Molds like mildew are fungi, usually microscopic in size, that occur in nature. They reproduce by releasing spores into the air that can settle onto surfaces. If the conditions are just right, the spores can begin to grow. Such conditions include moisture plus warm temperatures between 77 and 86 degrees. Mold also requires oxygen to grow, but not light.
Molds especially thrive on natural fibers like cotton, linen, silk, and wool because there is more of a chance of microbial damage with them than with fabrics created from synthetic fibers. Organic cotton is especially susceptible to mold because it is totally natural and doesn’t contain any synthetics or chemicals.
The way it works is that mold on clothes produces enzymes that break down the cellulose or protein of the fabric into compounds that the mold then uses as food. Mold forms and spreads on cotton fabric, for example, when it sits in a warm, moist location for a long period of time. It is important to remove the mold on cotton fabric right away because if it continues to spread it can weaken and damage the fabric and also cause skin irritation and other types of allergic reactions.
The first sign that mold has started to grow on your cotton clothing will be a musty odor in your closet or on the clothing itself. You might also notice visible stains or mold growth as it spreads. You or a loved one may also start experiencing some health symptoms as a result of the mold, such as itchiness, rash, sneezing, or coughing. If you find mold on your clothes you should remove it as soon as possible.
Safe Ways To Clean Moldy Clothes
In most cases, you will be able to remove the mold from your clothing using some safe, eco-friendly tools. Our #1 product pick is Biokleen Laundry Liquid. If the mold is just starting to grow and only spores are on the cloth (so mold spots aren’t yet visible to you), then regular laundering in hot water may be enough to get rid of it. Hot water kills mold more effectively than cold water and helps remove mold spores and allergens, too. However, if the clothes have some visible mold growth, then try Biokleen Bac-Out Stain Remover. If the stain still remains stubborn, you can try the following tactics:
Soak in white vinegar. Vinegar kills 82 percent of mold species and can usually destroy the mold growing on clothes. Vinegar will also remove the moldy smell. Soak a cotton pad in white vinegar and place it on the stain for several minutes. Remove the pad and sprinkle the area with some salt to boost the effectiveness of the acid. Repeat as needed, then launder as usual—preferably in hot water. You can also let your clothes soak in a bucket or container of water mixed with one cup of white vinegar for about an hour. After soaking, wash the clothes with your eco-friendly (Biokleen) laundry detergent.
Launder in white vinegar. To kill mold on your clothes using vinegar, put your clothes in the washing machine along with detergent and let the machine fill with water. Then add about a cup or two of vinegar to the washing cycle.
Baking soda and vinegar spray. Add 1 Tablespoon of baking soda to a spray bottle (about 12 oz).
Fill the bottle with white vinegar and shake until dissolved. Then use the solution to spray on moldy clothes. Use a brush, sponge, or washcloth to gently massage the solution into the clothes. Rinse the clothes out in the sink or tub. Spray again. Let the clothing dry. Finally, launder in the washing machine as you normally would.
Use lemon juice and salt. Combine 1/4 cup of lemon juice and 1/4 cup of salt to make a mold-killing paste. Apply the lemon and salt paste to the cotton fabric at the site of any mold stains using an unused paintbrush. Flush the cotton fabric with warm water to remove the lemon and salt paste. Finally, wash the cotton garment according to the directions on the care label and dry in the sun.
To make sure the mold goes away, it’s best to wash your clothes with a mold killing solution for two full wash cycles. Then, if possible, place the item in a sunny spot outside to dry. The heat from the sun and the sun's ultraviolet rays help to kill mold. The sun also has a natural bleaching effect that can help to fade mold stains.
If these cleaning options to don’t work and your clothing has several spots of mold, it is recommended that dispose of the clothing.
Prevent Your Clothes From Getting Moldy
The best way to stop mold from growing on your clothes is to take some important precautions. Here are some tips to prevent mold from growing in the first place.
- Do not wait to move freshly washed wet clothes from the washing machine into the dryer or onto the line or drying rack. This means that you should avoid starting a load of wash before you leave the house.
- If hang drying clothes indoors, open windows or turn on a fan to promote air circulation for faster drying.
- Do not toss wet towels or sweaty clothes in the hamper. Instead, hang them or lay them flat until they are dry. Then it is safe to put them in the hamper.
- Store clothes in a cool, dry environment with adequate ventilation. Relative humidity should be maintained below 65 percent. Consider using a dehumidifier to reduce dampness.
- If clothes are not frequently used, please be sure to regularly check them for mold.