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.


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.

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.

  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.

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