If you were to ask people on the street what one item in their house typically smells the most like mold or mildew you likely would get towels as the response 80% of the time. Clothing would come in second.
No one wants their towels to smell like mildew and they certainly don’t want them to grow mold. That mildew smell tends to make its way from the towel into the air and onto your body. Every dry yourself off with a stinky towel and then sniff your arm? Yeah – not a very pleasant scent am I right?
Dr. Mehmet Oz and NSF International, an independent organization that checks product safety, tested 31 towels that had been used for either one, seven or 14 days. Significant amounts of bacteria were present on all of the towels tested, including those used for only one day, and significant yeast microbes were present on more than half of the towels. Mold was present on nearly half of the towels, and some even held significant amounts of E. coli.
Towels, not unexpectedly, tended to get dirtier the longer they went without washing. NSF concluded that for every seven days a towel was used, the amount of microorganisms almost doubled. Let’s not get started on hand towels. Those are just petri dishes.
Why is this and what can you do about it?
Why Do Towels Get Mold and Mildew?
Would you like to make a guess? Hopefully this is a no-brainer. As you recall, mold and mildew love moisture and towels provide plenty of that!
Most of us shower or take a bath and then hang our towel to dry in the bathroom. Some of us may even make the mistake of throwing the wet towel into the laundry basket or onto the floor. (Don’t Do This Ever!)
When your wet towel hangs around in the bathroom not only does it increase the moisture in the air causing the humidity to rise but it simply doesn’t allow the towel to dry in a reasonable amount of time. You have taken a wet towel, added moisture, and then given it an impossible task of drying quickly. Enter mildew.
Even worse is when the towel ends up in ball on the floor or in a laundry basket. You just completely stripped it of its ability to dry.
If your towel is left damp for more than 12 hours it runs the risk of developing that mildew smell. Leave it for 24 hours? You might get actual mold on the towel.
How Can You Prevent Towels From Getting Moldy?
After bathing, hang your wet towel to dry outside or wash it immediately. Yep – it is as simple as that. There is no other magic trick when it comes to preventing towels from getting mildew or mold.
There are a LOT of ways to prevent bathroom mold however. You will want to check those out. Also, be sure to learn how to get rid of mold in the toilet as well as mold in the shower.
How Can You Remove Mold Or Get The Mildew Smell Out Of Towels?
If your towels have actual mold on them I implore you to just throw them out. There is no reason to risk transferring mold spores to other towels, clothing, or items in your home. Towels are a relatively cheap thing to replace and there is no real benefit to trying to clean moldy towels.
If your towels smell like mildew then you certainly can do a couple of things to get rid of the mildew smell.
Method 1 – Remove The Mildew Smell With Vinegar and Baking Soda
- Put your smelly towels in the washing machine and add 1 cup of distilled vinegar. DO NOT ADD laundry DETERGENT.
- Wash the towels on high temperature.
- After the load is done, give them a sniff. Smell ok? Do ahead and dry the towels. Still have a mildew smell? Throw them back in the wash with 1 cup of baking soda.
- Wash on high temperature with an extra rinse cycle.
- Dry your towels in the dryer without fabric softener. It is ok to use dryer balls.
The mildew smell should now be completely gone. If it isn’t then you want to move on to Method 2.
Method 2 – Remove The Mildew Smell With EC3 Laundry Additive
Why not start with this? In my experience, the EC3 laundry additive is great at killing mold spores (find out how here) and it does a really good job of getting out mildew smells but, it sometimes take 2-3 washings before the smell is out. Because the EC3 laundry additive is more expensive than vinegar and baking soda I always start with the cheaper method first and then move onto the EC3.
Having said that, I DO use the EC3 laundry additive in every load of laundry. This helps remove any rogue mold spores and does keep my laundry smelling fresh and feeling soft.
- Put your smelly towels in the washing machine and add 1 cup of EC3 laundry additive along with PureBiotics Laundry Detergent**. Under normal conditions you would not add this much EC3 laundry additive to a load of laundry.
- Wash the towels on high temperature.
- Dry your towels in the dryer without fabric softener. It is ok to use dryer balls. These are my favorite and they are super cute!
** PureBiotics in combination with the EC3 laundry additive creates a powerhouse of cleaning. Let me explain how a chemical free, all-natural probiotic based laundry detergent works.
Biofilm layers are formed by bacteria and fungus to protect themselves. Biofilm is essential a protective matrix, a cover, like a housing, in a sense, in which large colonies of microbes are embedded. Biofilms are not just a place to hide dirt, viruses, pathogens, mold spores, and other contaminants, but it is a slimy matrix that is one of the key weapons micro-organisms use to defeat the immune system, antibiotic drugs and other threats.
