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How to Remove Mildew Stains and Odors

Posted January 21, 2023 by Mike Lewis under Tips

How to Remove Mildew Stains and Odors

Mildew stains and odors can be frustrating to deal with. However, with the right techniques and products, you can successfully remove mildew from fabrics, surfaces, and rooms. Here is an in-depth guide on how to remove mildew stains and odors.

Identifying Mildew

Mildew is a type of mold that grows on damp surfaces. It has a musty, earthy smell and appears as black, gray, or green spots or powdery growth. Mildew thrives in humid environments with poor air circulation. Common places to find mildew include:

  • Bathrooms
  • Basements
  • Laundry rooms
  • Attics
  • Window frames and sills

Signs of a mildew problem include visible mold growth, musty odors, and stained or discolored materials. Fabric, carpet, drywall, and wood are all common surfaces susceptible to mildew. Acting quickly to remove mildew is key to preventing permanent damage.

Removing Mildew from Fabrics

Mildew stains on fabrics like clothing, linens, towels, and upholstery can be challenging to remove. Here are some effective methods:

Washing Machine

For washable fabrics, run them through a wash cycle with hot water, detergent, and 1 cup of bleach. Make sure to check that the fabric can withstand hot water and bleaching before using this method.


White vinegar is a natural deodorizer and can help kill mildew. Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray liberally on fabric stains and let sit for 15 minutes before laundering as usual.

Non-chlorine bleach

Oxygen bleach or another non-chlorine bleach can help lift mildew stains without the harshness of chlorine bleach. Check the fabric care label first before using.


Make a paste of 1 part borax to 2 parts hot water. Rub it into the stain using a scrub brush and let it sit for 30 minutes before laundering as normal. Borax helps cut through mildew odors.


When possible, hang affected items outdoors in direct sunlight to help naturally bleach out stains and odors. The UV rays in sunlight act as a natural disinfectant.

Removing Mildew from Hard Surfaces

Eliminating mildew from walls, tile, wood, and other hard surfaces involves killing existing mildew and preventing its return. Here are some tips:


Use a commercial mildew remover or make your own cleaner by mixing 1 part bleach to 4 parts water. Apply the solution and let it soak for 10 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing. Ensure proper ventilation when using bleach.

Baking Soda

Make a paste with baking soda and water. Spread onto affected areas, let sit for 15 minutes, then scrub away. The abrasiveness of baking soda can help lift stains.

White Vinegar

Spray full strength white vinegar onto the mildew and let it sit overnight before wiping clean. Vinegar kills mold and absorbs musty odors.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is a natural mold-killer. Add 20 drops of tea tree essential oil to 2 cups water in a spray bottle. Spray on mildew and let sit overnight before wiping away.


After removing mildew, take steps to prevent its return. Address moisture issues, increase air circulation, and thoroughly dry affected areas. Use a mold/mildew resistant paint or sealer on recently cleaned surfaces.

Removing Mildew Odors from Rooms

Even after removing mildew stains, a musty smell may linger in a room. Try these tips to tackle mildew odors:

  • Place activated charcoal or baking soda in bowls around the room to absorb odors. Replace regularly.

  • Run a dehumidifier to maintain humidity under 50%. Mildew thrives in humid air.

  • Fill sachets with dried lavender or cedar chips and place in closets and drawers. These act as natural odor eliminators.

  • Wipe down walls and surfaces with white vinegar or tea tree oil. Their anti-microbial properties inhibit mold growth.

  • Place a bowl of white vinegar in the center of a room for 12-24 hours. The acetic acid in vinegar absorbs unpleasant smells.

Properly removing mildew requires attacking it physically through scrubbing as well as chemically using anti-microbial cleaners. With concerted effort and by addressing excess moisture, you can successfully rid fabrics, surfaces, and rooms of unsightly mildew stains and musty odors.

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