A Cleaner World Blog
How to Avoid Mildew on Clothes
There’s a scene in the movie Aliens when the Marines first encounter the aliens and head into their nest. One of them says “it’s hot in here” and another replies “yeah, but it’s a dry heat.” We’ve all heard that saying so many times that I wondered where it originated. While the Internet was full of lots of different theories, simply conduct an experiment with sweat, body temperature, and humidity, and you’ll determine that it’s true.
It’s a fact that 100 degrees in Arizona feels much different than 100 degrees in North Carolina. Dry heat occurs in areas that have low humidity levels, and our bodies can cool off more efficiently in that environment because the less moisture in the air means that our sweat can easily evaporate. Whereas in a humid environment, your sweat really has no way of evaporating because the air is already saturated with moisture. If you think about it, the same logic can be applied to clothes. If you hang up a damp item to dry and it’s warm and humid, there’s nowhere for the moisture in the garment to go. The garment will remain damp for an extended period, which can ultimately lead to mold and mildew; however, there are things you can do to avoid this issue.
- Make certain all clothing items are clean before placing them in the closet. While some synthetic fibers are resistant to mildew, soil on clothing can be the beginning source for mildew.
- Never place wet or damp clothing, whether the moisture source is rain, water from the faucet, or perspiration, in the closet.
- Here’s a tip we’ve shared with you many times – Don’t store your clothes in our plastic poly bags. These bags can trap moisture next to your clothing and cause mildew; our poly bags are meant for short-term use only.
- Store your clothes in a dry, well-ventilated location. Never store them in a damp basement or a hot attic; extreme temperature swings can cause moisture in the air to form in and around clothing.
- Don’t overstuff your closet. Hang items with space between so that air can circulate, and periodically leave the closet door open to enable air circulation and to reduce the amount of moisture in your closet.
If you do discover mildew spots on an article of clothing, take it outdoors and brush off the surface. Check the care label to see if the item is machine washable. If it is, you could investigate one of these options. Be sure to check your option on an inconspicuous area before fully submerging the garment.
- Vinegar – Add a cup of vinegar to a pail of water and soak the garment for 30 minutes. Launder according to the care label’s directions.
- Bleach – While bleach can kill mildew, it can also pull color from garments. Check the directions on the bottle before proceeding.
- Borax - Check the instructions and dilute it accordingly. Pre-treat the stain, then launder according to the care label’s directions.
If after you wash the garment the stain is still there, don’t place it in the dryer because the heat from the dryer will cause the stain to set. Another good agent for killing mildew is to allow the garment to dry in the sun. Keep in mind that these suggestions are for machine washable garments only. If the item cannot be machine washed, take it to a professional. And of course, you can always drop it off at one of our locations to begin with. A Cleaner World has saved more than one mildew covered item for me.