How To Get Mould Out Of Clothes Diy-style In Easy Steps

I still remember the fateful day when I ended up in my teenage brother’s room to scavenge for a shirt I could borrow. A horrendous odour unlike any I’d ever smelled before had been waiting to assault me. I tried my best to ignore it, but my clean-freak self could only handle so much before I succumbed and started investigating. I searched for 15 whole minutes before I identified the culprit: a gym bag with days-old clothes that missed the laundry basket stops

Woman looking at smelly clothes out of washing machine

My brother told me he hadn’t even noticed the smell. However, even his untrained eye could spot the ugly green stains all over the black t-shirt. It was the first time I had encountered mould growth and my first instinct was to burn the shirt and be done with it. But, there are solutions after all! This is why, after the crisis was averted, I decided I needed to compile the best DIY tips, tricks, and instructions to help anyone in my position. You may already know how to keep your clothes from turning yellow, how to bleach your white clothes, or even how to remove bleach from your clothes, but what about this one? If you’re facing a similar crisis or just want to be prepared for future clothing emergencies, keep reading!

Why mould appears in the first place

Almost everyone has seen mould before in their life. Be it on the surface of bread you left unattended too long or the wall of a poorly ventilated room, the grey, green, and blue-hued fungus are incredibly tough. So what do all of these situations have in common that encourages mildew growth? Moisture, poor ventilation, and sometimes even darkness. These factors create the optimum environment for mould spores to grow and spread, leading to that distinctive odour and mould stains

If provided with the right conditions, mould or mildew can grow on a variety of surfaces. Therefore, if you, as a launder leave clothes in the washer, leave out your wet towels, or pack away laundry and clothes in bags and boxes, a mildewy friend might visit you. If you don’t remove the mould when it first appears or address its root cause, it’ll likely return and even spread from the affected cloth to unaffected ones.

What are the signs of mould? 

First things first, how do you even identify mould? If you’re like me, you didn’t even know that mould could grow on clothes at all! Luckily for us, the signs of a mould infestation are pretty distinctive and not to be missed. Here are the four S’s of mould signs. 

Young woman with skin allergy

  • Smell

Musty and earthy smells on clothes are an almost surefire way of detecting mould. The odour is unpleasant and foul, and you should be able to smell it if you give the suspicious cloth a sniff. 

  • Stains

Mildew is often accompanied by stains that are the biggest nuisance for people. Different coloured moulds lead to varying discolourations on the fabric. Stains are commonly green, grey, or black, but they can even be orange or red, depending on the type and age of the fungus and its nutrient source. 

  • Skin rash

Mould is an irritant. If your skin comes into contact with mould on your clothes, it will probably make itself known in the form of skin redness, itchiness, or a rash

  • Sneezes

Some people also display varying degrees of allergic reactions. Sneezing, watery or itchy eyes, and runny noses are common consequences of inhaling mould spores and other mould toxins. Asthma and respiratory conditions may also develop after long-term exposure, though not commonly.

Is it important to get rid of mould? 

Mould may be an essential part of an ecosystem, but it’s not harmless. Remember how we mentioned that mould releases toxins? Well, toxic substances like that are one of the several reasons you need to get rid of mould as soon as you discover it. Let’s explore these reasons in a little more detail. 

  • Preserving health

As mentioned earlier, it causes irritations and it’s one of the most famous allergens. Its effects depend on the amount and type (black mould is more toxic than white mould) present in your house, as well as your current state of health (children and older adults suffer from more adverse effects). For some, it can lead to a few odd sneezes; for others, it can cause severe respiratory problems after long-term inhalation.

  • Protecting clothes

Though not as important as the last point, we can all admit some degree of attachment to our clothing. Nobody wants to throw out clothes because mould keeps eating through them. Getting rid of mould, and preventing it from returning to your clothes, will preserve the integrity and colour of the clothing fibre. This means longer-lasting, much better smelling and better-looking clothes. 

  • Preventing expansion

The last thing any person dealing with mouldy clothes needs is more of them. Like we explained, mould releases spores that make the problem even worse. This means more clothes getting ruined. Alternatively, the mould could spread from the clothes to carpets, windows, walls, or other household items

How to get rid of mould on clothes step-by-step

Contrary to my initial thought upon discovering my brother’s t-shirt, it is possible to get rid of mould on clothes (and no, no incineration required). It’s not as easy as getting a spray bottle and treating a certain spot, but it’s not hard either. The steps to cleaning mould from clothes, smells and stains included, vary with the method, in contrary in cleaning mould off blackout curtains. The good news is, almost all of these DIY methods are easy, inexpensive, and effective. Before we begin, here are some things to keep in mind.

Bamboo toothbrushes in a glass

  • It is best to use a toothbrush to remove mould from the clothing before trying stain removal. You must do this in a ventilated, preferably outdoor setting, so that you don’t get the substance in your lungs, on your clothes, or bring it into your house.
  • Wash mouldy articles of clothing separately. Mould can contaminate your washing machine and surrounding clothing, so you must be careful.
  • Do not treat any clothing with a stain remover like bleach unless the care label says it is safe to do so. We want to get rid of the mould, not the entire cloth. 
  • If mould stains do not come off with any of these methods, consider dry cleaning

Now let’s get straight into it.

