How to remove mold and mildew from clothes

Mold and mildew can wreak havoc on your clothes, leaving unsightly stains and musty odors that are tough to eliminate. Whether you accidentally left damp clothes in the washer too long or discovered a forgotten load in the back of your closet, the sight of those fuzzy growths is enough to make anyone’s heart sink. But before you resign your moldy garments to the trash, there’s hope! With the right techniques and a little elbow grease, you can bid farewell to mold and mildew and restore your clothes to their former glory.

remove mold and mildew from clothes

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll share proven methods to eliminate those stubborn stains, revive your clothing, and prevent future mold growth. Say goodbye to mold and mildew for good with these easy-to-follow steps.

Mold and Mildew on Clothes

Before we dive into the remedies, let’s take a moment to understand what we’re dealing with. Mold and mildew are types of fungi that thrive in damp, humid environments. They can grow on a variety of surfaces, including fabrics, and feed on organic materials like cotton, linen, and silk. While mold typically appears as green, black, or white fuzzy patches, mildew manifests as a powdery, white or grayish growth.

Fuzzy or slimy in appearancePowdery or downy in appearance
Often appears in shades of green, black, or whiteUsually white or grayish in color
Deeply penetrates and damages the materialGrows on the surface of the material
Emits a musty, earthy odorHas a milder, more pungent odor

The Dangers of Mold and Mildew

Beyond the unsightly appearance and musty odors, mold and mildew can pose potential health risks, especially for those with allergies, asthma, or weakened immune systems. Inhaling their spores can trigger respiratory issues, skin irritation, and other unpleasant symptoms. It’s crucial to address the problem promptly to prevent the spread of these fungi and protect your family’s well-being.

Natural Remedies for Mold and Mildew Removal

If you’re looking for eco-friendly and wallet-friendly solutions, several natural remedies can effectively combat mold and mildew on your clothes. Here are some tried-and-true options:

Vinegar and Baking Soda

This dynamic duo is a powerhouse when it comes to tackling mold and mildew. Start by mixing one cup of white vinegar with one cup of warm water in a spray bottle. Generously spray the affected areas of your clothes, then sprinkle baking soda over the damp spots. Let the solution sit for a few hours or overnight, then brush off the baking soda and launder the clothes as usual.

Pro Tip: For tough stains or heavily molded areas, make a paste by combining vinegar and baking soda. Apply the paste directly to the affected spots and let it sit for several hours before washing.

Lemon Juice and Salt

The acidic properties of lemon juice, combined with the abrasive power of salt, create an effective mold and mildew remover. Squeeze the juice of one lemon into a bowl and add a tablespoon of salt. Apply the mixture directly to the affected areas and let it sit for at least an hour before washing the clothes.

Pro Tip: For delicate fabrics like silk or wool, dilute the lemon juice with water to avoid potential damage from the acidity.

Tea Tree Oil

Known for its antifungal and antibacterial properties, tea tree oil is a natural ally in the fight against mold and mildew. Add a few drops of tea tree oil to a spray bottle filled with water, then mist the solution onto the moldy spots. Let it sit for an hour or two before laundering the clothes as usual.

Pro Tip: Tea tree oil has a strong scent, so you may want to add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the mixture for a more pleasant aroma.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful oxidizing agent that can effectively remove mold and mildew stains from clothes. Dilute it with water in a 1:1 ratio, then apply the solution directly to the affected areas. Let it sit for at least an hour before washing the clothes as usual.

Pro Tip: Hydrogen peroxide can cause discoloration on certain fabrics, so it’s always a good idea to test it on an inconspicuous area first.

Commercial Mold and Mildew Removers

If you prefer a more heavy-duty approach, several commercial products are designed specifically for removing mold and mildew from clothes. Look for products containing active ingredients like sodium percarbonate or sodium hypochlorite (bleach). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, as some products may require dilution or special handling.

Here are some popular commercial mold and mildew removers for clothes:

  1. Concrobium Mold Control
  • Features: EPA-registered, eliminates existing mold, prevents future growth
  • Active Ingredients: Sodium carbonate, hydrogen peroxide
  • Suitable for: Clothing, upholstery, and other fabrics
  1. RMR-86 Instant Mold and Mildew Stain Remover
  • Features: Removes tough stains, safe for most fabrics
  • Active Ingredients: Sodium percarbonate, surfactants
  • Suitable for: Clothing, carpets, and household surfaces
  1. Zorbx Mold and Mildew Remover
  • Features: Concentrated formula, removes odors, prevents future growth
  • Active Ingredients: Sodium percarbonate, surfactants
  • Suitable for: Clothing, bedding, and other fabrics

Pro Tip: Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when using commercial mold and mildew removers. Some products may require dilution or have specific application methods. It’s also a good idea to test the product on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn’t cause discoloration or damage to the fabric.

