Extension Agent: Bleach kills mildew growth, stains
Doing the laundry. Not many people I speak to list that as their favorite household task, so it can be said that I am in the minority among those who love to do laundry. However you may feel about this routine job, laundry is made even more difficult when stains like mildew won't come out in the wash. What should you do? Fabric care experts with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension recommend that you start by preventing mildew growth from occurring in the first place.
The first step to preventing mildew growth is making sure damp or wet clothes are not placed in the laundry basket and left for several days before laundering. Unseasonably warm temperatures coupled with high humidity in this part of Texas and any remaining food, perspiration or dampness on clothing - especially kids' clothes - creates the perfect conditions for the growth of mildew. Mildew is a fungus and appears as dark-colored spots and splotchy stains on textile or fabric items. When the textile or fabric item is left in a warm, humid location with little or no light or air circulation, you have created the perfect condition for very difficult-to-remove mildew.
Prevention is the key, experts at the International Fabricare Institute advise, and they suggest air drying any wet textiles before placing them in the laundry and certainly not storing them dirty. When possible, avoid tossing damp clothing in a dark laundry hamper or closet. We all know that if you have children who play sports or a spouse who is physically active, monitoring what is tossed into a hamper can be a full-time job, but if you can't get to the laundry immediately, hang the item in an area with good air circulation until the item is dry. Or if it is convenient to do so, wash the item as soon as possible, treating the soiled area with a prewash enzyme product. Some typical items to take special care with might include infants' and children's clothing, practice and sporting wear, jackets, T-shirts, kitchen textiles and bath towels.
What removes mildew? Actually, only chlorine bleach removes and kills mildew growth and stains. Since not all fabrics are safely treated with bleach, preventing the growth of mildew may be a better solution than trying to remove it later and possibly ruining the item. More information on laundry, fabric care, and stain removal can be found at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Family and Consumer Sciences website at fcs.tamu.edu, in resources like "Laundry On Your Own" and "Quick Stain Removal Guide" found at tcebookstore.org, at your area County Extension Office at 361-575-4581 or by emailing me at Erika.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Dr. Pamela Brown, Entrepreneurship (and textiles/clothing) Specialist, Texas Cooperative Extension. August 2005.
Erika Bochat is a Victoria County extension agent-Family and Consumer Sciences.