11 Amazing Ways to Clean Mildew

How to Clean Mildew


Do you know that unpleasant smell you experience when you walk into a damp basement or garage? That smell is a result of mold and mildew that has built up over time due to excess moisture. We will show you here how to clean mildew using everyday ingredients.

While you may be able to prevent mold in specific areas using a dehumidifier, there are times when mildew and mold growth are inevitable. There are many cleaning solutions that can be used to get rid of mold and mildew growth. You may want to skip many of the commercial cleaners that are not only costly but bad for your health and the environment.

Our cleaning recipes contain common ingredients that are more than likely located throughout your home and can get the job done quickly. Removing mold and mildew can be a dirty job because, well, it’s just plain gross. You’ve probably wondered, are mold and mildew the same thing? They are, and they aren’t.

They are both a fungus, yet mold tends to be green or black, is fuzzy and slimy, and grows beneath wet surfaces. Mildew is white or gray, fluffy or powdery, and thrives on top of warm, damp surfaces.

How to Get Rid of Mildew

Using the right tools and know-how, you’ll be able to kill mold, clean mildew, and tackle that gross job with ease. These solutions can be used on a multitude of surfaces to get rid of mold and mildew. Try one recipe for removing mildew from wooden deck and another for eliminating mold from your mattress. You’re certain to find a remedy that works for your needs.

What Kills Mold and Mildew?

When trying to discover what kills mold and mildew, we have come across various substances that will do the job. While many people automatically reach for a bottle of chlorine bleach to kill mold and mildew, it only kills the spores that reside on the surface of the material.

We have found that white vinegar not only kills the surface spores but also penetrates the porous material to kill the mold inside. Vinegar also kills over 82% of the mold species.

Vinegar Mold and Mildew Killer

  • White vinegar
  • Spray bottle
  • Sponge

Fill the spray bottle with the vinegar and spray the full-strength vinegar solution onto the entire moldy surface. Let it rest on the surface for about one hour.

Use a wet sponge to wipe the area clean. If the smell of vinegar is intolerable to you, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oils to the solution. Pine and citrus essential oils work best.

Cleaning Mildew Using Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is excellent at killing mold due to its anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties. Peroxide also acts as a mild bleaching agent. Peroxide can be used safely on many surfaces, including floors, walls, appliances, and bathroom fixtures.

Hydrogen Peroxide Mildew Cleaner

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Spray bottle
  • Scrub brush
  • Sponge

Pour a solution of 3% hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle. Spray the mold and mildew affected area and allow to sit for about ten minutes.

Use the scrub brush to scrub the area clean, making sure to get into the crevices where mold may be hiding. Use a sponge wet with hot water to wipe all of the residues from the surface.

Cleaning Mildew with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Cleaning mildew with vinegar and baking soda has become a common theme in households because of their natural ability to clean just about any surface. They can even be used as a homemade siding cleaner, and for cleaning upholstery. The combination of acidity from the vinegar mixed with the alkalinity of the baking soda makes them the perfect team for cleaning mold and mildew.

Vinegar and Baking Soda Mildew Cleaner

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Spray bottle
  • Sponge

Pour the white vinegar into the bottle and spray the mildewed surface. Allow this to sit for about one hour. Get the sponge wet with warm water and sprinkle a decent amount of baking soda onto the sponge.

Use the sponge to clean the surface area, making sure to get into crevices such as grout. Wring and rinse the sponge with clean water and wipe down the entire surface until all of the residue is gone.

Cleaning Mold and Mildew Using Baking Soda

Baking soda is excellent at removing mold stains and cleaning mildew. It is also an ideal DIY ingredient to deep clean old tile grout. Baking soda is a mild alkali and works wonders at loosening grime and removing mold and mildew. It is also an absorbent which will help to keep mold and mildew at bay.

Baking Soda Cleaning Solution

  • 1/4 tablespoon baking soda
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Scrub brush

Pour water into the spray bottle and add the baking soda. Spray the mildew affected area with the baking soda and water solution. Use the scrub brush to work the cleaning solution into the area and loosen up the mold and mildew.

Rinse the entire surface clean using water. Spray the area an additional time with the solution and let dry. This final step will not only kill any leftover mold but keep future mold from growing.

Using Lemon Juice to Clean Mold

Lemon is naturally acidic and works wonders for cleaning. Not only will it help to break down the mold and mildew, but it will leave the room with a fresh, clean scent.

