How to Remove Mildew on Clothes: Step by Step

What is mildew you might ask? Mildew is a form of fungus. It is distinguished from its closely related counterpart, mold, largely by its color: molds appear in shades of black, blue, red, and green, whereas mildew is white.


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 mildew – but those items on which you can visibly see mold or mildew.


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 deep into the fibers during the wash cycle.

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


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, to remove the mold and mildew.

Make sure you use a ‘warm’ water setting and 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.


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.


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.

I inadvertently left a dishcloth 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.


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 a last act of desperation. Hopefully, your 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 the cotton ball.

I 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!


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.

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

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