How to Remove Mildew from Clothes

I’m sure you’ve never forgotten a wet bib that fell between the car seats, only to find it a week later…and covered in mildew.  And I’m positive that you have never left wet towels in your kitchen hamper for days on end only to come back and find them moldy.  Right?

These kinds of things happen only at the Hill House, I’m sure.

Mold and mildew can be extremely hard to remove. If you use these tips, you have a fighting chance at removing it from your stained garment.  But honestly?  There aren’t any products that I am aware of that are made specifically for mold and mildew on fabrics.

So if you’ve incidentally left a garment a little too long in a wet, dark, damp place, here is how you can try to remove the mildew stain.  Keep in mind I am not advocating this for garments or towels that smell like mildewbut those items on which you can visibly see mold or mildew.

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How to Remove Mold and Mildew from Clothes


Use a Toothbrush to Scrape off Mold

If the item has visible mold on it, you’ll need to scrape off as much of the mold as you can with an old toothbrush.

If the item is a piece of clothing, gently use a toothbrush to scrape it off.  You don’t want to disrupt the fibers of the garment permanently.  You need to remove as much of the mold as possible so the washing machine can clean deeply into the fibers during the wash cycle.

This is just doing an intense pre-wash, in the hopes of removing the stain completely.

Wash the Item By Itself on a Warm, Normal Setting Using Oxi Clean

Mildew and mold spores can spread all kinds of yuck for us to breathe in.  As soon as you notice the mold or mildew, wash the item by itself in the washer.

If you have a front loader, put some old towels or rags that you use for cleaning in the washer also.  You want to trick the front loader into using a lot of water, in an effort to remove the mold and mildew.

Make sure you use a ‘warm’ water setting and definitely wash on ‘normal’ (not delicate).

It seems like one would want to use a ‘hot’ water temperature, but trust me: you don’t.  Heat tends to set stains and you don’t want to set in a mildew stain.

Let the item air dry

Allow the item to air dry completely.  Do not dry it in the dryer.  Can you still see the mildew or mold at all?  If not, success!  If you can still see it, go on to the next step.

Try The Soak

While I’m not aware of any products formulated for the removal of mildew on fabric, Oxi Clean does a pretty good job.  But you’ll need to soak your item for a fairly extended period of time.

I inadvertently left a dish cloth in the back corner under my sink and I had to soak it four days before the mildew came out of the fabric.  It slightly lifted the color from the fabric since I soaked it so long, but the mildew stain was finally removed.

After you do The Soak, wash as you normally would and hang to dry.  Don’t dry it until you’re sure the stain is removed to your satisfaction.

Try Bathroom Mildew Remover

This sounds a little unconventional, however spray a bathroom mildew remover on the stained areas if The Soak doesn’t work.  

Now here are some huge caution flags:

— This is going to bleach your garment. Without a doubt, it will cause at the very least some lifting of the color if not all of the color.

— It potentially could eat a hole in your garment also since mildew removers are largely made up of bleach.

The choice to use this type of product is really a last act of desperation.  Hopefully, you’re garment is white and it won’t matter.

You can put a small amount on a Q-tip and test the inside seam to see if it will cause the item to fade.  If it doesn’t in just a few minutes, you can either spray the mildew remover straight on to the item or dab it on using a Q-tip on cotton ball.

I personally have used mildew remover with great success in the past.  After you’ve left the product on about 5 minutes or so, wash on a regular cycle using a ‘warm’ water temperature.

Again, hang the item to dry until you are sure the stain is removed.

♥ I’ve used X-14 and Tilex Mold & Mildew Remover with great success!


Dry the item in direct sunlight

The Sun is a fabulous, free source of bleach!  Once you’ve completed The Soak or used the bathroom mildew remover, wash in the washing machine.

If you have access to drying a garment outside, let it get full sun for a couple of hours.  Hopefully, it will be the last step you need to take to remove the stain completely.


There are some stains that just can’t be removed, despite how much effort you put into them.  Mildew and mold definitely top the list of hard-to-remove stains!  If you have specific questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.


  1. What a great post! It’s also good to know I’m not the only one who does stuff like that!

    I’m a sunlight girl.

