How To Check Clothes for Mold or Mildew

Worried that you’ve got that awful surprising growing on some of your clothing? Read on to learn how to recognize and treat mold and mildew in clothes.

How To Check Clothes for Mold or Mildew

how to check clothes for mold or mildew

What Does Mold on Clothes Look Like?

Mold can show up in a few different ways. This can range from black speckles to a white, dusty appearance. It’s critical to keep an eye out for mold growth on your clothing.

How To Identify Mold on Clothes (Or Mildew)

  • If your clothes have mold you may notice white dust or a fuzzy look to them. 
  • There may be green or black spots or patches of lighter colors like white or gray visible on the clothing.
  • Dark molds will stick out on lighter fabrics. However, the mold may not be noticeable on dark clothing.
  • Mold on clothing will come with a musty odor which can help you identify it on darker clothes.

Mold seeks out moisture so you should check damp clothing especially or clothing stored in areas where a leak or high humidity was present.

What Kind of Mold Can Grow on Clothes?

Black and white mold can grow on clothes.

  • Black mold poses a health hazard, especially to people with lung conditions like asthma or compromised immune systems.
  • While white mold is not as dangerous as black mold, white mold can still cause health issues.
  • Mildew can also grow on clothes. Mildew is an early version of mold that hasn’t penetrated the surface it’s on.

How To Prevent Mold Growth on Clothes

how to prevent mold growth on clothes

Mold grows in damp, unventilated areas. To prevent mold from growing on your clothes, dry out wet or sweaty clothes before throwing them in the hamper. Additionally, transfer clothes to the dryer immediately after the wash cycle finishes.

Otherwise you may accidentally create an environment for mold spores to thrive and may notice a mildew smell later on once it’s started.

Can You Wash Mold Out of Clothes?

can you wash mold out of clothes

It’s sometimes possible to wash mold out of clothes but it’s best to treat and kill it before washing. Mold that goes unnoticed for a long time will cause permanent damage to clothing, eating away at the fibers.

If you notice damage that you can’t it’s time to throw away the garment unfortunately.

How To Get Mold Out of Clothes

how to get mold out of clothes

When you notice a musty smell coming from your clothes it’s easy to panic. Trust me, I understand and used to do the same!

If the clothing item isn’t too far gone there are steps to take to remove the mold. There are a few different ways to go about mold removal.

Note: If you’re agitating mold inside an unventilated room you’ll probably breathe in spores. It’s a good idea to wear protective gear like a respirator mask and rubber gloves to avoid inhaling mold or coming into contact with it.

Additionally, mold can start growing in other places in your house if you don’t take care of it outside or in a ventilated space. A well-ventilated room is a room where you can open the windows and close the vents to the rest of the house.

Before You Wash

  • Pre-soak the clothing item. You can use white vinegar for example. (Pre-soaking the piece of clothing will help you clean the mold stain as you go.)
  • Take the clothing outside and try scrubbing the mold stains out but be careful not to damage the fabric. Use a soft brush or even a toothbrush if you like.


You can use Clorox bleach if your garment is bleach safe or doesn’t have a warning in the care instructions that says not to. The best things to use bleach on are white clothing or colorfast clothing. When an item of clothing is colorfast it will not lose its color.

You can check for colorfastness by putting a drop of diluted bleach on a hidden area on your garment. To use bleach to kill mold or mildew:

  • Add a small amount to water (a spray bottle is ideal) to dilute it. 
  • Spray it directly on the affected area and give it a little while to work. The bleach/water solution should begin killing off the mold or mildew.

White Vinegar

If you don’t want to use bleach or your clothing cannot be bleached you can try using white vinegar. It’s a great alternative method that’s very effective at removing mold.

  • Put your clothing in the washing machine with detergent and add 1 cup of vinegar for small loads and 2 cups for large loads.
  • Wash the clothing on hot. Check the care instructions on your clothing to ensure you can wash them with hot water.
  • You can also use borax in place of vinegar. Borax is also effective at removing mold and will turn the environment into an unsuitable one causing the mold to die. (Not to worry as Borax normally includes use instructions on the package.)

After You Wash

Once you’ve washed the clothing items dry them.

  • You can use the dryer but using sunlight will be more effective at killing off any remaining mold.
  • Lay your clothes out in the sun until they are completely dry and check to be sure all the mold is gone.

If the above steps fail, repeat the process until the mold stain is gone. You’ll likely need less diluted bleach solution or vinegar the next time around but keep repeating the process as much as you need.

Tip: It’s much better to be gentle with clothing and take your time rather than scrub too hard or use too strong of a cleaner and end up damaging the fabric. Take your time and be patient!
James Marshall
About the author

James is a business management professional and consultant with a former background in maintenance, repair, and hands-on projects. He enjoys DIY tasks and maintenance around the home as well as part-time writing. Read more »