Do you ever take a load of just-washed towels out of the dryer, only to find that they have…well…an odor, and not a pleasant one? In fact, they may smell downright musty. It could well be that, instead of getting your towels really clean, laundering is leaving them less than fresh due to detergent and fabric softener buildup. Here are five inexpensive, green and effective antidotes.
1. Vinegar. Pour a cup or two of distilled white vinegar or half that amount of cleaning vinegar in with the towels just prior to starting the washing machine. Alternatively, replace your commercial fabric softener with plain white vinegar. The homemaker's best friend when it comes to cleaning and freshening, vinegar will both soften and deodorize your towels…plus it's cheap and eco-friendly. A win-win-win solution!
2. Baking soda. Add this powerful multi-purpose powder to your wash, a half cup per load if you have a top loading machine. For a front loader, sprinkle a quarter cup of baking soda liberally on the interior of your washing machine, including the gasket as well as the drum. Pay special attention to that pocket at the bottom of the gasket that never seems to get really dry. Wait at least half an hour (or overnight); then launder your towels without removing the baking soda.
3. A clean washing machine. If your washer itself is smelly, gunky and/or moldy, how can you expect it to get your towels really fresh? High efficiency washing machines, which use much less water than standard washers (good thing), are particularly susceptible to the stinky syndrome (bad thing). Handymen recommend deep cleaning your machine regularly every couple of months, including the soap dispenser, washer drum, water hose and seal. Run a "Clean" cycle if your washing machine offers one. Otherwise, set the washer to its hottest temperature, pour a cup of vinegar into the soap dispenser and let it roar. Keep the clean going by leaving the high efficiency machine door open for at least 30 minutes after finishing your wash.
4. Thorough drying. Double check your towels when you take them out of the dryer. Make sure that they are completely bone dry and not just hot. Never fold towels that are even the slightest bit damp. Folding them up will reduce the exposed surface area and increase the chances of mustiness. By the same token, refrain from crumpling up wet, used towels into the laundry hamper or leaving a sopping towel in your tote bag after a swimming excursion – two more express tickets to the Land of Stench. And if you plan to save your towel to use for more than one shower before laundering, spread it out on a rack rather than hanging on a hook.
5. Fresh air. The benefits of drying your laundry in the open air are more than enough to make purchasing a high-quality dual reel clothesline system, laundry basket and clothespins (green-friendly wooden ones, please) a worthwhile investment. First, you are cutting out a major portion of your household's energy consumption, reducing your carbon footprint and your electricity bills to boot. Next, you'll prolong the life of your wardrobe; the lint you see in your dryer filter is the result of abrasion of your clothes. Finally, the sun and the wind (and the occasional sprinkle of rain if you don't happen to bring in your laundry in time) will imbue those towels with a fresh outdoorsy scent so delightful you’ll want to bottle it.
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