How to Remove Mold From Clothing Safely

moldy jeans, fungi on the unwash jeans

Anueing/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 15 mins
  • Total Time: 1 - 8 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $20 to 50

When the conditions are right, mold spores can attach to fabrics, leaving stains and damage. Mold forms on clothes when they are wet and left clumped together in a warm spot. You may know mold is present by the odor: your clothes will smell musty, indicating that spores are growing and removal treatment is needed. The visible signs are grey, white, black, or green spots that can be "fuzzy" or slimy.

No matter the type of fungus growth you see or smell, don't ignore it—it can eat away at natural fibers, weaken fibers, and leave stains on all kinds of clothes. Read on as we guide you through removing mold from clothing.

Before You Begin

Take precautions when handling the fabrics to prevent spreading the spores to other surfaces. In most cases, you can remove the stains from washable clothes with laundry detergents and stain removers.

Can You Get Mold Out of Clothes?

The answer is yes. The first step is to remove the visible mold and kill the remaining spores. You can get mold out of clothes with white distilled vinegar, as the acetic acid will kill the spores. The vinegar must have an acetic acid level of 4.0%−4.2% or higher to kill the mold. However, when used at full strength, vinegar can cause dark-colored fabrics to fade. While it will kill the mold, it will not remove mold stains on fabrics.

Treat the clothes with warm or hot water, distilled white vinegar, chlorine bleach, pine oil, or a phenolic disinfectant to kill the mold spores. Then wash with a heavy-duty laundry detergent and use chlorine or oxygen-bleach to remove the stains. Follow the step-by-step recommendations below for successful mold removal from clothes.

Warning

  • When cleaning mold on any surface, wear a dust mask like an N95 respirator to avoid inhaling the spores. It's also a good idea to wear gloves and eye protection while handling moldy clothes.
  • If the mold growth is extensive, covering more than 10 percent of the fabric, consider disposing of the item instead of attempting to remove the mold.

When to Call a Professional

If the moldy clothes are labeled as dry-clean-only, place them in a plastic bag before transporting them to a dry cleaner to prevent the spores from spreading. Be sure to point out and identify the stains.

Detergent Type Heavy-duty laundry detergent, distilled vinegar, chlorine bleach, pine oil
Water Temperature Warm to hot
Cycle Type Varies depending on the type of fabric
Drying Cycle Type Varies depending on the type of fabric
Special Treatments Use oxygen or chlorine bleach to remove stains
How Often to Wash Wash ASAP after mold is discovered

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 washer or large sink
  • 1 soft-bristled brush
  • 1 N-95 mask
  • 1 pair eye protection
  • 1 plastic bag

Materials

  • 1 container heavy-duty laundry detergent
  • 1 bottle chlorine bleach
  • 1 bottle distilled white vinegar
  • 1 container oxygen-based bleach powder
  • 1 bottle pine oil or phenolic disinfectant

Instructions

How to Remove Mold From Washable Clothes

  1. Go Outside to Brush Away Spores

    Take the affected items outdoors to shake or brush away the spores to prevent the spores from spreading inside your home. Remove as much of the visible mold as possible by brushing both sides of the fabric. 

  2. Spot Treat Stains

    After brushing, use a few drops of a heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent on the visible stains. Allow the detergent to work for at least 15 minutes before washing the clothes in the hottest water recommended on the care label.

  3. Add a Disinfectant to the Laundry Load

    The disinfectant you choose should be added to the wash cycle along with the heavy-duty detergent.

    • To disinfect 100 percent white cotton fabrics and kill the spores, add at least one quart of distilled white vinegar or follow the directions on the chlorine bleach label.
    • To disinfect light-colored synthetic fabrics, use distilled white vinegar or diluted chlorine bleach in the wash cycle.
    • For natural or synthetic dark-colored fabrics, use pine oil or phenolic disinfectant (Lysol).

    Tips

    If hand-washing a single garment, use a smaller amount of disinfectant. Use one cup of vinegar per gallon of water, one-third cup of chlorine bleach per gallon of water, or one-third cup of pine oil or phenolic disinfectant. Oxygen-based bleach will not disinfect the fabrics.

  4. Check the Stains

    If stains remain after disinfecting the clothes or linens, do not put the clothes in the dryer. The high heat can set the stains.

  5. Remove the Lingering Stains

    Oxygen-based bleach is safe to use on all washable fabrics both light and dark colors, to remove stains. Mix a solution of the powder and warm water following the package directions. Completely submerge the stained clothes and allow them to soak for at least eight hours or overnight.

    If the stains are gone, wash as usual. If they remain, mix a fresh solution and repeat. It may take several soakings to remove the mold stains, but they should come out.

FAQ
  • What does mold on clothes look like?

    Mold can appear as grey, white, black, or green spots that can be "fuzzy" or slimy. The musty odor of mold is often the first clue that there is mold growing on the clothes.

  • Why is there mold on my clothes?

    Mold needs moisture, warmth, and food (body soil) to begin growing on clothes. Mold on clothes usually occurs when they are wet and left in heap in a warm spot for several hours.

  • Can I use distilled white vinegar to disinfect the clothes?

    The acetic acid in distilled white vinegar can kill mold spores. However, it will not remove the stains caused by mold growth and can fade dark-colored fabrics.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Basic Facts About Mold and Dampness. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

  2. Rogawansamy, Senthaamarai et al. An Evaluation Of Antifungal Agents For The Treatment Of Fungal Contamination In Indoor Air Environments. 2022, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4483703/.