How to clean mildew off fabric

Updated February 21, 2017

Mildew is an unfortunate side effect of the combination of moisture and darkness. Clothes that have sat in the washing machine too long are often victims of mould and mildew accumulation. Not only is mildew unattractive, but it gives off an undesirable musty smell. Cleaning mildew off of fabrics is an easy task that reaps great benefits by restoring them to their original state. This process is easier than you might think.

Scrape away as much of the dried mildew as possible with a brush or broom. It's best to do this outside if possible. Treat the stained area. Bleach is best for fabrics that are white and can be bleached. Place bleach on white items and a mixture of lemon juice and salt in equal parts onto a stain on dyed fabrics and allow it to sit on the stains for 15 to 20 minutes. Launder as usual.

Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle and lightly mist the mildewed area for light stains. For darker mildew stains use only vinegar. Allow the area to saturate for at least 20 minutes and launder as usual.

Make a paste of equal parts lemon juice and salt. Apply the paste to the stain with by rubbing it in with a soft, clean, dry cloth. Allow the fabric to dry outside in the sunshine. Repeat the process until all of the mildew is gone.

Wipe the affected area with 3 per cent hydrogen peroxide using a clean, dry cloth and launder as usual.

Mix ½ cup borax with 2 cups of hot water and soak a sponge in it. Saturate the area with the sponge and allow it to soak until all of the mildew is gone.


Test each method on an inconspicuous area of the fabric before using it.


Read the care instructions on the tag. When laundering fabrics that have mildewed, it is recommended to use the hottest water possible, which may damage certain types of fabrics, such as silk and wool.

Things You'll Need

  • Bleach
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Vinegar
  • Soft, dry, clean cloth
  • 3 per cent hydrogen peroxide
  • Borax
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