How to Get Mold Out of Clothes

By: Emilie Sennebogen & Madison Palmer  | 
moldy laundry
You've probably left some wet towels in your hamper, only to discover that they're sour and moldy. You can get rid of both in a few easy steps. rbkomar/Getty Images

Mold is something every homeowner has to deal with. Sometimes it shows up in the shower, on windowsills and other places where moisture is high. It's pretty easy to remedy; just remove the source of moisture and the mold should clear up.

Mold can grow on other surfaces like fabrics. Surely you've forgotten about wet towels in your hamper, or you've left a load of clean, wet laundry in the washing machine too long and it's soured. Mold and mildew spores thrive in these dark humid environments, so it will start growing on wet clothes quickly.


Mold can also grow on clothes when they've been kept in storage. Again, if you packed your winter sweaters away in boxes and stored them where moisture is an issue — like the basement — that's the ideal environment for mold spores. Even if you zip clothes into a plastic storage bag before they've had a chance to fully dry, that too can encourage mold growth.

No matter how it happens, once mold is growing on your clothes, you have a problem. The good news is you don't have to throw your clothes away. With some persistence and quick action, you can rid those clothes of mold so they're safe to wear again.


Pretreat the Fabrics

Mold and mold spores are often hard to remove. One thing you can do to make it easier is pre-soak the clothes and fabrics before you wash them. There are a variety of cleaning agents you can use to pre-treat your clothes before you toss them into the machine.

Pre-treat With Bleach


  1. Mix one part non-chlorine bleach with three parts water and spray it on the moldy stains until it soaks in.
  2. After the clothing sits for a few minutes, wash in hot water to finish.

Pre-treat With Borax

Sodium borate, more commonly known as Borax, or other spray stain removers can also be used for pre-treatment.

  1. First mix half a cup of Borax (not the same as boric acid) with very hot water to help it dissolve.
  2. Add the solution to your washing machine AFTER the water filling is complete.
  3. Wash clothes on the normal washing cycle, adding a presoak cycle if necessary.

Pre-treat With White Vinegar

  1. You can add distilled vinegar directly to your clothing or mixing one part vinegar to three parts water and use it as a pre-treatment.
  2. For a more challenging mold stain, pre-soak the item in 1 cup of white vinegar diluted in a bucket of water.

Pre-treat With Hydrogen Peroxide

  1. To pre-treat without using bleach, try 3 percent concentrated hydrogen peroxide. Spray it directly onto the moldy clothing and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  2. You also can mix four parts water with one part hydrogen peroxide on non-flame-resistant fabrics like cotton and linen. Then you can wash the clothes with detergent in the machine.


Clean the Moldy Clothes in the Washing Machine

washing machine
Once you've pre-treated the moldy clothes or fabric, wash them on the hottest cycle you can in your machine. Emilija Manevska/Getty Images

After you've pretreated your clothes and fabrics, it's time to give everything a good wash. The longer mold lingers, the harder it is to remove and the smellier it's going to be. Keep in mind, you can add the same pre-treatment cleaning agents to your wash load.

  1. Choose the hottest setting on your washing machine. Most mold spores will die at temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius), so cold and warm water cycles won't work.
  2. Add laundry detergent (regular detergent is fine).
  3. Add any other disinfectants, like vinegar, bleach or baking soda.
  4. Run two complete cycles on hot water.
  5. Give your clothes a quick look over. If you still see — or smell — any mold, wash them again.
  6. Dry your clothes in direct sunlight, which is a natural fungus killer, or in the clothes dryer.


Hand Wash the Moldy Clothes

If you only have one or two moldy garments, you can try to hand wash them in a large bucket or sink to remove the mold stains.

  1. Fill a large bucket or sink with hot water.
  2. Add 1 cup of laundry detergent.
  3. Mix other disinfectants like vinegar, Borax or baking soda.
  4. Soak for at least 20 minutes.
  5. Rinse and dry following the same instructions above.


How to Prevent Moldy Clothes in the First Place

We have shared multiple methods to remove mold stains from clothing, but the best way to minimize mold is to avoid it altogether. Here's how.

  1. Don't let clothes stay wet after you wash them. Dry them immediately. The longer they stay wet, the more likely mold will grow.
  2. Never leave wet clothes or towels in the laundry basket. Let them air dry before you place them there or wash them right away.
  3. Regularly inspect your washing machine for mold. If you suspect or smell mold, run an empty hot water cycle with detergent or bleach.
  4. Wipe down the inside of your closets monthly; mold can hide in the least likely of spaces. Wire shelving is less likely to have mold than wood.
  5. Inspect and eliminate leaks or damp places in your home; don't overlook musty odors.
  6. Immediately remove your clothing from the dry cleaning plastic bags. Plastic removes heat and can lead to moisture.


Clean Mold Off Clothing FAQs

Can mold be removed from clothes?
A solution of water and non-chlorine bleach can help get rid of mold from clothing. You can also use bleach with home soap or detergents like Oxiclean and Clorox to rub off the stains using an old toothbrush.
Does vinegar kill mold?
Yes, white vinegar is suitable for disinfecting and cleaning stubborn mold stains. Simply spray undiluted white vinegar onto the mold-infected areas.
Why does mold grow on clothes in closets?
If your closet is near an area with leaky pipes, it can cause humidity in the closet and create mold growth in the closet and on your clothing. This usually happens because the door to the closet is almost always closed, leading to moisture build-up.
How does baking soda help remove mold smell from clothes?
To get rid of moldy smell from your clothes, simply add half a tablespoon of baking soda along with your regular laundry soap to the washing machine. The crystalline white solids of baking soda are really helpful in removing stains and smell from the affected clothes.
How do you identify mold on clothes?
If you notice a musty smell coming from your clothes, that's one of the ways to identify mold on your clothes. Another sign is the appearance of black and white spots or discolored clothes that can be easily seen from the naked eye.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • All Dry Us. "How To Prevent Mold In Closets: 10 Simple Tips To Follow." (Nov. 19, 2022)
  • Anthony, Amy. "How to Remove Mold From Clothes." Oh So Spotless. Oct. 15, 2022. (Nov. 19, 2022)
  • Hodgins, Kat. "How to Get Mold Out of Clothes." Dec. 10, 2021. (Nov. 19, 2022)
  • Mold Help For You. "Does Borax Kill Mold?" June 22, 2019. (Nov. 19, 2022)
  • "How to Remove Mould from Fabric." (Nov. 19, 2022).
  • Norros, Veera. "Spore sensitivity to sunlight and freezing can restrict dispersal in wood-decay fungi." Ecology and Evolution. July 22, 2015. (Nov. 19, 2022)