How to get the musty smell out of towels in a front load washer

78 views 9:38 pm 0 Comments February 18, 2024
Front load washer cleaning tip: Remove musty towel smell with our easy guide
  Reading time 11 minutes

Nothing sours the comfort of a fresh shower like reaching for a towel and being confronted with a musty, mildew scent. The query of how to get smell out of towels in front load washer plagues many households, but fortunately, there are tried and true methods to eradicate this problem. Here, we delve into effective cleaning techniques tailored for front load washers, ensuring your towels remain fresh and aromatic. After all, your post-bath experience should be wrapped in nothing but freshness.

Understanding Musty Smells in Towels

The persistent question of how to get mildew smell out of towels in high efficiency washer is often posed by frustrated homeowners. Musty smells arise due to bacteria and mildew flourishing in damp environments – a common issue in high-efficiency models which use less water. When towels are left to sit in the washer for too long or are not dried properly, these odors can take hold, turning your bathroom into a less-than-inviting space.

Why Front Load Washers Can Cause Odor Issues

Similarly, when someone asks, “why do my dishes smell like wet dog after hand washing,” the same underlying causes apply to towels – improper drying and the remnants of organic matter. Front load washers, renowned for their efficiency and fabric-friendly operations, unfortunately, have a flip-side: their watertight seals can trap moisture, resulting in an environment ripe for mildew and mold. Left unchecked, the washer can impart an off-putting odor onto your fabrics, much like the unwelcome scent on improperly dried dishes.

Say goodbye to musty towel odor: Follow our front load washer cleaning advice

The Root of the Problem

  1. The Role of Bacteria and Mold The root cause of that musty towel smell is the bacteria feasting on moisture within the fabric, alongside the growth of mold and mildew. These organisms prefer the dark, moist confines of your washer. Ignoring regular cleaning of your high-efficiency washer can result in a smell that seems to cling stubbornly to fabrics even after a wash cycle.
  2. Impact of Washer Type and Maintenance Both high-efficiency and front load washers require a vigilant maintenance schedule to fend off odors. These style washers seal more tightly than their top-load counterparts, retaining moisture post-cycle that, if not managed, results in a recurring musty stench over time, affecting not only your towels but any laundry.

Step-by-Step Solutions

Regular Washer Maintenance Tips

Preventative maintenance is key to ensuring your high-efficiency washer remains clean and free of odor-causing bacteria:

Monthly Washer Maintenance
Run a hot wash cycle with two cups of white vinegar, breaking down residual detergent or softener build-up.
Wipe the rubber gasket after each use with a cloth to remove moisture and residue.
After each cycle’s end, leave the washer door and detergent drawer open to air out and dry internally.

Pre-Wash Strategies for Your Towels

  • Vigorously shake each towel to dislodge dirt and debris, ensuring a more effective wash.
  • With careful attention to emptiness, scan all pockets for any items that might decompose in the wash and contribute to odors.

By following this guide, you’re moving toward not just masking odors with fabric softeners but eliminating their sources. Additionally, advice on how to make towels smell good without fabric softener is simple: rely on natural methods like baking soda and white vinegar, which we’ll explore later in the article.

Washing Techniques to Eliminate Odors

  1. Choose a detergent suitable for front load washers – one that creates fewer suds which rinse out more effectively, reducing mold-friendly residue.
  2. For towels with a strong musty scent, a hot water cycle can be the key; nevertheless, always check the fabric care instruction to prevent damage.

Proper Drying to Prevent Musty Towels

Drying is just as vital in your quest to keep towels smelling fresh and avoiding that musky scent:

  • Immediately move towels to the dryer after washing to prevent the onset of mildew.
  • Incorporating dryer balls not only fluffs the towels but also promotes airflow, ensuring a quicker and more even dry.

Committing to these simple yet effective drying practices guarantees towels that are not only clean but delightfully fresh-scented and inviting for your next use.

Additional Tips and Tricks

The Use of Vinegar and Baking Soda

One household remedy that’s gaining popularity for its effectiveness and simplicity is the use of vinegar and baking soda in the laundry. Adding half a cup of baking soda with your laundry detergent can help to neutralize odors and soften fabrics naturally. For a more thorough cleanse, especially for towels that have a deeply ingrained musty smell, you can conduct a two-cycle wash; start with one cycle using hot water and a cup of white vinegar, followed by a second cycle with your regular detergent and a half cup of baking soda.

Choosing the Right Laundry Detergent

Selecting the correct detergent is not only about preference but also about the health and longevity of your towels and your washer. The ideal detergent for a front load washer is typically a high-efficiency (HE) formula that produces fewer suds and is easier to rinse out, thus reducing residue buildup that can contribute to odors. Look for detergents with enzymes that specifically target and break down organic material that might be contributing to the musty smell.

The Benefits of Sunlight and Fresh Air

Never underestimate the power of sunlight and fresh air when it comes to combating towel odors. If weather and space permit, skip the dryer and opt to hang your towels outside to dry on a clothesline. The sun’s ultraviolet rays have natural disinfectant properties that can help kill bacteria, while the breeze can whisk away moisture and leave your towels smelling clean and fresh.

Eliminate musty towel smell in front load washer: Our expert cleaning tips

Prevention is Better Than Cure

Routine Care for Your Front Load Washer

Regular maintenance of your front load washer can prevent the environment in which mold and mildew thrive. Clear out any debris from the washer drum after each use and periodically use a soft brush to clean the detergent dispenser and any crevices. Once a month, toss a few old towels in for a ‘maintenance wash’ with hot water and a cup of white vinegar to really keep things pristine.

Best Practices for Towel Usage and Storage

  1. After use, always hang your towels up to dry fairly quickly – don’t let them pile up wet on the floor or in a laundry basket. This habit alone can greatly reduce the risk of mustiness.
  2. When it comes to storage, resist the urge to stash towels inside cabinets or drawers when they’re even slightly damp. Ensure they are completely dry first to inhibit bacterial growth.

Now that your towels and washer are in tip-top shape, let’s make sure they stay that way with these two simple routines.


Through consistent and mindful care, the days of musty towels can be a distant memory. By following the shared techniques – from selecting the right detergent and incorporating natural cleaning agents to maintaining your washer and properly drying and storing your towels – your bathroom textiles can remain as fresh and welcoming as the day you bought them. A little effort goes a long way in ensuring a consistently pleasant and snuggly towel experience.

 Get rid of musty towel odor in front load washer: Follow our step-by-step guide


How can I freshen up my towels if I don’t have time for a full wash cycle?

Quick freshen-up trick: Toss your towel in the dryer with a dryer sheet or a clean tennis ball for about 10-15 minutes on a warm setting. The heat will kill some of the bacteria and eliminate mild damp smells.

Are there any natural alternatives to fabric softener to make my towels feel softer?

Absolutely! Adding a quarter cup of baking soda to your wash or using wool dryer balls during the drying cycle can naturally soften towels without the use of commercial softeners.

What should I do if my front load washer has a strong odor even when I’m not washing towels?

This suggests that it’s time for a thorough cleaning. Run an empty hot water cycle with two cups of white vinegar. Scrub the gasket and dispenser and leave the door open after cycles to dry out the machine. If the problem persists, a technician may need to check for hidden mold.

Can too much laundry detergent cause my towels to smell musty?

Yes, using more detergent than necessary can lead to buildup in your towels and washer, which becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. Follow the recommended detergent amount, especially for HE washers.

How often should I wash my bath towels to keep them from developing a musty smell?

It’s generally recommended to wash bath towels after three to four uses. If you exercise frequently or live in a humid climate, you may need to launder them more often.