How to Kill Mold and Mildew (and Prevent It From Coming Back)

Stop harmful fungi from taking over your home with simple steps for removal and prevention.

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 8 hours
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10

Mold and mildew are types of fungi that can quickly grow anywhere you find moisture. There is very little difference between the two; in fact, mildew is just mold in its early stage. Both serve an important purpose in our environment by helping to destroy organic materials such as leaves, which enriches the soil. But some mold and mildew isn't as helpful for humans. Living in a moldy home can cause serious health issues like headaches, respiratory problems, sinus congestion, and eye, nose, or throat irritation. It's especially dangerous for infants, children, pregnant women, elderly individuals, and people with existing respiratory conditions, who are at a higher risk for these problems.

person cleaning carpet to prevent mold and mildew

BHG / Laura Wheatley

Before Getting Started

To check your home for mold and mildew, start with areas where there could be high humidity or water damage, such as a damp basement or crawl space. Mildew and mold can grow on a wide range of household surfaces, including wood products, ceiling tiles, cardboard, wallpaper, carpets, drywall, fabric, plants, foods, and insulation. These growths can develop on a damp surface within 24 and 48 hours and produce spores that travel through the air. They could break down and destroy whatever they grow on and can cause mild to severe health problems for you and your family.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Cleaning Mold and Mildew from Outdoor Fabric

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Fan or hair dryer
  • White cloth

Cleaning Mold and Mildew from Indoor Fabric

  • Vacuum
  • Fan or hair dryer
  • White cloth

Cleaning Mildew-Stained Carpets

  • Vacuum
  • Damp cloth
  • Dry cloth

Removing Mildew from Wood Furniture

  • Vacuum
  • Clean dry cloth
  • Damp cloth


Cleaning Mold and Mildew from Outdoor Fabric

  • Chlorine bleach (optional)
  • Hot water
  • Oxygen bleach
  • Ammonia
  • Cool water

Cleaning Mold and Mildew from Indoor Fabric

  • Ammonia

Cleaning Mildew-Stained Carpets

  • Liquid laundry soap

Removing Mildew from Wood Furniture

  • Furniture polish

Cleaning a Mildewed Shower Curtain

  • Liquid disinfectant
  • Hot water
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Detergent
  • Color-safe bleach or regular bleach


How to Kill Mold and Mildew

The problem of mold and mildew won't go away on its own. Use these simple cleaning tips to remove and prevent mold and mildew in your home.

How to Clean Mold and Mildew from Outdoor Fabric

  1. Move Upholstered Pieces Outside

    Avoid sending mold spores into the air and throughout the house by first taking fabric and upholstery outside when possible. Brush off as much of the mildew as possible.

  2. Soak and Launder Fabric

    The moldy or mildewy fabric should be laundered in chlorine bleach and hot water. If chlorine bleach is not a safe option for the material, soak it in oxygen bleach and hot water for a half-hour, then wash as directed.

  3. Dry Fabric

    Take laundered fabric outside to dry in the sun if possible.

blue patterned pillows on velvet midcentury sofa with open shelving
Buff Stickland

How to Clean Mold and Mildew from Indoor Fabric

Some items might not be able to be moved outside. Follow these steps to clean upholstered items indoors.

  1. Vacuum Upholstery

    Upholstery that you can't take outside should be vacuumed first. Replace the vacuum bag or take the canister outside to clean.

  2. Clean with Ammonia Solution

    Mix one cup of ammonia with one cup of cool water. (Chlorine bleach and ammonia should never be combined due to the resulting toxic fumes.) Using a clean, white cloth, sponge the stains with the ammonia solution. Blot until all the liquid is absorbed. Repeat the process until the stain disappears.

  3. Blot and Dry

    To remove the resulting ammonia solution, sponge the area with cold water and blot. Dry thoroughly with a fan or hair dryer set on cool.

How to Clean Mildew-Stained Carpets

Get carpets fresh and clean by following these steps.

  1. Vacuum

    Thoroughly vacuum the affected carpet to remove as much of the mildew as you can. After you are done, either throw away the bag or clean the canister outside.

  2. Apply Cleaning Solution and Dry

    Briskly mix 1 Tbsp. of liquid laundry soap and 2 cups of cool water. Apply the suds to the stained area with a damp cloth, sponging lightly. Repeat until the stain is gone, then rinse. Dry the area completely.

wooden dresser in front of glass panes
Brie Williams

How to Remove Mildew from Wood Furniture

If your wood furniture has seen better days, it might be time for a deep clean. Follow these tips for removing mildew from wood furniture.

  1. Vacuum Furniture

    Vacuum mildewed wood furniture with a soft brush to remove any loose spores. After you are done, either throw away the bag or clean the canister outside.

  2. Wipe and Polish

    Quickly wipe off any stains using a light touch. Rinse the area with a damp cloth, let dry, then polish.

How to Clean a Mildewed Shower Curtain

If you're dealing with a mildewed shower curtain made of durable fabric, follow these steps for cleaning it.

  1. Wash and Rinse

    Wash with a solution of 1/2 cup liquid disinfectant and one gallon of hot water. Rinse with a mixture of one cup of lemon juice and one cup of salt to a gallon of hot water. Wash with detergent and bleach. Rinse with water.

How to Prevent Mold and Mildew in the Bathroom

Few rooms in the home see as much moisture and humidity as the bathroom. The first step to preventing mold and mildew is making sure your bathroom stays well-ventilated. An exhaust fan will help circulate the air and remove moisture more quickly. These additional actions will help keep your bathroom fresh and mold-free.

  1. Spread towels out after use so that they dry more quickly.
  2. Minimize containers left in the shower for cleaning ease and better circulation.
  3. Wipe down the shower with a clean towel or squeegee after its last daily use.
  4. Choose shower curtains that dry and clean easily to help avoid soap residue, which fosters mold.
scrubbing tile cracks with blue brush
Jason Donnelly

How to Prevent Mold and Mildew Throughout the House

Help keep your home free of mold and mildew with a few preventive measures.

  • Use dehumidifiers, fans, and open windows to help reduce the moisture in your home. Be especially vigilant during hot, humid months.
  • Fix plumbing leaks as soon as possible.
  • Do what you can to prevent rainwater from seeping into your home. Check potential problem areas regularly.
  • Clean the fabrics in your home routinely and keep them dry.
  • Store items in dry, well-ventilated areas.

When to Toss Mold- and Mildew-Infested Items

If the mold and mildew on your fabric, upholstery, carpet, or furniture is beyond cleaning and drying, throw the item away or call a professional cleaning service. Don't take a chance with the potential health risks that mold and mildew can cause you and your family.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can you tell the difference between mold and mildew?

    Mold is a fuzzy substance and can be black, red, or green. Sometimes it looks like ordinary dirt. Mildew is white or brown and powdery and appears as small dots.

  • Which is worse, mold or mildew?

    Mildew can cause some health issues, including allergies, but it's much easier to clean and get rid of than mold. Mold, particularly black mold, can cause more severe health problems, especially for those who are immunocompromised. Mold is also much more difficult to eliminate and can infest fabric and hard surfaces, making them unusable.

Better Homes & Gardens is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources—including peer-reviewed studies—to support the facts in our articles. Read about our editorial policies and standards to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. "Invasive Mold Infections in Immunocompromised People." U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

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