how to remove mildew from fabric without bleach

How to Remove Mildew from Fabric Without Bleach

Mildew, a type of fungus, thrives in damp and warm conditions, often making fabrics its prime target. Beyond its unpleasant appearance and musty odor, mildew can weaken the fibers of the material, leading to potential damage over time. Most of us are familiar with bleach as a common remedy to get rid of mildew. But bleach can be harsh on certain fabrics, possibly causing color fading or fabric degradation. Fortunately, there are safer alternatives on removing mildew from fabric without bleach.

Mildew on fabric can be effectively removed without resorting to bleach. Employing natural remedies like white vinegar, lemon juice combined with salt, or a baking soda paste can simply rejuvenate affected fabrics. Acting promptly and using these methods can restore the fabric’s appearance, ensuring its long life and safety from harsh chemicals.

In this article, we’ll explore the three effective methods.

White Vinegar Treatment to Remove Mildew From Fabric

White vinegar stands out for its natural cleaning and disinfecting properties, making it an effective choice for combating mildew. When used on fabrics, it not only removes the unwanted fungal growth but also ensures that the material remains in good condition.

  1. Prepare the Solution: Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a large basin or bucket.
  2. Pre-Treat Stains: Before soaking the entire fabric, dab a small amount of the solution directly onto the most affected areas using a cloth or sponge. Allow it to sit for about 15 minutes.
  3. Soak the Fabric: Submerge the entire fabric into the solution, ensuring it’s fully immersed. Let it sit for 1-2 hours.
  4. Gentle Scrubbing: Use a soft brush to gently scrub away the mildew spots, paying extra attention to the pre-treated areas.
  5. Rinse: Once you’ve removed the mildew, rinse the fabric with cold water.
  6. Air-Dry: Hang the fabric and allow it to dry completely, preferably in direct sunlight. Sunlight can act as a natural disinfectant, aiding in the elimination of any remaining mildew spores.

Lemon and Salt Approach to Remove Mildew From Fabric

Lemon juice, with its natural acidic properties, paired with salt’s abrasive nature, offers a potent solution for mildew stains. This combination provides an effective yet gentle way to cleanse and refresh fabrics affected by mildew.

  1. Extract Fresh Lemon Juice: Cut a lemon into two halves and squeeze to obtain its juice. The fresher the juice, the better the result.
  2. Mix with Salt: Combine the lemon juice with an equal quantity of salt, creating a paste-like consistency.
  3. Patch Test: Before applying the mixture to the entire fabric, test a small, inconspicuous spot to ensure no discoloration occurs.
  4. Treat the Stains: Gently apply the lemon-salt paste onto the mildew spots using a soft cloth or brush, ensuring complete coverage.
  5. Let it Work: Allow the mixture to sit on the fabric for about 30 minutes, letting the natural ingredients break down the mildew.
  6. Sun Exposure: Place the treated fabric under direct sunlight. The sun will intensify the cleansing action of the lemon and salt, aiding in the removal process.
  7. Cleanse the Fabric: After exposure, rinse away the lemon-salt mixture using cold water, ensuring all residues are washed away.
  8. Dry Properly: Hang the fabric in a well-ventilated area, ensuring it dries thoroughly to prevent any mildew recurrence.

Using Baking Soda to Remove Mildew From Fabric

Baking soda, recognized for its mild abrasive and deodorizing qualities, serves as an effective means to tackle and refresh fabrics marred by mildew growth.

  1. Prepare the Mixture: Blend a quarter cup of baking soda with enough water to achieve a smooth paste consistency.
  2. Spot Test: It’s always wise to test any cleaning solution on a hidden section of the fabric to ensure no unwanted reactions occur.
  3. Apply the Mixture: Using a soft cloth or brush, spread the baking soda paste over areas showing mildew presence.
  4. Allow the Mixture to Act: Give the paste some time, about 20-30 minutes, to penetrate and break down the mildew.
  5. Gentle Agitation: After the waiting period, use a soft brush to gently scrub the treated areas, assisting in the mildew removal process.
  6. Wash Off the Residue: Once you’ve addressed all affected spots, rinse the fabric thoroughly using cold water to remove the baking soda residues.
  7. Air-Drying: To finish, hang the fabric in an airy space, ensuring it’s completely dry. This step is essential to ward off any potential future mildew growth.
  8. Inspect and Repeat if Necessary: After the fabric has dried, inspect it for any lingering mildew signs. If any spots remain, consider repeating the process for optimal results.


Is it possible to salvage fabric that has been affected by mildew?

Absolutely. With the right techniques and care, many fabrics impacted by mildew can be rejuvenated and refreshed. Depending on the fabric type and the severity of the mildew damage, various methods can help restore your fabric’s appearance and health. Always ensure to act promptly upon noticing mildew to prevent extensive damage.

What cleaning agents should I avoid combining when removing mildew from fabric?

When tackling mildew, certain chemical combinations can be harmful. For instance, mixing vinegar and bleach produces toxic fumes. Another dangerous combination is ammonia and bleach, which gives off harmful chloramine vapors. Always read product labels and, when in doubt, use one product at a time.

Can I use bleach to remove mildew from fabric?

While bleach is known for its strong disinfecting properties, it can be aggressive on some fabrics. This may lead to discoloration or weaken the fabric’s structure. If you choose to use bleach, always dilute it appropriately, follow the product’s instructions, and conduct a patch test on a hidden section of the fabric.

Can I use hydrogen peroxide to remove mildew from fabric?

Yes, hydrogen peroxide can serve as an alternative to bleach for mildew removal. It’s less aggressive on fabrics, but it’s still effective against mildew. When using hydrogen peroxide, opt for a 3% solution. Before treating the entire fabric, it’s wise to conduct a patch test to ensure no adverse reactions occur.

Can I use scouring powder to remove mildew from fabric?

Scouring powders can be abrasive, which might harm certain fabrics, altering their texture or appearance. It’s recommended to be cautious and opt for gentler methods, especially on more delicate materials. If you decide to use scouring powder, always conduct a patch test and follow with a thorough rinse to eliminate any residue.


Mildew on fabric doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to toss your favorite items. With the right approach and safer alternatives to bleach, you can effectively remove mildew and freshen up your fabrics. Always ensure to test a small area before any treatment, and air-dry in sunlight whenever possible to benefit from its natural disinfecting properties.