How to remove mildew stains

Mildew is a common problem that many homeowners have to deal with. It can appear on various surfaces in the home, from bathroom tiles and grout to fabrics and carpets. Not only is mildew unsightly, but it can also be a health hazard if left untreated. Mildew is a type of fungus that thrives in damp, humid environments and can cause respiratory problems, especially for those with allergies or asthma.

Fortunately, there are several effective ways to remove mildew stains and prevent them from reoccurring. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover the best methods for tackling mildew in different areas of the home, as well as provide tips for long-term mildew prevention.

remove mildew stains

What Causes Mildew Stains?

Mildew is a type of fungus that thrives in damp, humid environments. It can grow on a variety of surfaces, including:

  • Bathroom tiles and grout
  • Caulking around tubs and sinks
  • Fabrics like shower curtains, towels, and clothing
  • Carpets and upholstery
  • Walls and ceilings (particularly in bathrooms and basements)

Mildew spores are constantly present in the air, but they need moisture to grow and spread. Common causes of mildew include:

  • High humidity levels (above 50%)
  • Leaks or standing water
  • Poor ventilation in bathrooms and other damp areas
  • Condensation buildup
  • Damp, poorly-dried fabrics

Mildew can spread quickly, so it’s important to address the problem as soon as you notice it. Left untreated, mildew can cause structural damage and lead to more serious issues like dry rot.

Removing Mildew Stains from Bathroom Surfaces

Bathrooms are one of the most common places to find mildew, as they tend to have high humidity levels and minimal ventilation. Here’s how to remove mildew stains from different bathroom surfaces:

Tiles and Grout

  • Create a cleaning solution by mixing one part bleach to three parts water.
  • Use a scrub brush or sponge to apply the solution directly to the mildew stains. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Scrub the area vigorously to remove the mildew. Rinse thoroughly with clean water.
  • For stubborn stains, you can also try using a mildew remover or tile cleaner specifically formulated for this purpose, such as Clorox Tilex Mold and Mildew Remover.
  • Be sure to wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area when using bleach.


  • Use a mildew-resistant caulk, like DAP DYNAFLEX 230 Premium Indoor/Outdoor Sealant, to re-caulk around tubs, sinks, and other problem areas. This can help prevent future mildew growth.
  • For existing mildew on caulking, apply a mildew remover or mix of bleach and water. Let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing.
  • You may need to completely remove and re-caulk heavily mildewed areas.

Shower Curtains and Liners

  • Wash shower curtains and liners regularly in hot, soapy water to prevent mildew buildup.
  • If mildew is present, soak the curtain/liner in a solution of one part bleach to three parts water for 30 minutes before washing.
  • You can also try replacing plastic shower curtain liners, as they are prone to mildew and often difficult to fully clean. Consider a mildew-resistant option like the PEVA Shower Curtain Liner by iDesign.

Removing Mildew Stains from Fabrics

Mildew can also take hold on various fabrics around the home, from clothing to upholstery. Here’s how to tackle mildew on different types of fabric:


  • Pretreat mildew stains with a stain remover, like OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover, or mix of bleach and water before washing.
  • Wash the clothing in the hottest water recommended for the fabric, using an extra rinse cycle.
  • For stubborn stains, soak the item in a mix of one part bleach to three parts water for 30 minutes before washing.
  • Avoid putting mildewed clothing in the dryer, as the heat can set the stain. Air dry instead.

Towels and Linens

  • Wash towels, bathrobes, and other linens frequently in hot water with bleach or another antibacterial detergent, like Lysol Laundry Sanitizer.
  • For existing mildew, soak the items in a bleach solution before washing.
  • Consider replacing heavily mildewed towels and linens that won’t come clean.

Upholstery and Carpets

  • Blot up any visible mildew with a clean, dry cloth as soon as you notice it.
  • Use a commercial upholstery cleaner, like Folex Carpet Spot Remover, or mix of one part bleach to three parts water to scrub the affected area.
  • For carpets, use a steam cleaner with an antimicrobial solution, such as Bissell DeepClean Pro Heat, to kill and remove mildew.
  • Be sure to thoroughly dry the area afterwards to prevent the mildew from returning.

Removing Mildew Stains from Walls and Ceilings

Mildew can also grow on walls and ceilings, particularly in bathrooms, basements, and other damp areas of the home. Here’s how to clean it up:

Painted Surfaces

  • Mix one part bleach to three parts water in a spray bottle.
  • Spray the solution directly onto the mildewed area and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Scrub the area with a soft-bristled brush or sponge to remove the mildew.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water and allow to fully dry.
  • You may need to repaint the area if the mildew has caused significant discoloration.

Unpainted Surfaces

  • For porous surfaces like drywall or wood, mix together one part bleach, one part dish soap, and two parts water.
  • Use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub the solution onto the mildewed area.
  • Let it sit for 15-20 minutes before rinsing.
  • The dish soap helps break down the mildew and lift the stain.
  • Once fully dry, you may need to seal or paint the area to prevent future mildew growth, using a mold and mildew-resistant paint like KILZ Mold and Mildew Killing Interior Paint.

Prevention and Long-Term Mildew Control

In addition to removing existing mildew, it’s important to take steps to prevent it from returning. Here are some tips for long-term mildew control:

Improve Ventilation

  • Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and run them during and after showers.
  • Open windows whenever possible to increase air flow and reduce humidity.
  • Consider installing a dehumidifier, like the Frigidaire 50-Pint Dehumidifier, especially in damp basements.

Fix Leaks and Moisture Issues

  • Repair any leaks in plumbing, roofs, or windows to eliminate standing water.
  • Address high humidity levels that can lead to condensation buildup.
  • Ensure proper drainage around the home’s foundation.

Use Mildew-Resistant Products

  • Caulk and seal bathroom surfaces with mildew-resistant formulas, such as Mold Armor Mildew Remover.
  • Choose mold and mildew-resistant paint for bathrooms and other humid areas, like BEHR MARQUEE Interior Paint & Primer in One.
  • Look for mildew-resistant fabrics for shower curtains, towels, and other textiles, such as the Hookless Mildew-Resistant Shower Curtain.

Regularly Clean and Maintain

  • Wipe down bathroom surfaces weekly to prevent mildew buildup.
  • Wash fabrics like shower curtains and towels frequently in hot water.
  • Vacuum and steam clean carpets and upholstery regularly.

By following these prevention tips and addressing mildew promptly when it appears, you can keep your home mildew-free and maintain a healthy indoor environment.


Mildew is a common problem, but one that can be effectively treated and prevented with the right strategies. Whether you’re dealing with mildew on bathroom tiles, fabrics, or walls, the key is to act quickly and use the appropriate cleaning methods.

By combining mildew removal techniques with long-term prevention measures, you can keep your home looking and feeling fresh, while also protecting the health of your family. With a little elbow grease and the tips outlined in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to a mildew-free living space.

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.