How do I get mildew off sheets and towels?
The first question to ask yourself is: are these items bleachable? If you are not sure, start with the care labels and make sure the fiber content is safe for bleach. Always avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather, spandex and non-fast colors.
Items that are bleach-safe (like cotton and polyester, for example) can be checked for colorfastness to bleach with a quick test: add 2 teaspoons Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach to ¼ cup water; apply a drop to a hidden part of the items; wait 1 minute then rinse and blot dry; no color change means the items are safe to bleach. If that is the case, the following approaches should work:
- At a minimum, I would wash them immediately in hot water using detergent and ⅓ cup Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach.
- If the mold/mildew is heavy, you may need to repeat treatment for complete stain removal.
For non-bleachable colors (or non-bleachable fabrics like wool, silk, mohair, leather, and spandex for that matter) it’s difficult to remove mold and mildew completely since the best mold and mildew removers are products with sodium hypochlorite like Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach. Even so, you can try the following:
- Carefully brush off any obvious spores and then wash in the warmest water recommended on the care label with detergent and an oxygen bleach like our Clorox 2® For Colors 3-in-1 Liquid.
- Try a 1 hour presoak with Clorox 2® For Colors 3-in-1 Liquid following label instructions.
- Air dry the items in the sun.
I realize testing for colorfastness on towels is difficult because there isn’t a truly “hidden” area; applying a very small drop of the bleachability test solution on one side that will not be visible when the towel hangs on a rack is about the best you can do. It may also be worth it to let the towels fade a little with a bleach treatment if it means getting the mildew off.