PureBiotic products penetrate the biofilm removing the contaminates and dirt at a microscopic level that you normally can never reach. These contaminations are simply converted to mass and CO2, the same as you breathe out – and these beneficial little workers continue to work for up to days at a time after each cleaning to keep eating away the biofilm put down by pathogens and other harmful germs.
Method 3 – OdorKlenz Laundry Liquid
I am JUST now testing the OdorKlenz Laundry Liquid out but so far it is performing well. While it won’t remove mold spores or kill mycotoxins, it does take some pretty funky smells out and I have great confidence that this is a solid option for getting mildew smells out of towels.
- Place your moldy towels in the washing machine and allow the basin to fill with warm water.
- Stop the cycle, add the recommended amount of OdorKlenz Laundry Liquid (or Powder), and let the towels soak for 30 minutes.
- Add laundry detergent (OdorKlenz makes this one) and continue the.
- Dry your towels in the dryer without fabric softener. It is ok to use dryer balls.
What if you are worried about mold spores ON your towels because you had mold growth in your bathroom or elsewhere in your house? That’s an entirely different post but you’re in luck! I wrote all about how to remove mold from clothing and fabric so give that a read.
Why Do You Suggest Dryer Balls and Not Fabric Softener?
Read my post about mold in washing machines. In short, mold LOVES fabric softener build up which all washing machines inevitably get. Fabric softener coats your clothes and comes off in the wash. Don’t believe me? Look it up. I assure you this is a thing that happens.
Are There Mold And Mildew Resistant Towels?
Oh yes! I couldn’t imagine life without these. They are a game changer.
There are several different types of mold and mildew resistant towels on the market. Some rely on the type of fabric (think bamboo) while others use patented technology to keep mold and mildew off of towels.
One technology or fabric isn’t necessarily better than the other. All of the towels I am recommending work well so really it is a matter of personal preference when it comes to material, size, color, and level of fluffiness.
After you check out my recommendations for mold resistant towels, be sure to see which mold and mildew resistant bath mats I use and love.
What Are The 7 Best Mold And Mildew Resistant Towels?
I put these towels through their paces! Unless a set was the only option, I ordered one bath towel to try although I expect hand towels and wash clothes would perform the same.
#7 Aviv Collection 6 Piece Towel Set
You CANNOT get more bang for your buck then the Aviv Collection. I was skeptical because of the price but it turns out that these are some serious mildew resistant towels.
The Aviv Collection is a natural bamboo and natural cotton blend. They are produced for extra strength and durability so that the towels feel and look great for years.
These towels are soft, lightweight, quick absorbing, and quick drying.
The major drawback to these towels is how much lint the produce in the dryer. You can line dry the towels to help with that but of course that will only work if the weather conditions are perfect.
The towels are also pretty thin and some reviews express concern about them loosing threads quickly.
I could see these towels being great for kids since they are sometimes quite rough on towels.
#6 Egyptian Cotton Dryfast Towel Collection By Martex
While these towels don’t necessarily resist odors, they dry is record time which certainly helps prevent a mildew smell.
The Martex Egyptian Cotton Towel Collection with DryFast offers upgraded softness and absorbency, with a generous size and your choice of rich color. Made with the extra-long fibers of premium Egyptian Cotton (which helps create stronger, fluffier loops), each towel offers an unmatched experience you’ll enjoy every time you step out of the tub or shower.
Plus, easy care with included DryFast Technology means less dryer time and less energy when machine washing. The Intelliweave process orients the synthetic fibers’s molecular structure so that there is minimal structural stress and therefore are significantly stronger and more stable than natural fibers. These synthetic fibers are woven into the underweave of the towel, giving it the durability and quick-dry properties, while ensuring nothing but 100% Egyptian Cotton loops touch your skin.
#5 Brooklyn Bamboo Bath Towels
Not only are the Ultra Soft Rayon from Bamboo Towels by Brooklyn Bamboo gentle and extremely absorbent in comparison to most towels, it is environmentally friendly and recommended for sensitive skin.
Brooklyn Bamboo Bath Towels are made of premium organic bamboo that is hypoallergenic, 100% non-toxic and anti-fungal. These towels are naturally breathable, eliminating bacteria causing stench.
These towels also get softer after each wash. I really like how soft and lightweight the Brooklyn Bamboo Towels are.