This method is ideal for daily use on consistently wet areas, such as the bathroom. It can be used regularly on a shower curtain and shower walls to prevent mold build up.

Lemon Juice Mold Cleaner

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • Spray bottle

Mix equal parts water and lemon juice into the spray bottle and give it a good shake to mix well. Spray the mold affected areas and allow to sit for about ten minutes before rinsing with clean water.

How to Remove Mold and Mildew from a Washing Machine

Front-loading washing machines tend to get mold and mildew growth. Front-loading machines have a tighter seal than top loading machines which trap in moisture, harboring the growth of mold and mildew.

Washing Machine Mold Remover Tips

If you already have mold and mildew in the washing machine, you can clean the rubber gasket on the door and soap and softener dispensers using one of the cleaning recipes listed above. Once the mildew is gone, wipe all surfaces using clean water.

Set the washing machine to the hottest, longest setting without adding clothing. Add one cup of baking soda directly to the water before running. Run the full cycle.

How to Clean Tough Mold and Mildew Surfaces

There will be times when a mild cleaning solution will not be enough to tackle those areas that are heavily infested with mold and mildew. If the mold has gotten out of hand and you need to bring out the heavy guns, the following cleaning method is probably your best shot. You’ll be using chlorine bleach for this process so you’ll want to be sure the area is adequately ventilated.

Heavy Duty Mold and Mildew Bleach Solution

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1/2 cup bleach
  • 2 tablespoons Borax
  • Bucket
  • Scrub brush
  • Rubber gloves

If you are unsure how this solution will affect the surface that needs cleaning, you may want to test this on a small area first. Mix the water, bleach, and Borax into a large bucket.

Making sure that you are wearing gloves, dunk the brush into the cleaning solution, and scrub the affected area using circular motions and a little elbow grease. Rinse the area thoroughly using hot water and allow to air dry.

Removing Mold from Wood Furnishings

If you have had furniture sitting out in the garage or down in the basement, then you have probably encountered mold growth on the wood due to it being subjected to long periods of high moisture. This discovery can seem disappointing at first. We’re here to tell you that the furniture can be cleaned and salvaged using the following steps.

Cleaning Moldy Wood Furniture

  • 1/2 cup washing soda
  • 1 gallon of warm water
  • Bucket
  • Sponge
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Soft cloth

Dissolve the washing soda into the water in a bucket. Dip the sponge into the liquid and lightly apply it to the affected areas of the wood.

Use the soft bristle brush to gently work the solution through the area, scrubbing away all of the molds. Use clean water to rinse off the area and buff the wood dry using a soft cloth.

Cleaning Mold and Mildew Off Clothing

Clothing that has been exposed to moisture will get contaminated with mold and mildew and can be the result of improper storage in damp areas of the house.

It can also be a result of leaving the clothes in the washing machine and forgetting to dry them or putting them in the dryer and not turning it on. We have a few tips to help you remove those mold spots and mildew smells from those clothes.

Cleaning Moldy Clothing

If the clothing can be washed in a washing machine without special care, then we have a couple of methods you can use. The first method is to fill the washer with the mildew smelling clothes and run the machine until the tub is filled with water. You’ll want to use the hottest setting for this method.

When the washer tub is full of water, add two cups of white vinegar. Let the clothes soak for an hour or so before running the full washing machine cycle. Once the hour is complete, add your regular laundry detergent and finish the cycle to get rid of the nasty mildew smell in clothing. If the stains or odor remain after washing, repeat the process.

The second method is to substitute one cup of baking soda for the vinegar using the same steps as above. For clothing that needs special cleaning care, you’ll need to take a different route. Shake any loose mold off the clothing outside and then hang the fabric in the sun.

Make a solution of one cup of warm water and one tablespoon of vinegar into a spray bottle and very lightly spray the material. Allow the fabric to air dry. Doing this will kill the mold spores, eliminate the odor, and renew the clothing.

How to Clean Mold Off Upholstery

Perhaps you have picked up an antique piece of furniture from a local thrift store or found grandma’s favorite chair in the back corner of the basement and discovered that the treasure is spotted with mold. We’re here to inform you that you can safely remove mold and mildew from the upholstery of that furniture and restore it to new.

