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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Karen B. Gibbs

Have you ever come out of a shower all fresh and clean and suddenly catch a whiff of something sour? It's probably time to give your towels the sniff test and wash that stink away.

Check out our interactive guide to learn how to clean your home from top to bottom.

TODAY Home asked Carolyn Forté, director of home appliances, cleaning products and textiles at the Good Housekeeping Institute, for tips on how to clean smelly towels. Her secret ingredient? Distilled white vinegar.

Towels develop a sour and smelly odor when they’re put away wet. Another source of towel odor, and also the reason towels lose softness and absorbency, ironically comes from detergent/fabric softener buildup.

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So when you notice a musty or sour smell in your towels or they lose softness and absorbency, Forté recommends adding one cup of distilled white vinegar during the final rinse (for a standard top-load washer that fills with water) to remove the odor.

“For high-efficiency top-loaders or front-loaders,” she adds, “I would just fill the fabric softener dispenser to the max level with vinegar so it is automatically dispensed in the final rinse. Otherwise, with these machines, there’s no other way to add it at the correct time.”

While the vinegar smell usually is washed away in the final rinse, if the smell of vinegar lingers, just rinse them again. As a final tip, Forté adds, “There is no need to always rinse towels in vinegar. Just do it on an as-needed basis.”

This article was first published on June 30, 2016.