Why Do My Towels Smell Like Wet Dog?

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You might need to take a sniff test on your towels before laughing out loud at this question. What kind of smell do your towels give off? Do they smell fresh or stale? Wait, did you just realize after sniffing that they actually do smell like wet dogs too? Well, touché!

After a good wash, your towels should come off smelling fresh, so fresh that you can detect and confirm its cleanliness and freshness. Anything short of that signals a problem and thankfully, it is one that can be resolved without hassles.

Contrary to what you might be wont to believe, the smell of a wet dog emanates not from the dog itself, but from microorganisms camping in its fur. Care to have a description of the smell? Well, they are likened to a bitter-sweet smell of a fruity and fecal mix courtesy of the volatile chemical byproducts of the bacteria’s and yeasts let loose into the air.

In the same vein, a solid reason why your towel would smell like a wet dog is because it has multitasked and added the extra function of being a breeding ground for bacteria’s and fungi.

What can I do to get my towels smelling fresh again?

Keeping your towels fresh is no easy job simply because it is an item we use frequently. Keeping bath towels clean in particular might seem like such a herculean task as the bulk of us take our baths at least, once a day. This means that bath towels are likely to stay damp most of the time.

Leaving towels wet or damp is the surest way of building a conducive environment for bacterias. When microorganisms find a home within your towels and comfortably settle in, the towel begins to give out unpleasant odours. You can however, remedy the situation in three (3) easy steps.

  • Give your machine a good wash.  I mean, set the machine to run empty so it can give itself a good wash and rinse too. This helps to eliminate any bacteria or fungi lurking around it and rinse out every residue of additives it might have from previous uses.
  • Place towels in to wash alone. Do not wash alongside any other material as that would be counterproductive. Do not even wash white towels along with colored ones.  Once towel is loaded, add a very tiny amount of detergent in the dispenser compartment and give it a hot water wash.  Another reason why your towel might smell like a wet dog is because of the buildup over time of excess detergent used. As a matter of fact, the solution process involves stripping the towels of this same excess detergent.
  • Rinse thoroughly after washing. Take a whiff after the first rinse cycle to be sure the smell is completely gone. If it is still there, even though faintly, set a rinse cycle to run again.

So, there you have it. Though, there are cases where it gets so difficult to expel the smell, even after following the steps above.

These are usually extreme cases where either microorganisms have been allowed to penetrate so deeply into the towels and roam around freely to build a mini colony or, the towels have a heavier than normal buildup of detergent in them.

If this is the case, you would need the external help of white vinegar or baking soda to fully dispel the stench. Simply wash the clothes thoroughly.

Remember to use just a little amount of detergent as you don’t want to compound the problems. Once done with washing, add two full cups of white vinegar to the rinse cycle then run it. Do a second rinse but this time, adding a cup of baking soda. Your towels are bound to come out totally renewed and fresher than ever.

Five (5) silly mistakes we make with our towels

Most of the problems we encounter with our towels are usually a direct product of our own ignorance. Below are some very common mistakes people make while using their towels every day.

Folding towels after use

Eww! It’s a no brainer that towels must definitely get wet after it has been used. Wet or damp towels need all the air that they can get to full dry up, expel bacteria’s and be ready for the next use.

Henceforth, see that all bath towels are hung to naturally dry up outside. These days, even hanging on hooks in bathrooms does not cut it anymore.

For kitchen towels, get a rack hinged on the wall where they can be spread to dry in between uses. Whatever the case may be, just remember that there is no justification whatsoever for folding up damp towels.

Using our towels continuously without washing

This is totally against the rules of proper towel hygiene. It does not even matter if you allow towels to completely dry after use, drying only assists in making your towels uncomfortable for bacteria’s and fungi but, it’s absolutely powerless against the growing size of dirt accumulating on a daily basis.

Only a proper wash can handle that. See that towels are washed at least, once every week. You can get substitute towels to use interchangeably.

  • Using one towel for different functions: It is no coincidence that there are different towels made to serve different purposes. Having a bath towel that doubles as a hand towel for you because you frequently reach out to it to wipe your hands or, a face towel that you occasionally use in drying up your entire body is a complete breach of the rules. This is the easiest way to promote cross-contamination in your environment.
  • Washing heavily soiled towels together with less soiled ones: this is point blank a towel hygiene fail. What you end up achieving when you do this is an easy transfer of dirt and grease to the not so dirty ones. Separate your towels according to their colours or how dirty they are and wash them accordingly.
  • Washing towels too often with hot water: this is strongly not advised. Exposing your cotton made towel to extreme heat constantly, would destroy it sooner than you think. Save hot water washes for very rare occasions where towels are overly dirty and heavily infested with dirt. This hot water treatment should happen once in a very long while because it says a lot about your hygiene practices if they get heavily contaminated all so often.


Can a towel be clean yet, smell so badly?

Highly possible. Towels awful stench is as a result of bacteria’s hidden inside of it. Ordinarily, the smell should go off as soon as you put it through a thorough wash but then, if it still lingers, It’s time to think outside of the box.

This might mean that the towels while washing off the bacteria’s on it are getting some more of it too, this time, from your washing machine!

This is why it is advised to first of all, wash machine alone and rinse to get rid of bacteria’s and germs taking cover inside of it.

Must I do a deep wash each time my towels smell?

Towels might smell due to a handful of reasons. If you fail to dry your towels immediately after use, it would in no time, begin to give off a damp musty smell.

This is because; bacteria’s have begun to find their way there but, are yet to settle in much less, begin breeding. You can correct this anomaly by taking it out into the hot sun to dry.

The sizzling hot sun takes care of the vulnerable microorganisms and gets your towels super dry and fresh again. A deep wash is needed only for cases of heavily soiled or contaminated towels only.

Can I use Oxiclean to wash the smell off my towels?

OxiClean is a very potent towel revitalizer. A scoop can be added to the wash load while you use vinegar during the rinse. This combination should be done on towels that totally need to be revived. However, you can make use of white vinegar and baking soda alone if you are tilted more towards natural home-made solutions.

Why Do My Towels Smell Like Wet Dog – Conclusion

There is this comfort you feel when you are wrapped in sweet-smelling, fresh, and fluffy towels. The feeling is just unexplainable. This can be a regular experience for you if you take the pain to handle your towels the proper way.

Stench emerging out of your towels can be very embarrassing and discouraging to use. Fix your smelly towels using one or a combination of all the helpful tips mentioned above.

The extent to which your towels smell, would determine if it is in need of a quick fix or a deep clean fix. Either way, see that it is done and your towels regains its once fresh smell.

If the smell refuses to leave after going through all these processes, then it just might be time to get a replacement and give it up!

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