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Mildew is a type of mold. It is a living organism, and it grows in places that are damp, humid and warm. Forgetting a wet shirt in the bottom of our beach bag can cause mildew, but during warm, humid weather, so can leaving dry clothes in a laundry basket for too long. To get rid of mildew on color-fast clothing, follow these instructions.
Take the garment outdoors. If it is still damp at all, allow it to sit in the sun and fully dry. With an old tooth brush, brush away the excess mildew or mold from the garment. Shake the garment out and dispose of the toothbrush.
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Place the garment in the washing machine. Do not wash it with any other garments, as you don't want the smell or mold spores to get on your other clothing. Wash it with hot water and your normal color-safe detergent. Add one cup of white vinegar to the wash water. Rinse the garment in hot water as well.
Remove your garment from the washer, but do not place it in the dryer. If any mildew stains remain, the dryer's heat will only serve to set them in the fabric. Instead, hang it outdoors in a sunny location to dry. If it is too damp outdoors, or if it is not sunny, allow the garment to air-dry in the house.
Examine the garment when it is dry. Look for any remaining mildew stains. If you find any stubborn remaining stains, you can remove them with a more aggressive approach. Make a mixture of salt and lemon juice so that it forms a paste. With an old toothbrush, gently brush the paste onto the mildew stains and allow the garment to sit for 15 to 30 minutes, preferably in the sun.
Brush off the excess salt. Wash the garment again in hot water. If the smell of mildew is still detectable in the fabric, add vinegar to the wash water again. If you cannot smell mildew anymore, you do not have to add vinegar again. After rinsing, let it air dry again. The mildew odor and stains should be gone by now, though if the mildew was left long enough to damage the fabric there may be some remaining discoloration.
Let the garment air dry one more time after the wash cycle. The mildew odor and stains should be gone by now, though if the mildew was left long enough to damage the fabric there may be some remaining discoloration. If the clothing smells at all like vinegar, you can run it through a regular wash cycle on your next laundry day, and this time, if it is dryer safe, you can put it into the clothes dryer.