How To Get Mould Out Of Your Clothes And Keep It Out

Save mouldy clothes, shoes, accessories and other valuables while protecting your health and avoiding permanent damage.

February 8, 2024
min read
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Finding mold on your favorite sweater or pair of shoes is upsetting. Not only can mold damage and discolor clothing, it also threatens your health. Understanding what causes mold and how to remove it properly ensures you can rescue valuables and prevent future growths.

How Common is Mold in Clothing?

Mold contamination is quite common in closets and dressers, especially in damp basements or seasons with high humidity. Spores lurk unseen in dark, stagnant air then propagate rapidly when they land on a moist, nutrient-rich surface like clothing or fabrics.

Even clean-smelling clothes can harbor microscopic mold colonies. And left unchecked, they blossom into fuzzy black, green, or white growths and start digesting your garments using enzymes and acids. Clothing stored over one winter without climate control faces extreme mold risk.

Can Mold Be Removed From Clothing?

If caught early, mold can be safely removed from most garments without damage. But extensive colonization often permanently stains or weakens fabric fibers beyond recovery.

Porosity impacts results too. Smoother finishes like leather can be remediated better than coarse, absorbent textures like suede or shoe insoles at advanced stages.

Regardless of material, mold roots penetrate so surface cleaning alone fails to eliminate the problem long term. You must properly disinfect interiors to curb recurrence.

Why Do Clothes Go Moldy?

Fabrics host abundant, irresistible nutrients that mold depends on, like skin flakes, food/drink spills, body oils, detergent residues, and other organic debris caught in fibers. Cotton, wool, silk blends and other natural textiles also contain innate organic proteins spores consume.

But mold needs moisture first to sprout. Just a few drops of lingering water from washing or wet weather kickstarts exponential spread. High humidity sustains colonies once established. Dark, cramped storage creates ideal incubators lacking airflow.

Even clean clothes or items never worn can develop mold if packed damp, kept in moist conditions, or touch an infected item. Identifying and resolving the moisture source is essential to check rampant growth.

Common Causes of Moldy Clothing

  • Storing washed clothes before fully dried
  • Wet clothes left balled up for long periods
  • Musty closets, hampers, or dresser drawers
  • Fluctuating humidity and temperatures
  • Lack of airflow around garments
  • Contact transfer from contaminated item
  • Using contaminated storage containers

How to Remove Mold Naturally

Natural methods effectively suppress mold with minimal environmental impact but require more contact time and repeat applications than potent chemical killers. Safer ingredients curb exposure risks while salvaging goods.


White distilled vinegar dissolves mold bonds and neutralizes spores. Use it straight for tougher growth or mix with equal parts water to dampen clothing.

Spray vinegar onto surfaces, scrubbing edges with a stiff brush to lift mold from textures. Then soak garments to penetrate interior fabric layers, or wash in hot, vinegared water.

Rinse thoroughly afterwards to eliminate acid residue before drying. This prevents damaged fibers or skin irritation when wearing. Repeat treatments if any discoloration remains.

Tea Tree Oil

The antifungal and antibacterial potency of tea tree oil destroys mold and residual musty odors. Dilute 10-15 drops of oil per cup of water first before misting a garment to limit staining risk on fabrics.

Alternatively, fill a spray bottle with water and 5-7 drops of oil. Then spray inside shoes and bags after wear to curb reemerging spores in humid conditions. Its fresh, herbal aroma leaves interiors smelling renewed.

Baking Soda

Baking soda softens, deodorizes, and absorbs moisture that feeds mold. Sprinkle soda generously over any visibly affected areas and let sit for an hour. The moisture-wicking properties help lift stain residues from fabric.

For heavier mold contamination, stir a paste of one part water to three parts baking soda. Spread paste over all visible mold to lift roots from fabrics for easier removal by brushing once dry. Rinse clean before washing items.

Lemon Juice

Citric acid cuts through mold bonds without irritating skin like vinegar might for garments worn close to the body. Dip a clean cloth in undiluted lemon juice and blot stained areas or lightly scrub to lift pigments from fabric.

For tougher infestations permeating layers, boil a diluted lemon water solution then submerge clothing to penetrate deep inside fibers. Rinse and air dry in sunlight to prevent reactivation of lingering spores.

