Why Do My Towels Smell Like Onions? Causes and Solutions

Have you ever smelled a weird onion-like stink on your towels, even when you just washed them? This strong smell can be tough to get rid of and might stick around even after you wash the towels multiple times.

But no need to stress – you can easily get rid of the onion smell from your towels for good with a few simple tricks.

What Causes Onion Smells in Towels

There are a few common ways towels end up smelling like onions:

  • Drying your hands with towels after cutting onions can transfer the onion juices to the towel material.
  • Cleaning up onion peels, drips, and spills with towels can leave onion residue on them.
  • Storing towels close to onions in the kitchen pantry or drawers can make the towels absorb the onion scent.

Towels are made to soak up moisture. However, because they absorb liquids easily, they can also soak up juices and oils from onions.

Person wiping onion juice from cutting board with a towel.

Why Towels Absorb Smells Like Onions

Onions have special smelly stuff that’s tough to get rid of. When you use cotton towels, they soak up these smells easily. Towels have many little spaces where these smells can stick around.

Although towels are good for drying because they soak up water well, they can also hold on to smells, especially from onions. Even if you wash them, the onion smells might still be stuck in the towels.

How to Get the Onion Smell Out of Towels

Wash Towels Thoroughly

  • Wash smelly towels separately from other laundry.
  • Wash in hot water because it helps eliminate bacteria and completely removes oils.
  • Add 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar to the wash cycle. The acetic acid in vinegar helps eliminate odors.
  • Avoid using fabric softener when washing towels, because it can trap smells.

Dry Towels in Sunlight

  • After washing, dry towels in direct sunlight instead of the dryer if possible.
  • The UV rays in sunlight help break down and evaporate odor compounds.

Replace Extremely Smelly Towels

If your towels still stink like onions no matter how many times you wash and dry them, it might be a good idea to get new ones.

Other Cleaning Methods

Baking Soda

Wash towels in hot water with 1/2 cup of baking soda. The baking soda helps absorb and neutralize stubborn odors like onions.


Lemon Juice

Fill a bucket with hot water and add 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Let towels soak for 30 minutes. The acidity in the lemon juice will assist in breaking down and getting rid of onion smells.

Preventing Onion Odors in Towels

To avoid this problem in the future:

  • Wipe hands well and rinse them before using towels to prevent onion residue transfer.
  • Immediately wash towels used to wipe onion juices. Don’t let smells set in.
  • Never use a wet towel to wipe up onion juices, drips, or grease spills as moisture spreads the smell.
  • Store towels away from onions in drawers or shelves to prevent the transfer of smells.


It can be challenging to remove onion smells from towels once they’ve absorbed them. However, you can prevent your good towels from smelling like onions by being cautious and not using them near onions while cooking. Washing and drying the towels thoroughly will also help eliminate the smell. Store the towels in a location away from onions to avoid absorption.

If some towels still have a strong onion odor after cleaning, it’s best to discard them. It might take some effort, but you can successfully eliminate onion odors from your towels.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do my towels smell like onions even after washing?

Onions contain sulfur compounds that stick to fabrics like towels. When you dry your hands on a towel after cutting onions, those sulfur compounds transfer to the towel fibers. They can be difficult to fully wash out in the laundry, so the onion smell remains even after washing. The sulfur compounds bind tightly to the cotton and other materials in towels. It takes extra effort to break those bonds and remove the smells entirely.

What is the best way to remove onion smells from towels?

To eliminate onion smells from towels, wash them in hot water with 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar. Avoid using fabric softener, as it may seal in odors. Additionally, drying the towels in direct sunlight can help break down and evaporate the lingering odors.

How can I prevent my towels from smelling like onions in the future?

To prevent onion odors in towels, wipe hands thoroughly and rinse them before using towels. Wash towels immediately after wiping onion juices to prevent smells from setting in. Avoid using wet towels to clean up onion messes, as moisture can spread the smell. Store towels away from onions in drawers or shelves to prevent the transfer of onion smells.


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