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A Simple Solution for Gross, Smelly Towels

If my inbox is any indicator of what’s going on in the world, and I believe it is, smelly towels are a growing problem for consumers—and for sure my dear EC readers. And it’s a rather new problem, the result of modern things like front-loading high-efficiency washing machines, detergents, fabric softeners, and damp conditions.

If you’ve noticed gross smelly towels in your houses, albeit appearing to be washed, dried and ready to go, perhaps you’ve also noticed that your towels have begun to repel rather than absorb water.

woman holding nose in stinky situation

Smell

That moldy, mildewy, gross smell? It’s the result of the build-up of detergents and fabric softeners that have not been rinsed out properly, together with damp, moist conditions. What you have there is a breeding ground for bacteria. No wonder you’ve got a big gross smelly laundry problem.

Absorbency

If your towels have stopped doing what they’re supposed to do well—absorb water—that problem stems from the same source: Detergent and fabric softener build-up. Seriously! With detergent and laundry, more is decidedly not better.

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Fabric Softeners are the Problem Not the Solution

In the laundry room, most of us are prone to overkill. We want beautifully clean, brilliantly white, soft, and fluffy laundry results. And we don’t measure. We pour stuff out of jugs, straight into the washer, often adding a second big glug just to make sure.

 

Supermarket aisle shelves filled with laundry softening products

We use liquid fabric softener by the gallon and dryer sheets by the hundreds because there’s no such thing as too soft when it comes to towels and sheets. And when things come out looking gray, and feeling stiff and crunchy, what do we do? More detergent, more softener—even more dryer sheets!

Grungy build-up

The problem is product build-up that never gets rinsed out. Every time you do the laundry, more and more product gets left behind. This build-up of detergent and softeners can make appliances stink, colors look dingy, whites turn gray and linens feel stiff and scratchy. Towels, especially, can turn sour and stinky no matter how much you re-wash and re-soften. The detergent and softeners that aren’t properly rinsed away begin to harbor odor-causing bacteria. The washing machine gets stinky, too. But that’s not the worst.

MORE: Stinky Laundry, Smelly Machine: How Nasty Germs Survive in Your Washer and What To Do About It

Health and respiratory issues

The medical website, WebMD.com reports that the perfumes and additives in laundry products may cause skin problems—from itchiness to full-blown dermatitis. Fabric softeners are very allergenic and can cause eczema, which can appear as dry, flaky, chronically itchy skin.

Dryer sheets contain volatile organic compounds like acetaldehyde and butane, which can cause respiratory irritation. Fabric softener chemicals known as quaternary ammonium compounds have been linked to asthma. Acetone, also used in dryer sheets, can cause nervous system effects like headaches or dizziness. Read more

How to Make Wool Dryer Balls

Whenever I write about the benefits of using wool dryer balls in place of laundry softeners, I get a few responses gently raking me over the coals for suggesting we should spend money for commercially manufactured products when it’s so easy to make your own wool dryer balls.

Yes, I could do that and so could you. But unless you have a super cheap source of 100% wool yarn, it could cost more to make them than to buy them, which would be counterintuitive.

A basket of balls of feltable yarn in various colors to make wool dryer balls

 

 

100% wool yarn

First of all, wool dryer balls must be made from 100% wool that has not been treated with chemicals to make it “superwash” or “machine washable.” As a result, natural wool yarn will allow the dryer balls to become “felted.” Otherwise, they will just unwind and fall apart in the dryer. Take a look at these Smart Sheep 100% Wool Dryer Balls to see what beautifully felted dryer balls look like.

Felting is a process by which the tiny wool fibers are allowed to rub against one another vigorously. As a result, the fibers become hopelessly entangled creating a type of stable “fabric.”

You’ll need lots of yarn

To make one dryer ball requires one skein of 100% wool yarn. Each dryer ball needs to be weighty. This is because each one needs enough heft to bounce around in the dryer as it fluffs and separate the folds of the wet laundry. One skein per dryer ball is the absolute minimum.

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How to Use Wool Dryer Balls and Why You Should

A previous post, Fabric Softener Products are the Problem Not the Solution, struck a chord with thousands of readers. I know because you send me messages and letters, which I love—even ones from some who are not 100% satisfied making the switch from problematic laundry softeners to what I find are amazing wool dryer balls.

But first, let’s review the problem:

Wool dryer balls how and why you should use them

The trouble with fabric softeners

The medical website, WebMD.com, reports that the perfumes and additives in laundry products may cause skin problems. Fabric softeners are very allergenic and can cause eczema, which appears as dry, itchy skin.

Dryer sheets contain fragrance and volatile organic compounds like acetaldehyde and butane, which can cause respiratory irritation. Fabric softener chemicals known as quaternary ammonium compounds have been linked to asthma. Acetone, also used in dryer sheets, can cause nervous system effects like headaches or dizziness.

Why wool dryer balls?

These things look like overgrown tennis balls, made of 100% wool yarn, that over time becomes “felted,” making them especially durable and not at all prone to unraveling. One set of wool dryer balls will last what seems like forever, softening thousands of loads of laundry—no batteries, refills, repairs or reconditioning required. It’s one [purchase] and done! Read more

11 Money Savers That Will Pay for Themselves Over and Again

I have to admit to being a bit of a gadget freak. I’m drawn to tools and devices that do cool things. And when I discover “cool” includes being a money saver, for me that turns a purchase into an investment with a guaranteed rate of return.

 hand with a calculator. money saving concept.

Here’s a list of eleven gadgets, tools and items I’ve found that can save a lot of money and generally recoup the cost in less than a year. That time frame will vary depending on your specific situation. Your mileage may vary.

You can count on this: Once you’ve recouped the purchase price, these items will continue to save you money—for free!

 

PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT

If you have a central heat and air conditioning system, you need  a programmable thermostat. There are less expensive options available, but a high quality programmable thermostat like the Nest Programmable Thermostat will result in very precise temperature control. You can program it (easy) to automatically lower your air conditioning and/or heat use while you’re not home. Just set it and then forget about it; Nest will automatically adjust things for you so that you aren’t wasting expensive electricity—without any noticeable changes for you and your family.

With just a few manual adjustments, the Nest Thermostat can learn your habits and immediately start saving you money by automatically adjusting the temperature. Nest works with Alexa, which means you have voice control capability as well as the ability to control Nest from your smartphone. Used well, Nest can easily return its cost to you in the first year—making the annual savings free from then on. About $215.
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