Moldy Upholstery Cleaning

First, use a vacuum to remove as much of the dried mold and mildew from the upholstery as possible. Mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and water in a small container and use a sponge to carefully wipe the solution onto the fabric. The alcohol and water combination will kill any remaining spores.

Once the upholstery has dried, you can give it another vacuuming. Test this on an inconspicuous area first. Mold and mildew can be harmful to the people living in the home as well as the house itself.

Get Rid of Mold on Leather

If you have a leather bag, furniture, or shoes, getting mold and mildew off these items requires special care to keep from harming the durable yet delicate material. How to remove mildew from leather involves using a suede brush or other soft brush for dry brushing first.

This action helps to get rid of loose dirt and grime before you start to clean moldy leather. An equal mixture of vinegar and water dabbed on the stain with a microfiber cloth will usually take care of it, although you may need to try it several times if the mold covers a large area.

Be sure to carefully wipe clean and dry the surface after cleaning. Use a leather conditioner after cleaning to restore the suppleness to the material.

Mildew Smell

Not only is mildew unsightly, but it also smells. Vinegar is the best solution for getting rid of mold and mildew odor. Spritzing surfaces with vinegar or a combination of vinegar and water works well. However, vinegar has a unique scent of its own that many people don’t like. You can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the mixture to eliminate the moldy smell and leave the area with a pleasant aroma. Our favorites are lemon, orange, and lavender.

Mildew is harmful to foods and can cause adverse reactions in people but is not detrimental to household structures. Mold can damage an entire structure as well as cause serious health problems for people. Therefore, both must be taken care of as soon as the problem arises.

Cleaning those mildewed areas, killing those mold spores, and removing mildew stains is not for the faint of heart. You wouldn’t be the first person to walk into a moldy area and then make a quick exit while mumbling, “Nope, not going to do it.”

Now that you see that cleaning mold and mildew can be appropriately done using the right applications and a bit of elbow grease, we hope you’ll give one of our recipes a try.

Thanks for taking the time out of your day to read our cleaning tips and recipes. Now that you know how to clean mildew quickly and efficiently, why not share these tips about mildew and mold cleaning with your family on Pinterest and Facebook?


How to Get Rid of Musty Basement Smells

I am a serious DIY addict and frugal-living master. I have practiced green and frugal living my entire life and love sharing my tips.

Basements are the perfect environment for damp, musty smells caused by mold and mildew. Removing the musty smell from your basement begins with getting rid of the excess moisture from mold and mildew growing in the crevices of your dirt or concrete walls (in unfinished basements) or your drywall (in finished basements). Below are tried-and-true natural ways to get rid of that musty basement smell, plus some tips on how to prevent musty smells caused my moisture.

7 Ways to Get Rid of the Musty Smell in Your Basement

  1. Throw out everything with mold on it that can’t be salvaged, such as old clothes, shoes, boxes, books and papers, fiberglass insulation, or rugs/carpets/soft furnishings.
  2. Use vinegar and baking soda to kill mold and deodorize at the same time.
  3. Sand away the mold and vacuum up the dust using a HEPA filter vacuum.
  4. Pull moisture from the air by using a dehumidifier or desiccant pack.
  5. Add a window fan to circulate the air in and out the window.
  6. Place open packets or bowls of activated charcoal in the basement to absorb moisture and foul odors.
  7. Place bowls of coffee grounds in every corner of the basement. Coffee grounds absorb foul odors.

1. Throw Out the Mold

If mold has damaged porous organic materials, such as boxes, chipboards, books, carpets, or fiberglass insulation, toss them in plastic trash bags and dispose of them right away to prevent further damage. There is no use in cleaning these materials, and it is always better and cheaper to just replace them with brand new stuff.

If your floor joists, floorboards, or drywalls have mold damage, you may be able to save it by cleaning it with a vinegar solution. If the damage is severe however, it may be more efficient to just replace the item.

For clothes and shoes that are moldy, either dispose of them or wash and dry them thoroughly.

Mist the surface of moldy areas with a vinegar and water solution to control the spread of mold spores while moving infested items around.

2. Use Vinegar and Baking Soda

If you choose to salvage some things, such as wooden furniture or hardwood floors, take the material outside and give it a good, thorough cleaning with vinegar and baking soda. For floors that have surface mold, you can do the cleaning in the basement, but make sure you open up all windows to allow for ventilation while working.

