How To Clean Mouldy Clothes

I’ve had my own experience with mould on clothing. Living in a charming country cottage in Northern NSW for the first time I had no idea how quickly mould could take hold. It seemed like one day I noticed a musty or mildew smell and the next day every item of clothing I owned including handbags and shoes were covered in thick, green mould. I wish I knew then, what I know now about preventing mould and how to clean it as soon as possible. Unfortunately, back then I ended up throwing out much of my clothing. I did, however, move my new clothing into a better insulated and drier part of the home and regularly inspected my items for any new mould so that I could deal with it promptly.

How To Clean Mouldy Clothes

It is undoubtedly important to know how to remove and clean mould from clothes. It is also just as important to know why mould needs to be removed and how to prevent it in the first place as much as possible. Here we discuss the 3 key things to know about mould on clothing. 

1. Why It’s So Important to Remove Mould on Clothes

Damage: When left to become established and grow on clothing, mould will eat away at the fibres as a food source, and the longer it is left without treatment the harder it will be to remove staining. Mould will eventually damage clothes beyond cleaning or repair if left for too long.

Health: Mould and spores are a serious health concern. Worn close to your skin, mould on clothes can cause a skin rash or allergic reaction. Breathing in spores from fibres will also cause respiratory allergies and sneezing.

Spores: Mould left to grow on clothes will eventually release spores into the air whether by movement of the clothing or general circulation. Spores floating in your home will affect air quality and can latch on to other surfaces such as walls and furniture, creating a much larger problem.

2. How to Prevent Mould on Clothes

Immediately wash damp clothes: Do not leave damp clothes sitting in a pile or in a washing basket as mould will quickly grow and spread from the damp item to every other piece of clothing near it.

Immediately dry washed clothes: As soon as possible, hang clothes on the line in the warm sun. Alternatively, put clothes in the drier or hang on a clothes hanger over ducted heating or near a heat source.

Sweaty or wet clothes: If you’ve had a workout or been caught in the rain and don’t have time to wash your clothes immediately, then hang them to dry until you have time to wash them later.

Wet towels and swimmers: Take care not to leave these in a heap on the floor for later as they will start to go mouldy. Also, don’t drop these items in the basket with other clothes to wash. Rinse swimmers in freshwater before hanging them with towels on the line.

Wet bathrooms: Hanging wet clothes in a moisture filled bathroom or one that is not well ventilated will only encourage mould growth on your clothes, towels, and bathroom surfaces! It’s best to hang wet clothes outside and avoid increasing the moisture levels inside.

Damp or wet shoes: These should be left to air dry outside the home, preferably in direct sunlight. Wipe off excess moisture with an old towel or cloth to encourage drying.

Dryers and drying cupboards: If raining outside or just too cold for anything to dry on the line, then you will need to dry your clothes using a dryer or drying cupboard. Ensure that your dryer captures excess moisture or is ventilated outside. Drying cupboards should also have some form of a vent in the door for releasing moisture. If you notice condensation in your laundry from these practices then be sure to open windows or a door if necessary to allow the moisture to flow outside.

3. How to Remove Mould from Clothes

Hot water cycle: Hot water helps to kill mould, removing mildew and allergens as well. It is important however to first check the label on your clothing to ensure that you use the appropriate temperature for the fabric. Use the hottest that your clothes can tolerate.

Basic Methods: Bleach or borax added to the wash cycle may help with reducing mould staining. They may also fade clothing colour and can have an adverse effect on the waterways and environment. Vinegar added to the rinse cycle can help with the mildew smell. I have found that it will also leave its own smell of vinegar on your clothes and in your washing machine. The vinegar smell will eventually fade.

Specialty Detergent: Use a mould killing detergent such as Oil of Cloves Fabric Wash which will treat the smell and the stain. Wash clothes for 1-2 cycles, 2 cycles is preferable for serious or long term infestation. Use periodically as a preventative in times of high humidity.

Sunshine: Once washed immediately hang clothes in the warm sun. The suns heat and UV light will help to kill mould as well as having a mild, natural bleaching effect on stains.

Removing and cleaning mould from clothes as soon as possible will reduce the opportunity for mould staining on your clothes, as well as help the air quality in your home and prevent mould from growing on other surfaces.

If you have found this article helpful or would like to share your own story about mouldy clothing with our community please leave a comment in the box below.


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