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How to remove mildew from clothes

Mildew is a common fungus that loves damp, warmth, and enclosed spaces. Left your wet laundry in the washing machine too long? Forgotten to unpack your gym bag for a week? Then you might find mildew on the clothes you’ve neglected. The tell-tale signs are a musty smell and pale, grey marks – easy enough to get rid of, but not really what you want to find on your clothing. Here’s how to banish mildew and get your clothes fungus-free again.


How to remove mildew from clothes

If you’ve discovered little white spots or a funky smell on your clothes, it’s time to get to grips with the mildew. Don’t worry, you’ll hardly break a sweat over this. This is how to remove mildew from fabric:

  1. Pre-treat. First things first: pick a pre-treatment. There are a few products that can help when you’re removing mildew from clothing:

    White vinegar: You’re likely to have this in your cupboard anyway, and it’s effective without being too strong a product. Mix one part vinegar with nine parts water, and dab the solution onto the stain with a clean cloth. If you’re dealing with widespread mildew (say your damp swimming costume has been waiting a long time) you can fill a small tub with the solution and soak your clothing for 15–30 minutes to get better coverage.

    Bleach: Bleach is very strong and caution should be taken whenever it is used, especially in terms of protective gear (do wear gloves) and the space you’re working in (make sure it’s well-ventilated by opening a window). Follow the usage and safety directions on the product label carefully, and check the label on your garment to make sure it’s bleach-safe too.
    Remember: keep small, curious hands away from bleach at all times!

    Borax: Borax comes in powder or detergent form. Either option can help to remove mildew from fabric: simply follow the dilution instructions on the product label and then soak your mildew-stained garment in the solution. Again, work in a well-ventilated area – away from curious children – and use protective gloves.

    Hint: It’s always good to test any stain removal product on an inconspicuous area of the garment before treating the whole stain, just to make sure you get the results you want!
  2. Wash at a high temperature. A little damp and warmth is inviting for mildew, but a lot of very hot water can kill it. Remove any remaining mildew on clothes by putting them through the hottest wash cycle they can handle – make sure you check the care labels to see how hot things can get! Use a good quality detergent with plenty of stain-removing power, like OMO Ultimate Liquid.
  3. Dry outdoors. Sunlight works wonders on mildew stains, so hang the garment up to dry outside. 


How to prevent mildew on clothes

Now you know how to remove mildew from clothes, you’re probably wondering how to keep those white spots from coming back. Bear these three things in mind:

  1. Take your wet clothes out of the washing machine as soon as the wash is over.
  2. Put your freshly-washed clothes on the washing line or in the tumble dryer immediately, so that they dry as soon as possible. The care labels can tell you which drying method is best.
  3. Avoid putting damp or wet items in your laundry basket. Let towels, gym clothing, and swimwear dry before adding them to the washing pile.


Removing mildew from clothing isn’t overly tricky, and now you know the trick – so don’t worry if you forget these rules once in a while. If you’re now grappling with other stains, take a look at our stain removal section for more helpful tips.

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