How to Get Mold Out of Clothes

Mold spores thrive in moist and dark environments, like a hamper full of sweaty clothes. The next time mold burrows into your clothing, use these instructions to remove the spores and restore your items to their former glory.

By Kat Hodgins | Published Dec 10, 2021 11:30 AM

how to get mold out of clothes

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You left your favorite sweater in the hamper for too long, and now it’s getting moldy. Do you throw the sweater out or try to rescue it? Even though mold can seep deep into fabrics, your wardrobe can usually be saved if you know how to clean clothes exposed to mold spores.

Mold and mildew thrive and grow in a dark humid environment, like a damp closet, sweaty clothes hamper, or humid basement. If clothing is stored in any of these moist areas, microscopic mold spores that excel at finding ways to get into a home can start populating on those clothes. Mold can introduce health risks in your home, including respiratory illness and skin irritation, making it imperative to know how to remove mold from your clothes and other fabrics.

This guide explains just how to remove mold from clothes.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

Moist dark places are a breeding ground for mold. Try to stay on top of laundry and add ventilation to any humid areas in your home to minimize the chance of more mold growing in the future.

Each type of fabric has its own wash instructions, so always check the label before using any chemicals or cleaning products, lest you cause additional damage to a garment. Washing instructions on the label should supersede the instructions listed below.

If possible, try to tackle this chore on a sunny day, as exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can help kill off the mold.

STEP 1: Pretreat your clothing and scrub the fabric in a well-ventilated room. 

Once you discover mold on your clothing, check surrounding garments to see if they have been affected and then gather all of the moldy items. If the clothes are still damp, lay out the clothing in the sun (if it’s shining) to start killing the mold. If this isn’t possible, bring the moldy garments into a room that’s well-ventilated to the outside and open any windows. Close any vents that lead to the rest of the house to prevent mold spores from spreading inside.

Put on a mask and cleaning gloves to prevent breathing and skin irritation while cleaning. Soak the moldy clothing in a bucket mix of water and either 1/2-cup of Borax or 1-cup of white vinegar, allowing it to sit for at least an hour. After soaking, use the scrub brush to clean the moldy stains on clothing. Scrub hard enough to clean the moldy areas but not hard enough to damage the fabric.

Related: How To: Hand-Wash Clothes

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STEP 2: Add the moldy clothing to the washing machine with Borax or vinegar.

The next step in how to get rid of mold on clothes involves either using Borax or white vinegar in the washing machine with your moldy clothes. For both methods, use laundry detergent (as directed) on a hot water cycle, as the heat helps kill the mold. Reduce the smell of mold by adding 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda to the laundry load, as it helps naturally deodorize clothing.

If you are using Borax, follow the instructions on the box. Another method is to mix 1/2 cup of Borax with a cup or two of hot water until it becomes a liquid solution, and then add it to the washing machine. If you have a top-load washer, add the Borax solution after the washing machine fills with water.

Vinegar naturally helps remove the mold smell from clothes, and can kill most mold species, including those that usually live on clothing items. Add clothing, laundry detergent, and 1 to 2 cups of vinegar (for small and large loads, respectively) to the laundry machine to clean those moldy clothes.

STEP 3: Dry clothes completely, ideally in direct sunlight.

If possible, dry your just-washed clothing in the sun. UV rays and the additional heat from the sunshine help kill off the remaining mold and mildew.

On cloudy days, or if it’s a cooler season, use the dryer settings that work best for your fabrics, keeping in mind that warmer temperatures kill off mold more effectively. Completely and thoroughly dry the clothes, as any moisture on the clothing can bring the mold back.

Related: How To: Wash an Electric Blanket

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STEP 4: Inspect clothing items for mold, and do a smell check to ensure they are clean. 

Give your clothing a once over to make sure all of the visible signs of mold are gone. Sometimes mold persists through the first three steps, which can be repeated, if necessary. The second (sometimes third) time around, presoak longer and scrub the fabric more thoroughly.

If you can’t see the mold, sniff the garment. A musty or earthy aroma means there’s probably still mold present. Depending on how strong or faint the smell is, repeat steps one through three or skip pretreatment and instead rewash and dry the clothing.

STEP 5: Put your clothes in an area that is clean, dry, and well-ventilated.

After going through the cleaning process, don’t undo all your hard work by leaving your clothes in the dryer or laundry basket. Once you are fully satisfied that your clothing is clean and mold-free, fold it and put it away. A dry area, ideally with some form of air flow, is the best place for clean clothing.

Never leave freshly-laundered clothes in moist areas where they can redevelop mold. If you discover moldy clothing in your laundry hamper, use disinfectant to kill off any lingering mold spores before putting more dirty clothes inside.

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STEP 6: Address any sources of mold to prevent further contamination of your garments.

Hopefully the only action item in this step is to address a habit of leaving damp or sweaty clothing in the laundry bin for too long. Any moisture in dark areas encourages mold spores to grow and spread. Either wash your wet laundry immediately, or at least let dirty damp clothes dry out before throwing them in the hamper.

If a leaky pipe, window, or roof causes a closet or storage area to be damp, it can cause a moldy clothes problem. While addressing and fixing the cause of the leak, move your clothing to a different location. There may not be a leak, but some closets or storage areas happen to trap moisture. This can be addressed with silica gel packets to suck up the moisture and extra ventilation with an open door, air conditioner, or fan.

Final Thoughts

These six steps of how to get mold out of fabric can assist you in safely removing mold from your clothing, so you can continue to wear those items. The best way to keep mold off clothes is to prevent it from forming in the first place. Store dry clothing away from humid or damp areas, and mold is less likely to be an issue. If you discover mold on your clothing, take care of it immediately with this easy-to-follow guide.

Related: How To: Wash Polyester