How to Strip and Fix Sour Smelling Towels

It really doesn’t matter whether you use store bought laundry detergent or homemade laundry soap, your towels and washcloths can become sour and smelly after a while due to the build-up of detergents and things in them, especially if you have a Front loading washing machine. In addition, many people aren’t aware that use of dryer-sheets can create a build-up on your towels, making them less absorbent over time.


Here’s a really simple, inexpensive way to fix your smelly towel issue, stripping them of excess detergents and making them light, fluffy and very absorbent again using 2 basic household ingredients: vinegar and baking soda.

First, Wash your towels in hot water with one cup of plain white vinegar *do not use any detergent at all* and let it run through the entire wash cycle. As soon as the first cycle completes, run them through again with hot water and add a half-cup of regular baking soda.


Once they have been washed properly, dry them in the machine or hang them out to dry immediately, do not let them set in the machine as this allows mildew to grow, creating a new cycle of issues.

This method will strip your towels of all of that nasty leftover residues and remove any mildew smells, actually leaving them feeling fluffy and smelling fresh and help return their natural absorbency.

Towel Stripping with Borax

If you have a front loading machine, fill your (clean) bathtub with hot water. Dissolve one cup of Borax laundry booster in the water and then add your “clean” towels. Let them soak for up to 4 hours in the solution. Then rinse them out and run them through the washing machine on a normal cycle. 

If you have a regular top-loading machine, simply fill the machine with “clean” towels, add the borax and fill with hot water. Let the towels soak for a couple of hours, then run the machine on a normal cycle.

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  1. Are you asking if the towels would be clean without soap? This method is to refresh old towels that are no longer absorbent or fluffy. You would wash them in detergent first to get them clean, and use this method after that to keep them absorbent, fluffy and “fresh”.

  2. i used one bar of Dr Bonner baby soap did not get the same result. is it okay to use this soap if so how much. i really like the recipe.


    • i used one bar of Dr Bonner baby soap did not get the same result. is it okay to use this soap if so how much. i really like the recipe. thanks

      No, No Wont Work at All. As the article Very Clearly States TWICE,

      *do not use any detergent at all*


  3. Avoid using fabric softeners, Also, make use of less soap adding one and a half cup of vinegar will help brighten, soften, and kill odors in on your hand or bath towels..

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