I can’t help it. I’m a thrift nut. One of my favorite cooking pans came out of the bottom of a trash can. ‘Nuff said? Anyway, I was reading on a Good Housekeeping forum today about cotton bath towels. A reader had complained about her stinky towels and was asking how to prevent the problem. Another reader, codenamed “Newlywed” had replied that she “gets new towels from my parents every year to combat this problem (!?!)” She also went on to say that they buy her only Egyptian, spa-type towels.
I thought about my own towel cabinet. First of all, let me begin by stating that I still have the majority, if not all of, my towels given to me for my first marriage fourteen years ago. They are a perfectly eggplant shade of purple, which has amazingly held onto its color and fluff factor for over a decade. (Obviously, this color was chosen in my non-neutral color scheme days). Yes, the edges may be frayed, but a quick run through my sewing machine should take care of that. My other favorite towels include a 30 year old towel with my almost 40 year old cousin’s name embroidered on it, and a ‘mystery’ towel which appeared magically one day on my towel shelf. These 2 towels are as thin as toilet paper, with the Mystery Towel having a foot long hole right in the center of it, just in the right spot to accent your derriere when you wrap it around you. My newest favorite (about 5 years old) is my ‘freebie’ Texas Lotto towel that I won playing a promo game at a festival. It is a lovely shade of orange…somewhere between a traffic cone and a jack o’ lantern, emblazoned with PLAY TEXAS LOTTO across the entire shebang. It’s not likely that you’ll find 100% Egyptian cotton towels in my closet. Unless my 14 year old towels happen to be Egyptian cotton, I guess.
I have found that the thin, cheap towels are much more to my liking. Why? Well, consider the fact that cotton absorbs water fairly well, but also tends to hold onto the moisture longer than some other fabrics like linen. Thus, you can easily end up with the funky mildew smell on your bath towels especially if the bathroom isn’t well-ventilated. So, the ‘thin cheapies’ dry quicker whether in the dryer, the clothesline, or on a bathroom hanger. I hate when you dry off with a seemingly clean towel which has turned musty. Gag.
Rather than go out and get Mom and Dad to spring for some new towels for you and yours yearly, I’d recommend using thinner towels (I also love our thin beach towels). Also, when washing towels, don’t let them sit in the washer for any length of time after the cycle’s done, especially on warmer days. Unless you like musty towels, of course. I partially dry my towels in the sun to help combat mildew, but finish/fluff them in the dryer since I don’t like trying to dry myself off with something that feels like 40 grit sandpaper. Every now and then, if they have gotten musty, I will add a very small amount of bleach (maybe 1/2 cup) to the towel load to kill any mildew that may be lurking around. Yes, I even to this to colored towels, but let’s be honest. If my unicorn beach towel ends up a little faded, I really don’t care. So far, I haven’t noticed untimely fading using a bit of bleach.
Bear in mind that using a dryer, sitting in the sun, and bleach are all pretty rough on cotton fibers. So, eventually one day, you too may end up with your rear end shining out of your towels, but at least your towels won’t be musty, right?
On a final note, if your clothes/towels keep coming out of your washer with that mildewy smell, it’s probably time to wash out your washer. Different washers have different methods, but usually you will run the longest, hottest cycle with bleach and soap only to try and bleach out any mildew present. On some front loading machines, there is also some lint traps internally which may be causing you grief. You’ll have to research to see where these traps are and how to clean them out. Finally, I’d HIGHLY recommend that after washing, leave your washer door open so that the tub can dry out. I know that on my front loader if I don’t do this, things get really ugly really fast. And, be SURE that if you do this CHECK YOUR WASHER before using, as pets can climb in without your knowledge. Yep, it’s really happened before.
One last word…I also love cheap wash rags. I get new ones in the kitchen section rather than the bath section. I think it’s about 12 rags for four dollars. I hate uber-fluffy giant rags. It’s like trying to scrub yourself with a handtowel.
Well, off to the shower for me. Texas Lotto, here I come.