We’ve all had it happen. The weather’s starting to get warmer, you go to the wardrobe and take out the jacket that’s been hanging in there all winter, looking forward to wearing that pastel-coloured, summer-weight garment again. But, oh no! Parts of it are stained with some dark, mould-like substance.
Like many others across New Zealand whose homes suffer from damp during the colder months, you’ve become the victim of a mildew attack
Mildew is a form of mould, which is in turn a type of fungus. Mildew thrives in damp, poorly ventilated conditions and feeds on organic matter e.g. the fabric or leather of your clothes and the minute particles of dust and organic debris they contain.
In addition to looking unsightly, mould, if left untreated can permanently damage fabric and leather clothing, eating its way through the material.
And not only this. Mould releases spores as part of its reproductive process and these spores can pose significant health risks and have been associated with conditions such as burning eyes, runny nose, asthma, depression, cancer and fatigue.
Save Your Wardrobe
So, do you have to bin that jacket? As long as the mildew has not had time to structurally damage the fibres of the fabric, the answer is no. And you’ll be relieved to hear that cleaning mildew from fabric or leather is a very straightforward process. Just follow the steps below.
Removing Mildew from Fabric
- Take the garment outside and remove as much of the mildew as possible with a soft brush. Why outside? The brushing will release mould spores into the air – you don’t want these infecting your home or family.
- Leave the garment in the sun for a couple of hours. Sunlight is a natural antiseptic and will kill the mildew.
- Soak in cold water to loosen the stain.
- Wash with hot water and detergent.
- Dry in sunlight, not a dryer – unless the New Zealand weather is being uncooperative.
- If the stain has not entirely disappeared, make a solution of 1 litre water and 2 tablespoons of bleach. For coloured garments, sponge this solution onto the stain, allow to sit for ten minutes then rinse in warm water and wash as usual. For whites, soak the clothing in the solution and then rinse and wash.
Removing Mildew from Leather
- Outside, remove as much mildew as possible with a brush or dry sponge.
- Leave in the sun for a couple of hours.
- Sponge the leather with a solution of soapy water and leave to dry in the sun.
- If, when dry, mildew is still evident, make a half and half solution of water and denatured alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and use a clean sponge to wipe the leather down.
- Wipe again using a fresh cloth or sponge and clean water.
- Allow to dry thoroughly in the sun.
Prevention is Better than Cure
You can help prevent your clothes falling victim to mildew in the first place by ensuring the environment in which they are stored is well ventilated and low in humidity. Clothes, too, should always be thoroughly dry before being put away.
A Common Affliction
Mildew on clothes is a common problem in damp homes. Fortunately, removing it is not difficult and requires nothing more than one or two inexpensive household cleaning products. With a little time and effort you should be able to save all but the most badly afflicted clothing.
Learn more about removing mildew from clothes in this video.