Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Tips for removing that musty smell from RV towels

By Gail Marsh
You grab a towel to dry your face and it hits you. Ugh! That horrible, terrible, no-good, musty smell! Gasping for air, you quickly drop the stinky towel to the floor as you try and figure out what just happened. That towel came from the cupboard. It’s clean! So, what’s up with the smell? And more importantly, what can you do to get rid of that stink forever?

Stinky causes

Your RV towels may smell musty occasionally. Here’s why. Over time, detergent and fabric softener residue builds up within the fabric of the towel. This buildup can prevent your towels from drying completely. Then, bacteria develops on the towel, causing mildew to form. (All the worse for cotton towels. Cotton is an organic material—all the better for bacteria growth.) If you store the towel in a dark, airless space (like an RV cupboard), the mildew will continue to grow. The result? A horrible, terrible, no-good, musty smell!

Removing the musty smell

  1. You can easily remove the “funky smell” from your RV towels. Just grab the white vinegar from your RV’s kitchen cupboard. Measure one cup of vinegar and pour it directly into your washer’s drum. Do not add any detergent. Loosely place the stinky towels into the washer and launder at the hottest temperature.
  2. Once the complete washing cycle ends, remove the towels. Place one cup of baking soda into the washer’s drum and add the wet towels. Do not add detergent. Wash on the hot cycle a second time.
  3. When the cycle ends, hang the towels outside in the sun, if possible. Or dry the towels in the dryer, but do not add a dryer sheet.
  4. Repeat the procedure, as needed.

Keep the stink off

  1. First off, wash your towels in a separate load, all by themselves. Use less detergent to help prevent residue buildup.
  2. Secondly, never use liquid fabric softener on your towels. It leaves a thin coating on the top of the fibers. This does make the towel feel softer, but it can hinder the towel from drying completely. Instead of softener, try placing clean tennis balls or wool-felted dryer balls into the dryer when drying towels. The balls will help fluff up the towel fibers, making them softer and more absorbent.
  3. Finally, always transfer clean, wet towels from the washing machine immediately into the dryer. Hang damp or wet used towels right away after use.

Hint: Assign each family member a different color towel. That way you’ll know who tosses his towel on the floor instead of hanging it up!

I know there are fabric deodorizers like this one on the market. Have you used them? Did they work?




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Cee (@guest_259266)
26 days ago

I don’t use fabric softener. I use white vinegar in the rinse cycle for everything I wash. Thanks for a great article Gail!

Split Shaft (@guest_258997)
29 days ago

One thing not mentioned to clean and sanitize bath towels is “Hot Water.” When washing our bath towels, I use 140-degree hot water in the washer with laundry detergent. And dry thoroughly in the dryer. Heat is the best disinfectant and cleaner for bath towels. And they can be reused longer shower after shower before moisture born odors develop after use when hung up to dry between uses.

Neal Davis (@guest_258975)
29 days ago

Thank you, Gail! Your hints are always informative. This hint is exceptionally helpful to us, given our travel style, rig, etc.,. I do all our laundry and I can use this hint traveling AND at home. Thank you!
PS, We use this detergent ( when traveling because it takes up little space and is concentrated. Perhaps it also lessens the likelihood of using too much detergent per load?

Marsha (@guest_258969)
29 days ago

I have been using just a bit of White Vinegar in the rinse cycle for my towels for quite some time now. I think it helps them stay soft (and no smells.)

Rebecca (@guest_258968)
29 days ago

FWIW I’m pretty sure it’s a fungus, not bacteria that causes mildew.
And yes, get a head start on the problem by never putting damp ANYTHING in the laundry hamper.
A tennis ball or 2 in the dryer takes the place of dryer sheets to make towels softer. Just make sure that you don’t grab the dog’s ball! Eau de dog slobber…no thanks!

Jane (@guest_258957)
29 days ago

Agree, never use fabric softer (liquid or sheets) with your towels. Thanks for the tip about the baking soda, so far I’ve been able to get the musty smell out using white vinegar. I use vinegar in place of the fabric softener and I make sure my towels are 110% dry! Never put away a towel that’s even the slightest bit damp. Really shouldn’t use fabric softener at all, not good for the fabric.

T & S (@guest_258955)
29 days ago

We’ve had really good luck using Oxiclean powder to remove musty smells from towels. We use it for bed linens too! Works great!!

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