Pre-Treatment and Stain Removal

Before tackling the moldy areas, it’s essential to pre-treat any visible stains or discolouration. Apply a stain remover or a mixture of warm water and mild detergent directly to the affected areas and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. This step will help break down the stains and make them easier to remove during the washing process.

For tough, set-in stains, you may need to use a more potent stain remover or apply the solution multiple times. Here are some effective stain-removal techniques:

  1. Enzyme-Based Stain Removers: These products contain enzymes that help break down organic stains, including mold and mildew. Look for products specifically formulated for removing mold and mildew stains, such as Zout or Bac-Out.
  2. Oxygen-Based Bleach: Oxygen-based bleaches like sodium percarbonate or sodium perborate are effective at removing mold and mildew stains without damaging the fabric. They’re also safer for colored fabrics than chlorine bleach.
  3. Chlorine Bleach: For white fabrics, chlorine bleach can be an effective stain remover for mold and mildew. However, it should be used with caution and avoided on colored or delicate fabrics, as it can cause discolouration or damage.

Pro Tip: Always test any stain remover on a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric first to ensure it doesn’t cause discoloration or damage.

Washing Moldy Clothes

Once you’ve pre-treated the stains and applied your chosen mold and mildew remover, it’s time to wash the clothes. Here are some tips for an effective laundering process:

Use Hot Water

Mold and mildew thrive in warm, damp conditions, so washing your clothes in hot water can help kill off any remaining spores or fungi. However, be mindful of the fabric type and follow the care instructions to avoid damaging delicate items.

Pro Tip: If you’re washing delicate fabrics that can’t be exposed to hot water, consider using a specialized antimicrobial or mold and mildew-fighting laundry detergent instead.

Add Bleach or Oxygen Bleach

If the care label permits, add a small amount of bleach or oxygen bleach to the wash cycle. These powerful agents can help eliminate stubborn mold and mildew stains and odors.

  • Chlorine Bleach: Effective for white fabrics, but can cause discoloration on colored fabrics.
  • Oxygen Bleach: Safer for colored fabrics and gentle on fabrics.

Pro Tip: When using bleach, always dilute it according to the manufacturer’s instructions and never mix it with other household cleaners, as it can create toxic fumes.

Avoid Fabric Softener

While fabric softeners can leave your clothes feeling soft and fresh, they can also create a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Skip the fabric softener when washing moldy clothes to prevent future growth.

Dry Thoroughly

After washing, it’s crucial to dry your clothes completely. Mold and mildew love damp environments, so any residual moisture can lead to a recurrence of the problem. Use the hottest dryer setting appropriate for the fabric type or hang your clothes outside in direct sunlight to ensure they’re thoroughly dry.

Pro Tip: If you’re using a dryer, consider adding a few clean, dry towels to the load. The towels will help absorb excess moisture, ensuring your clothes dry completely.

Preventing Future Mold and Mildew Growth

Once you’ve successfully removed mold and mildew from your clothes, it’s essential to take preventive measures to avoid a repeat occurrence. Here are some tips to help keep your garments fresh and fungi-free:

Proper Ventilation

Mold and mildew thrive in damp, humid environments. Ensure proper ventilation in your home, especially in areas like bathrooms, laundry rooms, and closets. Use exhaust fans or open windows to allow air circulation and reduce moisture buildup.

Prompt Drying

Don’t leave damp clothes sitting in the washer or hamper for extended periods. Transfer them to the dryer or hang them up to dry as soon as possible to prevent mold and mildew growth.

Storage Solutions

When storing clothes for extended periods, consider using breathable garment bags or airtight containers with moisture-absorbing packets. This will help keep your clothes dry and prevent mold and mildew from taking hold.

Pro Tip: For extra protection, you can add a few drops of essential oils like tea tree, eucalyptus, or clove to the storage containers. These natural oils have antifungal properties that can help deter mold and mildew growth.

Regular Cleaning

Regularly clean and disinfect areas prone to moisture buildup, such as washing machines, dryers, and closets. This will help eliminate any existing mold or mildew spores and prevent them from spreading to your clothes.


With these effective techniques and preventive measures, you can bid farewell to moldy clothes and enjoy a fresh, fungi-free wardrobe. Remember, tackling mold and mildew promptly is key to preventing further damage and potential health risks. So, roll up your sleeves, grab your natural remedies or commercial products, and get ready to restore your clothes to their former glory!

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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.

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