    • I have dark Ice fishing clothes, like Carhartt, boots, hats, gloves. Some of these things just cannot go through the washer. Does this mean just a lot of hand washing? Haven’t seen the sun in a few days…dark and dreary here. 🙁

      • Lauren Hill says:


        Can you put the gloves and hats in mesh laundry bags to protect them? I wash our nice hats and gloves in those with great results.

        It gives them an added layer of protection, while getting them clean. Then just hang to dry.


  2. Wish I had known this last summer! We had a baby outfit that got wet in the ocean on vacation, then it sat in a plastic bag all the way home for several days. I never got the spot out, but all I did was use a stain remover. I haven’t tried the sun yet. Maybe there’s still some hope for that white onesie.

  3. Kristen says:

    i find Fels Naptha handles all my stain removal needs… including mold/mildew… just dunk the bar under the water as its filling up the washing machine, and rub it on the mold/mildew or any other stain… and throw the garment right in the wash… once in a great while it takes a second treatment and washing to get it all the way out, best to do it before it goes in the dryer if you can catch it… but hey, even if you dont catch it till your folding, you start the process over again and it should finish the job!

  4. How to Remove a Stain says:

    I followed your advise when I cleaned our bathroom. It’s quite easy to do. Saved me a lot from hiring a cleaning expert. 🙂

  5. Hi. I just wanted to say that I read your post and went right ahead and tried X14 mildew remover (for bathrooms I think) on a football jersey that had SEVERE mildew stains. OMG. The stains disappeared right before my eyes!! It was awesome. I’m not saying everyone might have this same result… I did test on a small spot first and saw that it did not bleach it. So I went for it – all or nothing – and it worked. Mark you, I had nothing to lose since it was in such bad shape to begin with. But the result was nothing short of a miracle.

  6. My nursing bras are spotting mildew and mould and I am trying out the methods to get rid of them. If the stain does not get out, is that the end for the bras? Would it affect me or the baby if I continue to wear moldy bras (aargh disgusting) thanks in advance!

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Ling, I’d ditch the bras and buy new ones. While you can remove the mildew spores, it’s would practically ruin your bras to put them through hot water and a hard washing cycle.

      May as well buy new ones. I’m sorry – nursing bras are SO expensive!!

  7. I had several loads of laundry get soaked when a washer hose broke and sprayed the laundry area in my basement until I realized that I had a water pressure problem. I was not able to get to the wet laundry for several days, and in Missouri in December, there’s not much warmth or sunshine to hang wet clothes outside. I did not want to set dirt in clothes by drying them before they were washed. By the time I got to trying to do my laundry, I had a lot of pink mildew stains on many items of clothes. After quite a bit of Internet research, including on this site, I bought some Oxi-Clean. SInce I had so many garments to soak, I decided to just use the washing machine. Started with hot water and poured in the Oxi-Clean, then ran the agitator until the Oxi-Clean was dissolved. Then ran lukewarm water into the washer until the water was a reasonable temperature, since I did not want to take a chance on very hot water setting the stains. I left each load in the washer for at least 12-16 hours, periodically turning the washer on to agitate the clothes and make sure everything was getting adequately soaked. I spun the soak water out of the washer, then rewashed each load with my regular detergent. No more mildew spots on anything I treated! And I didn’t have to try to find a bucket big enough for all of my mildewed items, or soak two or three pieces at a time, and I didn’t have to manually stir the soak water. Felt this was an idea worth sharing.

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Ele!! Excellent result!! I’m so thrilled for you that you were able to get the stains out.

      And thanks for the tips. I know other readers will be so interested to read your method.

  8. Is it safe to wash my babies clothes with her moldy bibs? I didn’t notice the mold until after they came out of the dryer and now I’m wondering if I should rewash the whole load.

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Krystal, personally, I’d re-wash.

      However, if you washed the clothes on hot and on a normal cycle (not delicate or gentle), it should be fine.