  1. Start by spraying infected areas with white vinegar. Studies show that vinegar kills 82% of mold species and removes musty odor at the same time. Let the vinegar absorb the mold for about 20 minutes.
  2. Using a clean cloth, wipe away the mold. For stubborn mold, scrub the area with a stiff brush and a vinegar solution of about 1/8 cup of white vinegar and 1 gallon of water. Some people also use a borax solution on their floor joists to remove black mold.
  3. Once the mold is gone, spritz the furniture with either white vinegar or a tea tree oil solution to kill any remaining invisible mold spores.
  4. Sprinkle floors and furniture with baking soda to further remove the musty smell. For hard-to-reach places, you can also make a baking soda spray using just enough water to form a liquid.
  5. Leave furniture in direct sunlight to dry (sunlight also kills mold spores), but don’t leave it out too long or else the furniture may become discolored. For flooring and walls, don’t use too much water while cleaning and open up the windows and/or turn on fans to help everything dry quicker.

Alternative Cleaning Agents

For most mold infestations, any combination of vinegar, baking soda, and soap water is enough for thorough removal. However, stubborn infestations may require stronger ingredients for killing black mold, such as borax, hydrogen peroxide, tea tree oil, chlorinated lime, or even bleach. If you use bleach, don’t mix it with vinegar or any other ingredients. Mixing bleach with anything other than water will create toxic chlorine fumes. Bleach also damages your wood and paint, so only use it on tile.

How to Use Borax

Borax is a good natural cleaning choice. Mix a cup of borax with a gallon of hot water and apply it with a rag. Use a clean rag with water to rinse the area afterward because borax will leave a powdery white residue.

3. Sand Away the Mold

If the mold has penetrated deep into the wood, sand it off with some sandpaper, and vacuum up the dust using a HEPA filter vacuum. HEPA filters trap allergens and mold spores to prevent harmful substances from spreading in the air.

4. Pull Moisture From the Air With a Dehumidifier or Desiccant Pack

These are available at the local Home Depot or Lowe’s and help pull moisture from the air and trap the airborne particles causing the smell in the first place. Dehumidifiers are not just for absorbing musty smells either. Use one year-round in your basement to control moisture levels. Place desiccant packs in out-of-reach places or corners where moisture might be condensing and replace them frequently.

5. Add a Window Fan

Adding window fans to your basement windows can increase ventilation and reduce the amount of moisture in the basement area while you clean, but it shouldn’t be used year round. Only use it once in a while on cool, dry days to freshen up the basement air.

Warning: DO NOT open basement windows when it is hot, cold, or rainy. This invites moisture and condensation of air on your basement walls, furnaces, and pipes, which leads to mold growth and rot.

What Type of Window Is Best for Basements?

Basement windows should do two things: 1. Keep moisture out. 2. Let plenty of natural light through. Consider getting a double-pane window, which traps heat inside your basement and prevents outside air from coming through. This keeps your basement warm in the winter and is energy efficient.

6. Use Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal absorbs moisture as well as any odd odors in the air. It usually takes about a week for the charcoal to absorb everything if using this method alone. I recommend using activated charcoal and not charcoal briquettes because it doesn’t work as well. If you do opt for charcoal briquettes, DON’T use the kind that has been presoaked in lighter fluid.

7. Place Bowls of Coffee Grounds Around the Basement

Like baking soda and charcoal, coffee grounds absorb foul odors. You can use used coffee grounds, but allow it to dry first. Place in small bowls in every corner of the basement to absorb any stinky smells. The basement might smell like coffee afterward, but that smell will dissipate. If you don’t want the basement to smell like coffee, just use activated charcoal or baking soda instead.

How to Prevent Musty Smells

Get Rid of Darkness and Stagnant Air

Open a window during dry, cool weather and let sunshine and fresh air through. Don’t open windows in hot, cold, or rainy weather though. The moisture from the air in warm, cold, or wet temperatures will only invite mildew growth. If your basement lacks windows and sunlight, get a dehumidifier to control the moisture level.

Insulate Pipes

Pipes can be covered in insulation to keep them from getting cold and developing condensate. This will prevent water from condensing and dripping off from them, which creates a mildew oasis.

Repair Leaks and Cracks

Leaky pipes and wall cracks should be repaired ASAP. You may need to call in a professional plumber or contractor depending on the severity of the issue.

