How to Clean Mold & Mildew From Fabric

Mold and mildew, the types of fungi you don't appreciate and, unlike mushrooms, don't devour, don't just grow in the grout around bathroom tiles --- they appear on your fabrics and upholstery as well. Both are partial to cotton and other organic fabrics, as well as man-made fabrics, and thrive in damp conditions. The mold spores sent into your home's air ventilation system affect sensitive respiratory systems and bring on body rashes and sore eyes. Not only must you remove the mold and mildew from your home and its furnishings, but you must remediate the conditions that lead to its growth, ensuring it won't return.

Differences Between Mold and Mildew

The slimy blackness that's growing on the interior of your air conditioning system is mold. Usually black, gray or green, a mold infestation begins when spores propagate in a damp environment, then roam throughout the house. They bring a distinctive odor with them. Mold can rapidly spread throughout the walls and systems of a home, attaching itself to hard surfaces as well as fabrics.

Mildew, a form of mold, is identified by the tiny black, gray or white powdery marks created while lying on the surface of its victim. While mold is difficult to remove, mildew can be removed from fabrics just by shaking them in the air. Deeper cleaning is suggested to totally eliminate the mildew, however.

Chasing the Mildew

Take the infested pieces outside and shake the spores away. Stand downwind to prevent ingesting the spores. Use a clothing or scrubbing brush to thoroughly clean the pieces before bringing them inside for further cleansing and stain removal.

If the fabric is 100 percent cotton and can be laundered in a machine, soak it in your laundry tub and add chlorine bleach. If the fabric is colored, use a color-safe bleach. Run the washing cycle to totally rid the fabric of the fungi. Man-made fibers are safe to wash with color-safe bleach as well. Dry in the sun. Fabric that is not machine washable can be dabbed with a mix of rubbing alcohol and water and rinsed with a damp, sudsy cloth, and then air-dried. Bob Villa recommends soaking fabric in all-purpose bleach for a minimum of 30 minutes before washing it.

Make a paste of lemon juice and salt and apply it to stains on colored upholstery. Let the paste sit for several hours and then wash in a machine and dry in the sun.

Mold Remediation

Borax is a nontoxic mold cleaner that is safe to use on upholstery fabric. Fill the laundry tub with hot water and add your liquid laundry detergent. Separately, mix 1/2 cup of borax to 2 cups of hot water, add it to the tub and then add the stained pieces. Run the cycle once and then again to thoroughly clean the fabric and the machine.

Vinegar is another solution used to rid fabrics of mold. Mix equal amounts of vinegar and hot water and soak the pieces in a laundry tub for an hour. Run the washing cycle using your normal detergent.

Stubborn Stains

If the mold or mildew stains are difficult to remove, hydrogen peroxide may chase them away. Pour some of the solution on a cotton cloth and dab it on the stain. Wash normally, and if the stain is almost gone, hang the piece outside in the sun. Sun is a natural bleaching agent and can make the stain fade away.

Hydrogen peroxide also works when attacking mold that has gathered on shower curtains. A good overnight soak in a tub of hot water and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide should clean the curtain.

Upholstery, Mattresses and Rugs

Brush off the mold or mildew, preferably outside. If that's not possible, vacuum.

Shampoo with an upholstery cleaner or rug shampoo and let the items dry in the sun. Spray them with an anti-fungal spray before bringing them back into the house. If it's not possible to bring the item outside, dry it immediately with a fan or hair dryer.

Another remedy to use on upholstery, mattresses and rugs is to mix equal parts of alcohol or vinegar with water. One quart of warm water and 2 tablespoons of ammonia also make an effective mold remover. Rub the items with a damp sponge until the stains disappear and wipe them with a clean damp cloth or sponge.

Removing Mold Odor

The odor of mold is unmistakable and often leads back to its source. Remediate the source of the mold and then chase away the odor, which lingers.

Place several bricks of activated charcoal, not the briquettes pre-loaded with lighter fluid, on a plate and let it sit for a few days. This should remove the odor.

Vinegar neutralizes odors. Put 2 cups of vinegar in your washing machine and add the odorous piece of clothing. Soak for 30 minutes, rinse with cold water and then run a quick normal cycle. If the vinegar odor is present, don't fret. It'll disappear.

Sprinkle baking soda on the mold to eradicate the odor. Let it sit overnight and then vacuum in the morning. Be sure to clean the vacuum cleaner after.