soda in the washing machines.

        1. I could see where they might take issue with vinegar and baking soda! You could soak them in the bathtub, I have done that for a few things in the past, but the biggest challenge is getting it all wrung out. And then from there I’m guessing you’ll need to figure out how to transport your wet towels to the place where you do laundry. It will definitely work though if you’re up for some extra work!

  7. This method works great! I do it twice a year. And it IS a lot cheaper than going out and buying new towels.

  8. OMG, the waste of electricity, the waste of water, uneccesary bills on baking sofa and vinegar. Easy solution guys. Cut up your older towels, use them as rags and soak them in eucalyptus based Hospital grade cleaner overnight. Then buy new fluffy towels. Bingo, it’s not Rocket science.

    1. This is a rescue for perfectly good towels that you don’t want to cut up, it just helps to naturally clear out any bacterial buildup and is especially good for those with sensitive skin/allergies that cannot tolerate a hospital grade cleaner!

    2. “Unnecessary bills on baking soda and vinegar”? Really??? Those are two incredibly inexpensive items (literally a few of dollars each)…..and the article isn’t talking about old towels that are ready to be tossed out, so the expense and waste you’re referring to would be purchasing new towels every time they get smelly or dingy.

      1. Thank you Kat, I really appreciate it! I know he was also referring to extra water usage which is a problem for some, but overall I’ve found this method to be invaluable rather than having to toss out perfectly good towels every time they start getting smelly!

  9. I am curious about the water. We have hard water. Will this still work as well? Also, do you use dryer sheets on your towels? or after having done all this, do you use fabric softener until you do this method again?

    1. It will work just fine, we have hard water too! I personally don’t use dryer sheets at all with any of my laundry as both my husband and I are allergic to synthetic fragrances. My towels come out perfectly soft and fluffy without fabric softener of any kind, but that will also depend on the type of blend your towels are made of. Also vinegar does act as a fabric softer as well. I hope this helps and be sure and let me know if you have anymore questions!

    2. Do you run a full wash rinse cycle with both the vinegar and baking soda? Or just soak with the vinegar and a wash rinse cycle with baking soda? I do the latter and sometimes add another cycle using detergent because I like the fragrance. Thanks for the original info because it just works and my old towels never smelled so good!

      1. One tip I do need to add is I always wash my towels now with just a touch of vinegar along with the detergent and I’ve found they don’t tend to get smelly as easily.

    1. I think it’s called Three Monks and I buy it in bulk from Costco. I sure hope this helps, and be sure to let me know if you have anymore questions!

    1. I like to use hot water because it really helps with bacteria and germs. Hot water can be bad for many types of fabric, but I’ve never found it to be a problem with towels.

  10. I’ve looked at all the comments but haven’t found an answer to this. Do you put the vinegar in the wash cycle, allow it to go through a rinse cycle, then baking soda in another wash cycle and rinse that out as well? Or do you put vinegar in the wash cycle and baking soda in the rinse cycle and then dry straight away without rinsing out the baking soda?

  11. Question… I just read through all of the comments. I have a top load washing machine. Do I put nothing in the detergent section and then add the vinegar to the fabric softener portion? And when I add the baking soda mixture into the 2nd time around do I just mix the hot water and baking soda together and then add it to the top of the towels or do I just put the baking soda directly on the towels and let the washer fill up? I have sanitize on my wash machine which does a two hour soak, wash, and rinse cycle. I’m wondering if this would be beneficial.

    1. The way I do it is to add the vinegar as the washing machine fills up, then I add the towels, but you could put them in first it really shouldn’t matter. Then after the first wash is done, I repeat it with the baking soda, again just adding it straight to the water in the washing machine drum. I like to use hot water to make sure they get as clean as possible, but if you have a sanitize option that might be good as well.

  12. Arm & Hammer makes those detergent packets with baking soda in them and I’ve been using those for towels for years. Definitely better than liquid detergent or even other powders. I’m going to try your vinegar/baking soda treatment anyway! They never feel as fluffy as they do when I first buy them. I have a front-loader, and I’ve never been convinced they use enough water for a good rinse!

  13. Question, how many towels do you wash with each load? I have plenty towels that have this smell and now im wanting to them all.

    1. I usually do just 2 at a time with a few hand towels and washcloths thrown in, but my washing machine isn’t very large. You just don’t want to overcrowd the machine you have because the vinegar/baking soda won’t work as well. I hope this helps, and be sure to let me know if you have anymore questions!

    1. It works great for gym clothes, also try drying your workout clothes outside in the sunshine afterwards which really helps as well!

  14. Why do the towels need to be dried on hot? Just curious…I wasn’t sure if the heat was hard on the fabric.

    1. I personally always dry my towels on the hottest setting, but I only do that with towels because I try and keep on top of the bacteria that always seems to want to grow in towels. I don’t worry about the fabric of my towels, but it definitely affects more delicate fabrics.

    1. I’m not sure, but I would use white vinegar since apple cider vinegar sometimes still has particulate in it and I’m not sure if it would still have the same effect.

  15. I can’t wait to try this. I’m about to go now to make sure I have all that is needed – vinegar and baking soda. I have noticed that horrible smell for a long time. Hopefully it will help.

    1. Be sure and let me know how it goes! If your towels have smelled for a while, you may need to repeat this process more than once to get extra stubborn smells out. I’ve even soaked my towels in the vinegar part overnight, then washed them, and washed them again with baking soda.

