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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

How to Clean Clothes Exposed to Mold Spores

10/22/2020 (Permalink)

The EPA reports that millions of tons of textiles are added to landfills each year in the United States. In the piles of Dallas refuse, there are likely clothing favorites or items of sentimental value. They would have been used for many more years if not for mishaps.

Mold can be absorbed by clothing in a few ways. Either the fabric becomes infected with mold, or it comes in contact with other moldy clothes. 

Mold spores are abundant in the air as mold is a natural decomposer in our environment. Spores will feed on any cellulose material, including fabric. When the environment is dark and damp, this encourages the growth of a mold colony.

Say you put some clothes in storage. Somehow water gets into the container or box from a plumbing problem or flooding. When damp materials go unnoticed for some time, this gives mold a chance to flourish.

If you pull items from storage and notice they are damp or musty, you’ll want to clean them right away to avoid mold growth. Mold is unhealthy, and wearing items with mold means it’s as close to you as can be, allowing you to breathe it in and touch your skin.

As the team of mold experts in Dallas, SERVPRO’s goal is to restore items so they don’t have to be replaced. In this guide, we’ll cover how to clean clothes exposed to mold spores or items infected with mold.

How to Recognize Mold on Clothing

As you sort through a bin of clothing that had prolonged exposure to water or moisture, be on the lookout for signs of mold. 

As mentioned earlier, mold nestles into clothing fibers and is nurtured by moisture and wetness. Mold infection from spores in one fabric item can spread to other clothing nearby. To avoid close contact with mold, you should treat these items before wearing them.

The Mold Smell

Mold has a distinct odor. Its smell is usually the first sign that it’s present. Mildew and mold have a similar smell. Mold odor is described as musty, earthy, and sometimes sweet. 

Mold Stains on Clothes

Do you notice tiny black or gray-speckled spots that aren’t part of the original fabric design? These are mold or mildew stains.

If you discover damp clothing, you’ll want to clean and dry it as soon as possible to prevent the growth of mold on clothes.

How To Clean Clothes Exposed To Mold Spores

Before we get started on how to clean clothes exposed to mold spores, we recommend that you use protective gloves to handle items affected by mold, especially when disposing of contaminated items.

The sooner you clean clothes exposed to mold, the better. The longer infectious mold remains in clothing, the deeper and further it colonizes, making it harder to remove from clothing.

While concentrated laundry detergent is usually the go-to for tough stains and deodorizing, it isn’t the most effective for mold removal. However, Borax is a laundry booster that is believed to be effective against mycotoxin (what makes mold toxic) and can be used to clean the affected items.

Pre Soak Mold-Affected Clothes

As with other stained fabrics, soaking helps loosen up the fibers to release mold particles. Using a bucket or sink, soak the mold-affected articles in water with commercial pre-soak (per package instructions) or one cup of vinegar for about an hour.

Using a Washing Machine 

After the pre-soak, you then move the items to the washing machine for a few cycles. Vinegar and baking soda are the cleaners of choice as they are more effective against mold than laundry detergent. 

First cycle: Setting the machine water temperature to hot, add one cup of white vinegar. Wash items in the solution for a full cycle.

Second cycle: Run the same items in the washing machine again, but with a half cup of baking soda instead of vinegar.

Bleach is considered to be a stain-fighter and a mold-killer, but it’s dubious if it kills mold on fabric. It’s more effective on non-porous surfaces. 

Dry in the Sun

Is it a sunny day in Dallas? Perfect. Skip the dryer and hang the clothes out to dry outside. Sunlight is a natural disinfectant and mold killer.

Clothes dryers can be humid (mold loves moisture) and can lock in stains.

Once the items have completely dried and sunbathed, put them through another cleaning cycle and dry outdoors once more. 

Once two rounds of cleaning are complete, check your items for any lingering odor or mold stains on clothes. If there are still stubborn mold stains after washing the items several times, you may need to go ahead and dispose of them.

When Should I Throw Away Moldy Clothes?

The rule used to be that fabrics items should be discarded based on thickness. Such items would be down-filled blankets or jackets, pillows, any items that are thicker than a half-inch.  The reason is because typical washing machines (both the ones at home and at a commercial laundromat) don’t use enough water pressure to soak the entire fabric and push the mold out.  

Today, there is a specialty washing machine called the Esporta Wash System that is made especially to decontaminate clothing and textiles--even bulky items that are a half an inch thick and more. 

The Esporta uses hydraulic pressure and a mixture of six detergents to literally put detergent-laden water through an entire fabric--no matter the thickness or size.  The result is that almost all of the contaminants in a fabric are washed away, leaving a pH balanced and food-grade clean clothing or blanket to enjoy again. 

The Esporta can even wash items filled with foam, down, or stuffing. 

The only time we recommend throwing away a moldy item is when the mold has destroyed the fabric by eating through it.  In these cases, you would see holes in the fabric.  If this is the case, make sure to put on gloves and dispose of these items or other contaminated textiles into heavy-duty trash bags and close them tightly.

Don’t want to say goodbye to your favorite clothes or items with sentimental value? Good news! SERVPRO in Dallas can help. Our Esporta Wash System is an industrial machine used to treat contaminated soft contents like stuffed animals, shoes, hats, blankets, and more. 

Our Esporta Wash System can remove over 99%  of mold for all soft goods and restore them to former food-grade safe cleanliness.

Contact SERVPRO for a Free Dallas Mold Removal Estimate

How to clean clothes exposed to mold spores comes down to how soon you discover the problem and how quickly you respond with the proper cleaning procedures.

For SERVPRO in Dallas, TX, timeliness matters - we are faster to any-sized disaster. When water problems aren’t addressed right away, more damage will ensue, and mold infection is likely to continue. 

When you have an ongoing mold problem or have a huge mold cleanup on your hands, call SERVPRO for Dallas mold clean up and remediation. Our team gets close to the mold with proper PPE (so you don’t have to), looks for mold in hiding places, and works to stop water damage at its source. 

As mentioned earlier, we also have the Esporta Wash System to restore clothing and other textiles. Reach out to us at (972) 986-7677 with any questions you may have about mold cleaning or for free pricing!

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