#4 Ultra Fast Dry Swim and Travel Towel by Discovery Trekking
Don’t let the “Swim and travel” part fool you! This towel can be used for anything.
The Ultra Fast Dry Swim and Travel towel by Discovery Trekking is a revolutionary product. Unlike conventional microfiber and cotton towels that absorb moisture, their innovative fabric is designed to pull water from your skin and then spread the moisture across the surface area of the fabric so it evaporates quickly.
Discovery Trekking towels use an odor-resistant technology that inhibits the growth of odor causing bacteria, so they stay fresh longer. The silver antimicrobial treatment is safe for you and the environment.
Discovery Trekking towels are NOT made of microfiber and will not get stiff and scratchy or leave you covered in fuzz. Their durable towels remain soft and smell fresh even when washed infrequently.
These breathable towels offer high sun protection and sand won’t stick to them at the beach! The Ultra Fast Dry Towel is very lightweight and compact for travel and backpacking.
This is not a typical towel but performs just like a bath towel should. For best results don’t rub, just pat skin dry.
#3 – JML Heavy Bamboo Bath Towels
If you prefer heavier towels, then the Jml heavy bamboo bath towels are worth a try. These towels are made from 90 percent bamboo fabric. They are still very soft but a bit thicker and more absorbent with all the same odor-fighting abilities as other bamboo towels. They’re also wrinkle resistant with UV protection and come in a two-pack with eight different color combinations.
I do find that the drying time is a bit longer due to their thickness.
#2 – Cariloha Odor-Resistant Bamboo Bath Towel
This Cariloha odor-resistant bamboo bath towel is the overall best pick, because it has a high absorbency and just so happens to be the most odor resistant. Bamboo is naturally odor resistant, and this towel — made from a luxurious-feeling blend of bamboo yarn and cotton — is, as the brand describes, “not too thin, and not too thick — just right.” It’s moisture-wicking and available in seven different colors, from crisp white to tropical mint.
#1 – Nutrl Waffle Towels
These are the towel love of my life! Seriously. They are AH-MAZING!
Nutrl took mold and mildew control to a new level when they created their odor controlling technology. Not only that, but the towels are incredibly lightweight, plush enough to feel great when you use them but not too plush that you have to squeeze them into your linen closet, and very strong making then last longer.
What makes these towels mold and mildew resistant?
Polygiene is a permanent odor control technology that protects fabrics from odor-causing bacteria and mildew, so you can wear more and wash less. Polygiene is based on silver chloride derived from 100% recycled silver. Only trace amounts of silver are used for treating garments with Polygiene odor control to achieve highly effective odor control performance. Additionally, it does not require the addition of binder chemicals to adhere it to the fabric.
Results from a 3rd party lab prove, even after 50 industrial intensity washes, Nutrl towels effectively eliminate 99.97% of the bacteria partially responsible for the MRSA outbreaks (staphylococcus aureus).
This speaks volumes. I have the utmost confidence in these mold and mildew resistant towels from Nutrl.
In this post I refer to EC3 products. They are one of the only two mold and mycotoxin removal products that I personally use and recommend. Please read my article outlining what makes EC3 superior when it comes to killing mold and mycotoxins. It has been independently lab tested and proven to be 99% effective when used properly. I encourage you to purchase EC3 products directly through Micro Balance. If you prefer to shop on Amazon, Micro Balance has a presence there as well.
Where can I buy the L-shaped cubby towel holder?
A lot of people ask me about this! It is actually made for Hampton Inn and Suites. You can call the distributor and see how to go about purchasing one in your area. https://www.dernis.com/portfolio-view/program-vanity-bases-tops/hamptoninn-traditional-towelbox-dscf8628-lg/
Any recs for organic mold resistant towels?
These are the only organic ones that made the list: https://www.amazon.com/Brooklyn-Bamboo-Beautiful-Antifungal-Hypoallergenic/dp/B01CUBUZ92/ref=as_li_ss_tl?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=5PK8T3T7Y2N92JC9C2GT&linkCode=sl1&tag=moldhelp-20&linkId=756b6918b9b7eb69a369821d512ebbb2&language=en_US&tag=moldhelp-20
Hello, the PureBiotics laundry detergent is not on their website anymore. Is there an alternative you recommend that works on biofilm to be used with EC3?
Unfortunately there is not another laundry detergent that I love for this. You can use the P2 Probiotic Washer Cleaner Additive: https://p2probioticpower.com/?afmc=84 This can be used with EC3 and any detergent of your choice.