  9. I just noticed some mold stains on my baby’s clothes. I washed them on heavy duty (sanitize, extra rinse, etc). They did not come out. Right now I have them soaking in a bucket with vinegar. Hopefully that will help. Don’t know if you can strip clothes like cloth diapers or not. I’ve heard that even if the stains are still there doesn’t always mean that the mold is.

  10. Christina reiswig says:

    I was wondering I have a couple baby swing covers and a car seat and a baby walker that got meldew on them for being in my storage and was wondering how I would get it out so I can sell them or store them away so it don’t happen again. Thanks in advance

  11. Carolyn says:

    I soaked my hubby’s beige pants to get the dirt out, but left them too long in water. Then noticed it was turning pink and spotty (ack!) so threw them in the washer with the load of whites. When they came out, still pink and spotty but not as bad. Should I re-wash the whites? Didn’t even think about it being mold and spores and such…

  12. Sasha Palmer says:

    Just thought id mention that borax also helps remove mildew from clothing. Also if your hanging it out in sunlight I’ve been told a bit of lemon juice on the garment while sunlight helps remove mildew. I also wanted to say props to the bathroom cleaner method you mentioned a guy I used to work in a kitchen with ( who wore only a white chef jacket) said his friends from chef school told him to use scrubbing bubbles bathroom cleaner on his white chef jacket before washing to keep all stains out. And it really does work!!!!

  13. Trying to get black spots out of table cloths. Tried washing with bleach. All other stain came out except the black little cross looking stains. Pls help if possible

  14. Mj Guerrero says:

    Wondering if you could help me figure out my situation. I have 20 108″ round table linen that was left outside after a party. Our area is very humid. Some mildew started as well as food stains, which I can get out, but not sure about the mildew. My problem is my washer is an old top loader, and have no hot water hook up to it. Also, I use Tide soap, which always works for me in pre-treating.

    Would it be okay to wash and soak in cold water adding bleach, or should I throw in some hot water to make it warm, thus not risking failure by using just cold water? If this does not work I am open to doing a sun soak, but do not want to use bathroom cleaner. I would appreciate your suggestion.

    Thank you,

  15. I’m pretty sure I have now set some mildew stains on a sheet.
    Does that mean I can forget it for good? Or is there still a chance with any of the options mentioned already?..

    • Lauren Hill says:


      Yes, try some of the options listed above. If the sheets have any polyester in them (if they aren’t 100% cotton), make sure you dilute the bleach or The Works just a bit so it doesn’t eat a hole in your sheets. That can happen to polyester when bleach is used full-strength! Just a caution!

  16. thanks for this helpful blog. I would follow these ideas.

  17. My dad brought me back a soccer jersey from Croatia, I used it last week when I went to the gym,
    I was doing my laundry today and I noticed a bunch of small gray dots all around the back. The shirt is red and white so I can’t use bleach. I’ve already washed it a couple times, the second time with vinegar. Any suggestions? The shirt is 100% polyester.
    Thank you 🙁

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Oooh David, that’s a tough one.

      My guess is that those little gray dots are mold or mildew, which doesn’t come out easily without a bleach on it.

      If the gray spots are on the white part of the jersey, you can try diluting bleach or The Works and applying every so lightly with a Q-tip to the affected areas.

      But BE VERY CAREFUL doing this, since bleach and The Works at full strength can put a hole in polyester.

      Of course, follow this advice at your own risk! I sure do hope you can remove the spots – what a great gift from your dad!

  18. Washing with hot water and vinegar works for me most of the time. And if its thick rugs, then have to use something strong like bleach.

  19. Not all the mold is harmful but there will be some mold which can be harmful to your health. You should remove the source of moisture and repair the leaks if you don’t want mold to reappear again after removal.

  20. I have some dark skinny jeans that have some mold stains in them do you know if x-14 will bleach them?

  21. Mildred brown says:

    My shower curtain is a heavy canvas type fabric (blue and white stripe ticking). Found mold at bottom above hem on one side. Since it is hard for me to take it down, I sprayed the area with Shout fabric stain remover. I rubbed it in, rinsed it and left it to dry hanging on the shower rod. There are still spots. Any suggestions? I purchased this shower curtain from the Vermont Country Store catalog.