Prevent Groundwater Flooding

Problems with outdoor water pooling against the foundation of the home or groundwater flooding should be handled immediately. This not only controls mold and mildew, but it also ensures that your home’s foundation isn’t compromised. Reconsider installing a perimeter drainage system or sump pump to prevent ground or surface water from getting into your basement and damaging your foundation.

Remove Potted Plants

If your basement does not get sufficient sunlight and fresh air, growing potted plants will only contribute to the excess moisture, which leads to mold and mildew growth as well as foul odors caused by plant decay. Plus, houseplants can develop fungus, and before you know it, you’ll have to deal with thousands of annoying fungus gnats.

Install Plastic Vapor Barriers

Doing this will seriously save you thousands of dollars and energy and time spent cleaning up mold and dehumidifying. A plastic vapor barrier prevents air from seeping through your ceilings, walls, and floors, basically damp-proofing the entire basement area.

Clean Out Air Ducts

If you happen to have air conditioning ducts in your basement, mold may have grown on in the ductwork of the crawl space. It might even be possible that a dead animal, such as a rat, is rotting in the vent, so you’ll need to properly clean out the air ducts to get rid of the musty smell.

Causes of Damp Basements and Musty Smells


The basement is, by definition, underground. This makes the ambient temperature in a basement much cooler than that of the rest of the house. Cooler air is unable to hold as much moisture as the warmer air in the upper levels of the home. When the air from upstairs comes in contact with the air from downstairs, the moisture in the air condenses on the cool basement walls (and any uninsulated cold water pipes that are running through the area). These cold, moist surfaces are the perfect breeding ground for mold. The darker the area, the better it is for mold growth.

Humidity From Outside Air

Outside moisture leaking into the basement can also provide a mold growth environment. When humid, hot summer air enters the basement and cools down, it creates condensation on the walls, pipes, and inside your fiberglass insulation. Try to avoid opening the window when the weather is too hot. This also applies when the weather is rainy and when the air is too cold. Bringing in cold air forces your water heaters and furnaces to work overtime to create heat, and the cold air meeting the hot surfaces of these water and heating pipes will also create condensation.

Dried-Out Water Trap

If you have a sink, laundry tub, toilet, or some sort of drainage system in your basement that never gets used, then you have a dry water trap problem. Any unused water pipes will leak swear gas smells out of the vents and drains. Fortunately, getting rid of the sewer gas smell is easy.

Leaky Pipes and Wall Cracks

That earthy mildew smell might be coming from a broken seal on a basement window or crack in the foundation wall.

Other things like clogged rain gutters, french drains, or sewer backups can also bring water in contact with the basement walls where water can pool and be absorbed by concrete walls. Leaky pipes are another potential cause of moisture in the basement.

The Dryer

The other major cause of mold and mildew in the basement is the laundry—the dryer in particular. Even though the dryer vent will take much of the heat and moisture from the clothes outside, some of that moisture may condense on the walls and pipes. Properly sealing the dryer vent with duct tape can help.

How to Remove Musty Odor From a Finished Basement

A properly finished basement should never smell musty. If it does, there is either a problem behind your finished walls or in your heating and cooling system.

Locate the Source of Moisture

Locating the source of the moisture in your basement is paramount. If you cannot locate it with a thorough inspection, call in a local energy auditor, HVAC tech or plumbing professional to find the source for you. If you can find the mold or mildew, get rid of it immediately, using the methods listed above.

Remove the Source of Odor

Removing musty smells from a finished basement could mean placing filters in the ductwork, leaving desiccant packs in out-of-the-way corners, or even odor absorbing cat litter trays beneath end tables. The key is to keep the moisture down in the basement area. This is usually hardest in the spring and fall when the heating and cooling system isn’t circulating air through the home. Consider turning the air handler on your thermostat to «fan» for several hours a day. This will run air through your filtration system and also help keep the humidity down in the basement.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


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Will these tips work on a wood basement?

Will these tips work on a wood basement.

John Dove

Thanks for a comprehensive hub. This is one that I will bookmark and return to for future reference

Travel Chef

19 months ago from Manila

Thanks for sharing this. Mold and mildew can totally cause a problem for homeowners. So it is really important that they learn how to maximize the use of items already available at home.




I have stored my Christmas tree in the basement. I just brought it up and it smells musty, mouldy. I s there a spray I could use to spray the tree. Thank You

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