  16. Okay dumdum question do you add the vinegar to the water when you are filling up your machine then you put the towels in or do you run the water put the towels in then add the vinegar ?same question with the baking soda after you finish doing vinegar and you run the next wash do you fill up the water in the wash machine and then add the baking soda on top of the towels that are already in there ? I have too loader machine just FYI

    1. I normally add either the vinegar or baking soda while I’m filling up the washing machine to make sure it mixes in well, but I have added them after the towels when I forgot and I can’t say it seems to make any difference which way you do it. I hope this helps, and be sure to let me know if you have anymore questions!

  17. I’m confused because of conflicting advises from many people . Is it baking soda first then final rinse vinegar or soak with vinegar then baking soda on the final rinse. Thanks for your advise

    1. It’s 2 separate loads with the vinegar being the 1st wash, and the baking soda being the 2nd wash.

      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 for the second time 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.

  18. I’ve just tried the vinegar/ baking soda recipe on my towels. ? Do you need to wash them again with detergent when done with this process?

    1. You don’t need to wash them again with detergent unless you like to have the detergent smell in the finished laundry. Let me know if you have anymore questions, I’d be glad to try and help! 🙂

  19. Hey Kari,
    I have been using vinegar in the rinse cycle of my washing machine for a few months now…. I discovered what you mentioned about vinegar cutting the soap and stopped using them together :/ as that defeats the purpose of the laundry detergent. I put the vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser after the wash cycle. As a reminder, your clothes may smell of vinegar when taking them out of the washer but once they’re dried in the dryer or on a line, they smell fresh and wonderful!

    1. You can use them together but it does sort of defeat the detergent, but if you use just a bit of vinegar with each wash, it can help keep your washing machine from smelling. But it’s definitely best to keep them separate to have a real effect on your clothes! 🙂

  20. Can’t wait to try this….been noticing that not-quite-fresh smell lately, right out of the dryer. Eww. I never used to use fabric softener for my towels but many years ago my mother-in-law convinced me that it makes them softer and more absorbent…..apparently she was wrong! Plan to try using vinegar for the regular washing after doing the two separate cycles for freshening. Thanks!!

    1. I hope everything goes well with a few washings, but if you still notice a smell try again because sometimes it takes a bit to get that smell back out in stubborn cases. I now wash my towels with less detergent and about 1/4-1/2 cup vinegar in the load every single time. And if they ever start smelling, I do the recharge your towels wash, and they’re back to normal. Washing them with vinegar every time has really helped them stay consistently fresh!

  21. Does this put the absorbancy back in towels? I don’t wash my towels with fabric softener, but I have a friend that dried them with a fabric sheet when she stayed for a few days. I didn’t realize it until I took them out of the drier after she left.

    1. Yes it does because it strips away the layers that build up even from detergent, (and from fabric softener). Sometimes depending on how much build up is in the towels you may need to run them through a couple of times with vinegar and baking soda over the next few weeks. I hope this helps, and be sure to let me know if you have anymore questions! 🙂

  22. Do you only need to do this once and they’re lint free? Or do you have to wash them all the time this way?

    1. I’m not sure about lint free, but the purpose of the vinegar and then the baking soda wash is to get rid of the bacteria that can sometimes build up in towels. I just repeat this process anytime my towels aren’t smelling quite right. I hope this helps, and be sure to let me know if you have anymore questions!

  23. This may be a silly question but I have a front loading washing machine. Do I put the vinegar in the detergent dispenser? I wish I still had a top loader because it’s so easy to add things to the wash water.

    1. It’s not a silly question at all! I don’t have a front loader myself, but my mother-in-law does and she puts her vinegar in the detergent dispenser – there’s a couple different compartments and she puts detergent in 1 and vinegar in another. She said it’s really helped keep her front loader from smelling which seems to be a common complaint. She also leaves both the detergent dispenser open, and the door cracked after she runs a load so that it can dry properly, (although that might not work well if you have children in the house). I hope this helps, and be sure to let me know if you have anymore questions. 🙂

  24. Is this how I can clean even my soiled towels? I love this idea because I use vinegar and baking soda all the time in most cleaning jobs.

    1. Baking soda and vinegar do a great job removing that musty bacteria smell that sometimes builds up in towels, but for dirt, stains, and such you’ll need a good detergent. I run my towels every week with detergent and a little vinegar, whenever they start to smell a little off then I run them with just the baking soda and vinegar and no detergent for that load. I hope this helps, if this doesn’t answer your question be sure to write me back with more details. 🙂

  25. It doesn’t make sense to mix the vinegar and baking soda in one load. With any basic chemistry knowledge, you’ll realize that the two will react to make mostly water anyway.

    1. The post specifies that you runs 2 separate loads, the first one with vinegar and the second with baking soda. I have tried not running the second time with baking soda and there was a lingering vinegar scent in the towels, the baking soda load really helps the towels smell fresh again. I have tried adding both in 1 load at the same time and it does help freshen the towels but it doesn’t work nearly as well as separating the 2 ingredients in different loads which must be because of the chemistry you mentioned!

  26. I put the vinegar in the fabric softener spot and add the baking soda to towels in the tub. I have never had problems with overflow or towel odors.

    1. That’s why I use vinegar, it acts as a softener without coating your towels. Plus, fabric softener and my skin don’t get along!

  27. I actually did this with baking sod in the detergent and on the rinse cycle used the vinegar. Never had an issue with the overflowing. I have a front-loader though, so not sure if that makes the difference. This works wonders on towels! I actually bought a giant container of vinegar at Costco, because I am now using it in my rinse cycle to get rid of all the residues on all my clothes. Love it 😀

    1. I don’t have a rinse spot to put the vinegar, so I keep them separate to be on the safe side. Vinegar is my new favorite for just about everything!

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