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Why Do My Towels Smell Like Onions or Garlic?

Why Do My Towels Smell Like Onions or Garlic?

Most Asian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean dishes have lots of onions and garlic in them. It's for this reason why they taste not only appetizing but also smell amazing. However, the same cannot be said if your towels smell like onions or garlic.

Such an unmistakable odor may smell fantastic in the kitchen and dining room, but it is an entirely different story if it's present in your bathroom because of your towel. There are various reasons for it, and that is why there are also different ways to put the problem to an end.

So, why do my towels smell like onions or garlic? Usually, it is due to the formation of odor-causing germs that love to thrive in moist places such as towels. However, at times it can also be due to towels absorbing smells that resemble onions or garlic. Some common sources of such unpleasant odors include a clogged drain, stagnant heater water, and the body.

Keep on reading if you are sick and tired of using towels that smell like onions or garlic. Below we will talk about some of the things that may cause this horrible problem. Also, we will discuss some of the steps that you may take to keep your towels smelling clean and fresh as they are meant to be.

Don't forget to share this on your various social media sites later on. Some of your family and friends may also be having the very same issue with their towels, but are too embarrassed to ask for some tips!

Common Cause #1: Microbial Growth

Towels are damp most of the time, especially if you love taking a lot of showers or baths per day. What's more, they are situated in an area in your home where it is usually dark and moist, and it's none other than your bathroom.

It's because of these different factors why germs can grow and multiply uncontrollably on towels. Some of these microbes give off all kinds of unpleasant odors, including those that resemble the characteristic smells of onions and garlic.

The problem with this is that your towels will not only smell unpleasant but will also serve as a playground for very tiny organisms that your naked eye cannot see.

Needless to say, each time that you use your towel after taking a shower or bath, you are spreading germs thriving on it all over your body!

Unused towels in the cabinet that smell like onions and garlic may also be harboring microbes that emit nasty odors. It may be because you failed to wash them very well.

It may also be because they absorbed unfavorable smells coming from somewhere, such as the one we are going to talk about next.

What to do

The installation of an exhaust fan in your bathroom can help to keep your towels and the rest of your bathroom smelling nice. Larger windows may also be installed in your bathroom.

If the solutions thus far are not options, hang your towel outside the bathroom and give it plenty of time to dry properly.

Common Cause #2: A Clogged Drain

Microbial growth is not always the one to blame for having towels that smell like onions or garlic. There are instances in which it's a clogged shower drain. The smell coming from it can be absorbed by your towels.

Your shower drain can end up clogged because of different things. Some of the most common ones include hair, dirt, minerals in the water, and certain soap ingredients such as wax and fats.

In some instances, these different culprits can work together to keep your shower drain from draining very well. Microbes can grow uncontrollably in a clogged drain, thus causing the formation of various odors, such as those that smell like onions and garlic.

Other than your shower drain, sometimes the blame can be put on a bathroom sink drain that's clogged. Make sure that every drain in your bathroom is in excellent condition. It's not just good for your towels, but also your nose, especially each time you step foot inside the bathroom.

What to do

Most of the time, you can unclog your shower drain with your own two hands. Start by removing the drain grille and then fishing out visible debris.

Pour baking soda and vinegar into the drain afterward. If this does not solve the problem, pour boiling water into it.

However, this is bad for PVC pipes. There are times in which getting in touch with a local plumber is the right step to take.

Common Cause #3: Stagnant Heater Water

home water heater on wall

In some cases, the reason why towels smell like onions or garlic is that the water in the heater is smelly. You may notice that your towel may hurt your nose more after having a hot shower.

This is something that can be expected to happen, especially if you do not use your water heater often.

It's due to this why you may notice that your towel tends to smell the most when the days are getting colder and colder, and you are relying on your water heater more and more often.

You may notice the same phenomenon concerning your towel after taking a really long vacation and then using your water heater the moment that you return home.

Another reason why the water inside the heater may smell is that the heater's anode rod, which is made of metal, is corroded. Such may cause an unpleasant odor to develop, which can then be transferred to the water.

What to do

Draining and filling your water heater several times can help deal with the problem. If the issue is due to rust in the anode rod of the heater, replace it using the user's manual. You may also leave the task to an experienced plumber if you do not consider yourself as a DIYer.

Common Cause #4: Someone's Body Odor

There is a possibility that the smell of onions or garlic coming from your towel isn't due to microbial growth, a clogged shower drain, or smelly water from the heater. At times, the problem may be due to body odor.

Various reasons exist why you have body odor right now but not before. Sometimes you can put the blame on stress. It's because stress may cause a rise in your core temperature and an increase in your sweat, which odor-causing germs like.

Sometimes it can be due to a change in your diets, such as eating spicy foods or consuming lots of cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli. A medical condition may also be the one to blame at times.

If you are confident that you don't have body odor, then someone who has it may be using your towel, thus causing your towel to smell like onions and garlic.

What to do

Make sure that you take a shower or bath very well. Consider lowering your stress. Cut down on foods that can leave you smelly. Especially if your body odor is accompanied by unusual symptoms, see a doctor.

That's because it could be because of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and various kinds of infections.


Towels can smell like onions or garlic because of many different reasons. If you don't want your towels to smell like an exotic dish, then make sure that you identify the reason behind it.

Above, we talked about the various probable causes of such a problem. We also mentioned some solutions for every single culprit. Find out the reason why your towels smell like onions or garlic and take the necessary steps to put an end to it.

Related Questions

How do I get the onion or garlic smell out of my towels? Add a cup of baking soda when washing your towels. It's also a good idea to use laundry detergent with a citrus smell.

Is there a cheap and all-natural way to deodorize my towels? Hanging your towels under the sun can help make your towels smell fresh. The sun's UV rays have antimicrobial and deodorizing properties.

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Image by Tania Dimas from Pixabay
Image by Ulrich Dregler from Pixabay