As summer heats up daily workouts become hotter and, unfortunately, sweatier. While athletes combat the heat and sweat in different ways, most will, at some point, resort to a sweat towel in an attempt to dry off and eliminate sweat from eyes, hands, and equipment.

These towels are put through the ringer, and after several washes they begin to lose their absorbency and softness. The bigger problem: they begin to smell. No athlete wants to wipe his or her face with a scratchy, smelly towel. The more the towels are washed, the rougher they begin to feel, and the smell never seems to go away.

The solution to eliminating this odor is most likely sitting in the pantry or fridge, already doing the job it is needed for: absorbing odors.

What is this mystery product?  Baking soda.

Towels begin to feel rough because typical fabric softeners leave a film on the towels. This film eliminates the fluffy, soft aspect of the towel, prevents the towels from being absorbent, and locks in the mildew smell that never seems to go away. When combined with vinegar, another ingredient most people have on hand, baking soda can eliminate odor and restore towels to their original absorbency and softness.


Infographic created by Ariane Cain at

When washing towels, avoid using a fabric softener, as tempting as it is to load up on the softener to get the softest towels as possible. After washing, use two additional wash cycles, both on hot water, one with a cup of vinegar and one with half a cup of baking soda. The vinegar will cut through the film created by detergents, allowing the towels to become absorbent once again, while the baking soda will eliminate any odor from the towels, and help to restore their softness.

Dry the towels as usual, and they are ready for another run of hard, sweaty workouts.

This practice should not be limited to sweat towels; the technique can also increase the longevity of bath and beach towels. Terrycloth sweatbands and headbands can also be treated the same way after putting in the hard hours on the court or field.

The next time your sweat towel feels rough or begins to smell, don’t buy a new one, simply grab the baking soda you have sitting in the pantry.