How to Get Mildew Out of Cloth Tablecloths

Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

Things You'll Need

  • Dust mask

  • Soft-bristled scrub brush

  • Garden hose or bucket of water

  • Lemon juice

  • Salt

  • Sponge

  • Hydrogen peroxide

  • Laundry detergent for delicates

  • White vinegar

  • Baking soda

Tip

Spot-test the tablecloth in an inconspicuous area to ensure its color is not affected by lemon juice or peroxide before applying those liquids to numerous places on the tablecloth. Apply a small amount of the liquid to a corner, then let it air dry to see if the fabric's color changes.

Warning

Do not fold and store table linens while they are still wet, as this may cause the growth of mildew and mold. Storing them in dark, humid environments without occasional airflow may also result in mildew.

If your tablecloth is a bright color and you feel it may fade when washed, avoid using bleaching agents such as lemon juice, peroxide or standard bleach.

If your favorite tablecloth succumbs to mildew stains or odor, there's no need to discard it yet. In some cases, the stain and odor go away after treating the fabric with lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide. Washing the tablecloth afterward with vinegar or baking soda and laundry detergent cleans the entire tablecloth and removes musty odors.

Step 1

Take the tablecloth outdoors and set it over a chair, table or banister so you can see all the mildewed areas. If the tablecloth is wet or damp, allow it to air dry for at least 30 minutes; otherwise, it may be difficult to remove the mildew.

Step 2

Put on a dust mask and brush each mildew spot with a scrub brush. This eliminates some of the mildew spores that cause stains and musty odors. Examine the tablecloth completely to ensure you've brushed away as many spores as possible. Rinse the brush outdoors with a garden hose or by dumping a bucket of water over it, then allow it to dry outdoors.

Step 3

Pour a little lemon juice over each mildew spot if there are only a few, then sprinkle salt over the lemon juice to act as a mild abrasive. Allow the lemon juice to sit for several minutes, then rub the affected areas gently with a damp sponge. Allow the tablecloth to air dry completely. The lemon juice, fresh air and sunshine may bleach the stains out.

Step 4

Pour a small amount of hydrogen peroxide on a sponge if dark spots remain on the tablecloth. Dab the spots with the peroxide, then allow the tablecloth to air dry.

Step 5

Wash the tablecloth in the washing machine using your favorite laundry detergent designed for delicates, using the hottest water recommended on the tablecloth's care tag. Add 1/4 cup white vinegar during the final rinse cycle to remove lingering mildew odors.

Step 6

Remove the tablecloth from the washing machine and smell it. If it still has a musty odor, wash it again, adding 1 cup baking soda along with your favorite laundry detergent designed for delicates.

Step 7

Dry the tablecloth over a clothesline in a nonhumid area, or in a dryer on a low-heat setting.

references & resources

Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.

View Work