  • Washing

You know what they say, don’t knock it till you try it. Sometimes the most straightforward option is the most effective. If the situation isn’t too bad, hot water should be able to remove everything that you wish could go away already! Wash your clothes in your machine with water (around 60 degrees Celsius – the water temperature is important here) for at least two cycles. Alternatively, you can soak the garment in a tub with water in a high temperature for 10-30 minutes. The water will kill the mould but doesn’t do much against mould stains. Therefore, adding laundry detergent to the water which is hot during the wash cycle is essential for better results.

Baking soda and vinegar

  • Baking soda and vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar (along with hydrogen peroxide and lemon juice) are excellent stain removers and household cleaners too. Vinegar is antifungal and kills mould, and baking soda removes mildew smell and absorbs moisture. These two are the dream team of DIY mould removal. There are two ways of going about this. 

Method 1: Add a cup of white vinegar in the first washing cycle and half a cup of baking soda in the second washing cycle in the washing machine. You can increase the amount depending on the number of clothes, but vinegar and baking soda should be in a 2:1 ratio.

Method 2: You can also mix vinegar and baking soda with hot water in a bucket. Then, soak the clothes in it before washing them.

Note: Do not mix bleach with vinegar, as this creates toxic fumes that are dangerous for humans. 

  • Bleach

It may be a potent chemical that causes discolouration and damage to clothes if not used wisely, but no one can deny that it gets the job done. It is an effective cure for mildew and mildew stains, but it is mainly used for white clothes as it strips colour. If in doubt, you can do a spot test in an inconspicuous place on the cloth to see how it reacts. There are again two ways to use bleach as a stain remover.

Method 1: Add the affected clothes to warm water in the washing machine and then add a cup of chlorine bleach

Method 2: Mix a cup of bleach in a bucket of hot water and then pre-soak the clothes for half an hour to an hour before washing with regular laundry detergent.

Bleach can sometimes be combined with Borax to increase its efficiency. Once again, do not use it with vinegar

  • Borax

This one always has your back for your mould-removing needs. It is water-soluble and a good alternative if your dry cleaning bill is adding up and you want the same experience with less than half the cost. Mix half a cup of Borax in water and ensure that it is completely dissolved. Then, add the mixture to your laundry (once again with warm water) in the washing machine and watch the magic happen!

Smart ways to prevent the appearance of mould 

We’ve talked reasonably extensively about ways to remove mildew smells and mildew stains, but everyone knows that prevention is always better than cure. Why work hard trying to salvage clothes when you could work smart and avoid such a situation in the first place? Most of these may seem like a no-brainer to you, but you’ll be surprised by how often we’re caught off-guard by rookie mistakes. 

Colorful clothes hanging to dry in the sunlight

  • Dry clothes promptly

Patience is a virtue, but not where drying is concerned. Any day clothes stay damp is one day too many. Use a dryer to dry wet clothes immediately after washing them, or better yet, hang them out to dry in the sunlight. The UV rays will kill the mould spores, and ventilation will prevent any moulding.

  • Air out towels and sweaty clothes

Don’t be like my brother and leave your sweaty/damp clothes, shoes and towels lying in rooms or laundry hampers. Air them out and let them dry to get rid of any residual moisture promptly. Don’t wait for the musty smell to become a headache first.

  • Store clothes in cool, dry areas

After washing and drying your clothes; there’s still the storage to deal with. Avoid boxes or storage areas that are poorly ventilated or humid. Keep storage containers dry and check on them regularly to ensure their environment isn’t conducive to welcoming our fungal (not-so-much) friends. 

  • Ventilation systems

Ventilation systems such as dehumidifiers are so important when trying to prevent clothes from moulding. You should try and monitor ventilation in high-risk areas that have increased dampness. Keep windows open to let the air in and turn on ceiling fans to ensure thorough ventilation. Dehumidifiers can be used to control the humidity and keep it below 50%. Lastly, don’t neglect your HVAC filters since they can be hotspots for mould and other allergens

  • Regular home inspections

It’s essential to go to the roots of the problem rather than addressing the symptoms. Sometimes, water damage or humidity is responsible for mildew on clothes rather than a single, troublesome mould spore. In the former cases, the mould will keep on returning unless you deal with the cause of mould formation. Professional mould removers can help you identify, prevent, and remove mould from your house that is causing the “clothes nightmare”.

Overflowing laundry basket

For some people, mouldy clothes are something unknown. They live their lives blissfully unaware that mould growth can be found anywhere in their wardrobe. Not everyone is so lucky! Some of us have already learned this the hard way by throwing out clothes or making expensive trips to the dry cleaners

However, this is no reason for despair. Now that you’ve perused this comprehensive guide on getting mould out of clothes, DIY style, in easy steps, you’re prepared for any fungal emergencies. With this tutorial, you have all the knowledge you need to know exactly how to make mould go away and stay away! 

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