Mold grows in warm, dark, humid conditions, such as in walls, floors, and clothes. Musty odors or mildew stains are good signs you have mold growing somewhere. Mold can grow quickly, and becomes harder to remove, so finding mold contamination quickly is key to minimizing damage.
Mold can grow nearly anywhere, provided it has three things:
Under these conditions, mold grows fast. Clothing, especially rarely worn clothing in the back of your closet, can be the perfect place for mold to grow. The longer it stays on the fabric, the weaker the fabric becomes, and your clothes will eventually rot and be unsalvageable.
There are several ways you can safely remove mold from clothing, and get rid of the smell.
Vinegar isn’t a common approach to removing mold, but is highly effective at removing the smell. Add a cup of white vinegar to the washer. Run as many vinegar cycles as necessary to remove the moldy smell. The vinegar smell will dissipate quickly. After the mold smell is gone, run the clothes through a normal wash cycle with your usual detergent. The most interesting part of using vinegar to remove mold is that the fermentation process used to make vinegar is done with a specific type of mold.
Clean it like your grandma would
You’ll need a mask and gloves for this method to protect yourself from mold.
Start by taking any affected or exposed clothing (even if it doesn’t have visible mold doesn’t mean it isn’t there) outside to prevent the mold spores from spreading throughout your home.
Brush off all the clothing with a stiff brush and leave in the sun to dry. The sun will kill any remaining spores.
Soak clothing with any remaining stains in cold water for a couple of hours. Wash in hot water and dry thoroughly in the sun.
Remaining stains can be treated with a solution of 2 tbsp chlorine bleach to a quart of water. Alternately, a solution of lemon juice and salt can be used on colored items. Let sit ten minutes before rinsing well.
Wash as normal and dry in the sun. Be sure clothes are completely dry to kill any remaining spores and spray lightly with fungicide to be sure mold doesn’t return.
Products designed to kill mold and mildew are known as mildicides. They can be highly effective at removing mold and the smell of mold from your clothes and other items, but be sure to read the label and follow all precautions.
If much of your clothing has been affected by mold, the mold has likely infiltrated your closet. The closet will need to be fogged. You can fog the entire closet and all of its contents, or you can clean out the closet, fog the closet, and treat each item. If you have the time and have been thinking about clearing out some closet clutter, this might be a good time for a thorough cleaning. Be sure to spray the baseboards and any vents in the room.
When fogging, close the door and allow the mildicide to permeate all surfaces for at least 10-15 minutes before going back in. Use a fan to make sure everything gets dry.