How to Remove Mold & Mildew From Fabric

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Any fabric that lives outdoors is susceptible to mold and mildew growth. This is especially true of cushions and covers subjected to a frequently damp marine environment or patio furniture left outdoors during rainstorms. Many marine and outdoor fabrics are engineered to prevent the growth of mold and mildew but dirt and other contaminants on the fabric can grow their own mildew. Luckily, there are several ways to remove mold and mildew from your fabric if you see it growing. We’re going to walk you through the removal steps for your outdoor and marine fabrics.

In a perfect world, it would be best to prevent mold and mildew from growing in the first place. While prevention isn’t foolproof, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the risk of mold and mildew growing on your fabric. First, cleaning your fabric regularly will keep dirt and other contaminants from forming a home inside the fibers of your fabric. It’s also best practice to let canvas covers and other fabric pieces dry thoroughly before being folded and put in storage. Packing away damp fabric invites mold and mildew to grow. Additionally, any fabric pieces that don’t need to be left out in the elements, like patio cushions, can be packed away when not in use to reduce exposure to moisture.

However, if you do find mold or mildew growing on your fabric, it’s best to address the issue as soon as possible. To do this, we suggest trying a stepped approach to cleaning. Start with a gentle cleaning and gradually work up to more intense cleaners, if necessary. As you work through the cleaning process, remember to always use soft bristled brushes when cleaning your fabric to avoid unnecessary abrasion. We do not recommend using a power sprayer at any phase of cleaning.

Before you grab a bucket and scrub brush, there is some prep work involved in getting your cushions or seats ready to clean. First, you'll want to work outside so you don't spread the mold spores to any indoor furniture or materials. If possible, clean your fabric on a sunny day because sunlight kills mold and prevents it from spreading. First, sweep any visible mold from your cushions using a broom. Be careful not to spread the mold to unaffected areas of fabric. If your mold problem is severe, you might want to also vacuum your cushions after brushing them off as well. Discard the vacuum bag and disinfect the vacuum unit to prevent the spread of mold spores. Now you can move on to cleaning the cushions using one or more of the steps below.

The first step is to give the fabric piece a thorough washing using a mild detergent (like Woolite or Ivory Snow) and fresh water. Some cushion cover fabrics could even be machine-washed at this point. For mild cases of mold or mildew, this basic cleaning should clear up the offending fungus. If the mold and mildew persist, you’ll need to move on to using a more powerful soap.

For this second step, we recommend using a mold and mildew removing cleaner like Iosso Mold & Mildew Stain Remover. Mix this concentrated powder with water to clean vinyl, canvas and sails plus plastic, wood, carpeting, fiberglass and painted surfaces. Free of bleach and chlorine, Mold & Mildew Stain Remover is safe on colorful fabrics as well as sewn seams, zippers, and hook and loop fasteners.

To use this Iosso cleaner, mix one scoop of powder for every quart of water. The mixture will turn blue at first. Stir until the color disappears. Wet down your fabric with water first, then apply the solution to the fabric using a sponge, soft brush or gentle sprayer. Let the mixture stand on the fabric for at least 15 minutes. Agitate the solution on the fabric with a soft bristled brush or sponge before rinsing with fresh water. Let dry completely outside in the sun.

If you have a really stubborn mold or mildew growth you can clean your fabric with a white vinegar solution. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) does not recommend using bleach to remove mold and mildew from fabric. Bleach only kills surface mold, which means the mold will grow back later.

Follow these steps to remove mold and mildew from your outdoor fabric: Fill a spray bottle with equal parts water and white vinegar. It's very important to use white vinegar, not apple cider vinegar. Spray the affected areas thoroughly and scrub gently with a soft bristled brush. Let the fabric dry completely outside in the sun. Repeat this process as necessary to completely remove the mold and mildew spores.

We hope that one or more of these approaches to cleaning your mold and mildew will help you solve the problem with the least amount of hassle. Get more fabric care and cleaning tips in our guides, right here at Sailrite.

Do you have a go-to way of cleaning mold and mildew from fabric? Share it with us in the comments below.

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