    I was surprised this happened as I always close shower curtain. Since this happened I let it dry on outside of tub.

  22. I have a stroller that got moldy on the fabric part. I doused the entire thing in concrobium outside first because I have a bad mold Allergy. I let it sit over night. Then I put the fabric parts in the wash as I cleaned off the dirty stroller with a vinegar/ water mixture. I don’t use harsh chemicals anymore for cleaning. I used the oxy wash for dirty jobs in warm water along with tide. There were mold stains left on some areas. I washed again with straight vinegar. Still had stains. The spots are on light gray fabric right up near the top of the seat cover. Near where the kid’s head would be so obvious and gross looking. It has no odor and I do not itch when around it so I know the mold is gone and it is just a stain. (Mold stains wood even after it’s treated. I had mold in my basement and learned a LOT about it from the professional mold remover company) But it still looks gross. I don’t want to make holes using something harsh so I wanted to try just dying that area a dark gray or black. But RIT will not work on this fabric. It’s microfiber. I tried to dye a microfiber blanket and just ruined it. The dye only adhered in a few spots. I have to do something. The stroller is still good and was expensive. My friend needs it ASAP. Any suggestions?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Robin, I totally understand your dilemma. Yes, I agree that your spots are simply stains now and not the mold itself. All of your hard work got rid of the actual mold. 🙂

      Honestly, I don’t know a good solution for microfiber. You’re right in that it absorbs dye, detergents, etc in a different way.

      I’m sorry I don’t have a good solution. I realize that you don’t want to use ‘harsh chemicals’, but I would personally make a paste solution of Oxi Clean and water and let it sit for a bit and then check results.

      I hope you find a solution!


  23. I washed a bunch of clothes that had been in boxes that I saw a few mold spores. Washed in just oxiclean on hot water. A extra rinse cycle. Should I still worry if there’s mold spores that could harm my son?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Hey Amber,

      If you washed in hot, it should be fine. Especially if you were able to dry the clothes in the sun. The spots might have remained (they’re essentially stains), but the mold spores should have been destroyed in the hot water.


  24. Eleanor couper says:

    – I have a jacket with mould ,I put vinegar on the spots left for a while then put my jacket in washing machine now the mould is all spread what do I do.

  25. i have dark stains on my nursing bras. im assuming from breastmilk spills/leaks and -or sweat. any recommendations?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Have you tried The Soak? I’d definitely start there. If your bras have been dried in the dryer, the stains will be much harder to remove.

      -Lauren 🙂

  26. Roberta Robertson says:

    Borax and white vinegar used as a soaking solution will remove mildew from linens. Soak for half an hour or so and then wash in hottest water that your machine can do. If you are lucky enough to live in a warm part of the world you could put your linen out on a hedge or lie it on the grass lawn, the sunlight and chlorophyll in the grass will bleach the linen. 🙂

  27. Samantha says:

    Hey! I bought a stroller second hand and it has very tiny mildew spots in a few areas but other wise is spotless (I’m assuming juice or milk was spilled and it was folded thus creating the spots). I hosed it don’t and sprayed with it shout it and rinsed it and let it sit in the sun for 2 hours. Then I attacked it with borax and a tooth brush, now it’s soaking it blue dawn and a bit of oxi clean… next I’m goinng to throw it in the wash with some tide. I don’t think the stains are going to come out (which is fine) but it will be safe to use after all the cleaning right?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Hey Samantha,

      Yes, after all of that and then washing in the machine and letting it dry in the sun, I would assume it is safe. I would use it with my own children after doing everything you described. 🙂


  28. To remove the stains from towels and clothes, or outdoor gear like chair cushions or tents, first take the pieces outside. If they’re wet, leave them in the sunlight — a natural mold inhibitor — until totally dry; then use a stiff brush to whisk away loose spores (don’t do this indoors, or you’ll have a new infestation). Soak spots on machine-washable items for a half hour in full-strength all-fabric bleach.Rinse, and wash as usual. For items that can’t go in the machine, rub a few drops of the bleach on the stain; let sit a few minutes; wash with a cloth dipped in mild suds; rinse well (repeat if needed). Air-dry.

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