Mold and Mildew Questions

April 1, 2011 10:49 pm
How can I prevent mildew on clothes?

A. Mildew commonly develops in the humid summer weather. Here are a few tips from our resident expert, Arthur Anton, Jr., on keeping your clothes free from mildew:

  • Keep closets, dresser drawers, and storage areas as clean as possible.
  • Keep fabrics dry. Do not put clothing or shoes that are damp (including wet from rain or perspiration) in the closet.
  • Be sure clothing is clean before putting away in the closet. Even though some synthetic fabrics such as acetate, acrylic and polyester are resistant to mildew, soil can supply enough food for mildew to start.
    Do not store your clothes in the plastic bags from the drycleaner – they inhibit the fabric from breathing and can cause mildew.
  • Store clothes in a dry, well ventilated area. Temperature swings can cause moisture to form in clothing and create mildew problems.
  • Circulate the air in your closet. Hang clothes loosely so that air can circulate around them. When you can, leave your closet doors open to allow air to circulate and reduce the moisture in the closet.
  • Remove mildew spots as soon as you discover them. Brush off surface growth outdoors to prevent scattering the spores in the house. Sun and air fabrics thoroughly. If any mildew spots remain, dry clean non-washable articles and wash mildew-stained articles once with soap and water, rinse them well and dry them in the sun.
What’s the best way to get rid of smoke or mildew odors?

A. Believe it or not, smoke or mildew often becomes trapped in textiles, making them impossible to remove by normal cleaning techniques. Most of these odors, however, can be removed by your dry cleaner through the use of ozone generators.

Ozone is formed through the process of oxidation, which causes the material with which the oxygen is combined to change its molecular configuration by losing one or more of its electrons.

Ozone generators work by passing dry air through a high frequency electrical field. This electrical discharge splits an oxygen molecule into two free atoms, which then combine with an oxygen molecule that has not been split to form ozone. The contact between ozone and the odors embedded in the textile causes oxidation to reoccur, resulting in elimination of the odors and the release of oxygen. If you are ever faced with a disaster such as a fire or flood, this service can be most helpful.

How can we prevent moth damage?

A. Most moth damage occurs when garments are in home storage. The International Fabric Institute (IFI) offers six ways to minimize the problem:

  1. Have garments professionally cleaned before storing them away. If there’s any trace of food or body oils on your clothes, it will attract the hungry larvae and damage will be done before you know it.
  2. If home washing, tumble dry at temperatures above 120ºF to kill larvae.
  3. Freeze garments in individual self-sealing storage at 0ºF for 48–72 hours before storing to kill larvae.
  4. Use cedar, eucalyptus, or lavender products. Remember, however, that such products have a limited life and should be replaced regularly and these methods are not guaranteed.
  5. If possible, store items in tight containers or sealed garment bags. In order for any insect protection to be truly effective, the storage container must be tight so that the insects cannot get in.
  6. Storage areas should be kept clean. Vacuum the floors, shelves, and walls to remove dust, webs, and any inconspicuous eggs or pesky insect larvae.