I have an HE front-loading washer that I really love. I bought gorgeous, dark brown, hotel-quality towels for my bath. As time goes by the towels and bath mat are getting more and more “sour” and I am afraid of using bleach in my washer with the dark brown color. I never have had this problem before and thought I had fixed it by adding soda and white vinegar to the laundry but that did not work! How can I clean these in an HE without bleaching out my color?
I’m intrigued by your description of “sour smell.” A unique problem for HE washers is that they don’t discharge all the water at the end of the wash/rinse cycles. Some residual water actually “pools” in the bottom below the door. This becomes a great breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria and something we call biofilm, which becomes their home. In addition, if the interior is not dried out, it’s possible that mold/mildew can also take hold inside the machine and around seals on the door.
So here’s something to try. I agree that you can’t add Clorox® Regular-Bleach₂ with CLOROMAX® or our Clorox® HE Bleach to the brown towels for fear of bleaching them. However, you can use these products on all of your white loads. This will help control/eliminate the biofilm, odor-causing bacteria and mold/mildew while getting out the extra stains and leaving everything whiter. As you use this process, the sour smell should decrease.
You can jumpstart the process by either adding Clorox® Regular-Bleach₂ with CLOROMAX® to the Clean cycle (if your HE washer has one) or doing a liquid bleach load with or without clothes. Initially, I would do this weekly and then decrease the frequency. Or by doing the bleached white loads each week, you may not need the special cycle/treatment. As you use this process, the sour smell on the towels should decrease or disappear.
A couple of other tips:
Finally, your soda and vinegar treatment is not powerful enough to control the bacteria. Thus the reason the smell returns.