Monday, August 26, 2013

An in-depth guide to mildewy towels

The water is piping, warmth streaming down your back. Feeling clean, refreshed, you shut off the shower and reach for your towel. And there it hits you, that stinky smell of mildew built up in the fibers that you are now spreading all over your body as you dry off. Your clean, refreshing shower is now officially ruined from that putrid stench.

That's pretty much how I felt for a time. My towels smelled horrid. Every time I dried myself off, I felt I was spreading mold and mildew all over my skin. Yes, I said mold. You know that nasty stuff that builds up along the bottom of your shower curtain liner? That's what is building up in your towels, making them smell as bad as they do. I found there were easy ways to clean them, but I wanted to know what caused it and why. So I did some research and here is what I found:

First let's talk towels. Towels are made of 100% cotton. The absolute finest cotton towel you can buy is Egyptian cotton. It has a very expensive weave, making it more absorbent and soft. The next best thing is Pima cotton, also very absorbent. The absorbency is why they make such a great use for towels, they absorb water quickly. These towels can easily run you upwards of $10-$15 per bath towel. Often you find towels that say something along the lines of "made with" Pima or Egyptian cotton. These often contain other low quality materials. It's all about marketing!

Over time, with use (or wear and tear) towels begin to lose their absorbency. Low quality towels do so more quickly. Eventually they begin to absorb bacteria and fungi that build up in the bathroom. An additional cause of towels losing their absorbency is how they are washed. Too much detergent can saturate the close-knit fibers in a towel, and fabric softener coats them. Imagine my surprise to find that little Snuggles bear has been deceiving me all this time with his fluffy basket of towels. Cuteness be darned!

Never fear, for there is an easy solution:
Wash no more than three large towels at a time with 1 1/2 cups of white vinegar in HOT water. Run the load again with 1/2 cup of baking soda, also in hot water. Dry them until they are completely dry. Not just hot, but dry. Do not use fabric softener. Mine were pretty bad smelling and this washing technique helped get almost everything out. If only you could have seen me standing in the laundry room, sniffing my towels as they came out of the dryer. It was like heaven, and people thought I was strange. If only they knew ...!

You can also make your life easier and use some preventative measures to keep this build up from forming. After each shower leave a window open or the bathroom fan running to allow the moisture in the room to escape. Don't wash your towels in large quantities. Continue to wash them in vinegar, as the acidity gets the really dirty things clean. Do not wash them in detergents (unless it is anti-microbial) or dry with fabric softeners. A fungus-free, smelly good towel is far better than a Downy soft towel in my opinion.

I hope my bit of research is useful to you. Do you have any natural ways of cleaning mildew around your home?

Much love from my home to yours!
Image courtesy missmac
Graphic design by NewlyMynted
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