Expert: Key to fresh towels is clean washer

January 24, 2013 3:08:20 PM PST
If you have musty-smelling towels, don't get rid of them because we found a way to freshen them up.

It's a common problem in many households -- that musty smell that lingers on towels even after they are washed. The problem starts in the washing machine and then spreads to your towels.

It's lurking in the washing machine.

"It just doesn't smell good," said Margo Lamar, who's had musty towels.

"I can't even describe it, it's terrible. It's like mildew almost," said Courtney Cernosek, another person who's got musty towels.

And it's a smell some people can't seem to get rid of.

"We have lots of issues with that inner ring and it's disgusting," Cernosek said.

That inner ring that Cernosek is talking about is what's probably causing the musty smell, says Village Plumbing appliance technician Luis Castro.

"Build up around the gasket here, that's caused by humidity inside of the washer," he said.

Castro says since high-efficiency machines operate on low water levels, residue from fabric softener and detergent can cause build up over time.

"In some cases, the gasket has so much buildup on it that the only option is to replace it," Castro said.

And that's a $450 repair when you call the pros. So to prevent it from happening in the first place, be sure to leave the door open after every wash and routinely wipe down the inside of the gasket.

"Also, I would recommend running a cleaner once a month. That way it will clean the inside of the machine and prevent the odors from coming back," Castro said.

What about the smell that's left behind on your towels? There's a way to get rid of that, too.

First, we wipe down the gasket to get all the residue that's causing the smell. Then we are ready to wash the tub. You can use cleaners sold at the store, or to save even more money, two cups of vinegar.

Once you put the vinegar in the washing machine, run on the sanitary cycle. If you don't have that option on your machine, just run it on the hottest temperature possible to really clean it out.

Now you're ready to begin washing your towels in the washing machine.

Expert cleaners recommend you first wash your towels with two cups of vinegar on the hottest water setting. After you run that cycle, wash the same load again. This time, use a laundry booster like Arm & Hammer's Super Washing Soda. You can find it in the laundry aisle for $4.

After the two washes, your towels should smell much fresher and you shouldn't have to pay to replace them.

When we followed these steps, we really did get rid of that musty smell. The key to maintain the freshness of your towels is to not use any fabric softener in the wash and dry them 100 percent.

These machines require maintenance, so be sure to wipe down the tub really well once a week. Then on a monthly basis, use a homemade cleaner or store-bought cleaner tablets and run the machine on the "clean cycle."

We asked Castro how long he's had his washing machine and he said 30 years.
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