Hydrogen Peroxide

As an antibacterial alternative, hydrogen peroxide bubble baths lift mold stains with less friction than manual scrubbing. Carefully submerge the clothing item fully to allow the solution to penetrate interior fabric layers and lift both mold and ugly discoloration.

Use a 3% solution for more delicate articles of clothing and rinse thoroughly after an hour soak. Repeat for heavier growths, allowing garments to dry in direct sunlight between soakings to prevent re-contamination. Just check labels for bleach restrictions first.

How to Remove Mold With Chemicals

Commercial mold removers and fungicidal detergents provide heavy-duty power for disinfecting badly infested belongings while restoring material integrity against future regrowth. But many formulas also incorporate bleach and harsh peroxides.

While effective, repeated use risks damaging clothing over time. Carefully follow label instructions based on growth severity and fabric content. Never mix chemical ingredients unless stated safe or dangerous toxic gases could be released.

Chlorine Bleach

Bleach kills mold outright on non-porous surfaces like leather, vinyl, or rubber boots and gear. But pores in delicate fabrics like wool or silk harbor spores bleach can’t penetrate to fully neutralize.

Pretreat only visible areas before washing to prevent discoloration. White vinegar rinses after bleach baths neutralize any residues left behind.

Oxygen Bleach

Oxygen bleach uses sodium percarbonate to lift stains and disinfect clothing without chlorine fumes or damage. Still, check fabric care labels before use.

Make a concentrated paste and apply directly to mold with an old toothbrush. Let set 10 minutes before washing in oxygen bleach detergent. Avoid using on silk or delicate vegetable fiber dyed fabrics which may change color.

Borax Fungicide

The anti-fungal powers in Borax detergent tamp down mold growth while deodorizing musty smells. For heavy infestations, soak affected clothing overnight in a hot borax solution. Use gloved hands to gently knead solution through clothing to penetrate interior fibers before rinsing.

Add 1⁄2 cup borax to wash loads of contaminated clothing to kill lingering spores. It whitens fabrics so reduce bleach concentrations to prevent over-lightening colors.

clean wardrobe

How to Remove Mold Permanently

Killing active mold is important but addressing root causes prevents recurrence and permanent contamination of clothing collections. Stopping moisture, spores, and food sources starves any remnants into long term dormancy.

Adjust Storage Conditions

The ideal storage environment for clothing falls between 45% to 55% humidity at consistent room temperatures around 65°F to 78°F. Levels deviating too high or low encourage mold blooms or fabric degradation.

Use a hygrometer to monitor conditions. Dehumidify damp environments with silica gel bags. Stuff them into pockets or hide among garment folds. In arid climates, lightly mist cotton or linen sheets covering clothing stacks with distilled water to elevate humidity.

Let freshly washed clothing dry completely before wearing or packing away too. Storing damp garments allows mold to gain an unstoppable foothold once spores land on moist surfaces.

Quarantine Contaminated Items

Isolate moldy garments in sealed bags until ready to clean. Wash or have them professionally cleaned promptly to avoid contact spread or losing them permanently to multiplying mold damage.

Discard felt hats, fused suit interlinings, or other irrevocably permeated materials immediately. Mold etches quickly and deeply through such porous fibers. Attempting removal wastes time and risks contamination spread at this stage.

Improve Airflow

Stagnant air trapped around garments creates a perfectly stable incubator for mold. Ensure closets and clothing storage allow adequate airflow to regulate humidity fluctuations and prevent dead, mold feeding air pockets around your belongings.

Add Cedar

The natural enzymes in cedarwood naturally suppress microbes like mold. Add cedar blocks in drawers and storage boxes or use cedar lined hangers in closets. The aroma persists for years, providing ongoing mold protection. Or make refreshing cedar sachets by filling small muslin bags with cedar shavings to hide among stacks.

Prevent Food Contamination

Eradicate any traces of food, beverages, cosmetics, body oils or other organic matter mold feeds on from fabrics before storage. These provide nutrients to sustain mold should humidity spike later.

Wash or dry clean clothes first. Vacuum storage areas and clothing thoroughly including inside pockets and seams where crumbs or spill residues hide.

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Our mission is to empower you with the knowledge to curate a wardrobe that not only reflects your personal style but also aligns with environmentally friendly practices. From exploring the wonders of natural mothballs and sustainable garment storage to diving deep into DIY solutions and green living, we're here to guide you on a journey towards a more eco-conscious, stylish, and intentional lifestyle.

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