9 Cleaning Solutions to Get Mildew Out of Any Surface
The tools and ingredients you need to rid your home of mildew for good.
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
Your first plan of attack
When you want to remove mildew stains, reach for white vinegar first. It can be safely used without additional ventilation and can be applied to almost any surface: bathroom fixtures and tile, clothing, furniture, painted surfaces, plastic curtains, and more. To eliminate heavy mildew accumulations, use it full strength. For light stains, dilute it with an equal amount of water. You can also prevent mildew from forming on the bottoms of rugs and carpeting by misting the backs with full-strength white vinegar from a spray bottle. Plus, there are over 90 vinegar uses that can clean a lot more than just mildew.
To clean furniture
Ammonia is what you need. Clean the mildew off unfinished wooden patio furniture and picnic tables with a mixture of 1 cup ammonia, 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1 gallon of water. Rinse off thoroughly and use an old terry-cloth towel to absorb excess moisture. (This same combination can clean painted outdoor surfaces.) To remove mildew from wicker furniture, wash it down with a solution of 2 tablespoons ammonia in 1 gallon of water. Use an old toothbrush to get into hard-to-reach twists and turns. Rinse well and let air-dry. An important safety note before you use ammonia in any part of your home: Be sure you use it in a well-ventilated area, always wear rubber gloves, and never combine ammonia and bleach. Also, here’s how to properly clean your children’s toys to remove mold.
To clean shower curtains
Just because your plastic shower curtain or liner gets dirty or mildewed doesn’t mean you have to throw it away. Try cleaning it in your washing machine with two bath towels (to prevent the plastic curtains from crinkling) on the gentle setting. Add 1/2 cup baking soda to your detergent during the wash cycle and 1/2 cup vinegar during the rinse cycle. Before the machine goes into the spin cycle, remove the curtain and let it drip-dry; don’t put it in the dryer.
Chlorine is another option to get rid of mold in your bathroom. Wash them—along with a couple of bath towels—in warm water with 1/2 cup chlorine bleach and 1/4 cup laundry detergent. Let the washer run for a couple of minutes before loading. Put the shower curtain and towels in the dryer on the lowest temperature setting for 10 minutes, then immediately hang-dry. Rid your rubber shower mat of mildew by soaking it in a solution of 1/8 cup chlorine bleach in 1 gallon water for 3-4 hours. Rinse well.
To clean fabric
To remove mildew from upholstery and other fabrics, soak a sponge in a solution of 1/2 cup borax dissolved in 2 cups hot water, and rub it into the affected areas. Let it soak in for several hours until the stain disappears, then rinse well. For the same effect on clothing, soak the garments in a solution of 2 cups borax and 2 quarts water.
To clean your bathroom
The sight and smell of mildew is a bathroom’s enemy. Bring out the tough ammunition: a bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide. Don’t water it down, just attack directly by pouring the peroxide on the offending area. Wipe it clean. Mildew will surrender.
To remove mold and mildew between your bathroom tiles, mix equal parts of chlorine bleach and water in a spray bottle, and spray it over the grout. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then scrub with a stiff brush and rinse off. You can also do this just to make your grout look whiter.
To clean outdoor stains
Bleach can get mildew and other stains off unpainted cement, patio stones, or stucco. Mix a solution of 1 cup chlorine bleach in 2 gallons of water. Scrub vigorously with a stiff or wire brush and rinse. If any stains remain, scrub again using 1/2 cup washing soda (this is sodium carbonate, not baking soda) dissolved in 2 gallons of warm water. While you’re cleaning, you may want to consider giving your patio a makeover.
To clean painted surfaces
For painted surfaces and siding, bleach is your answer, again. Make a solution of 1/4 cup chlorine bleach in 2 cups of water and apply with a brush to mildewed areas. Let the solution set for 15 minutes, then rinse. Repeat as necessary.
To clean clothing
Wash mildew out of washable fabrics. Wet the mildewed area and rub in some powdered detergent. Then wash the garment in the hottest water set-ting permitted by the clothing manufacturer using 1/2 cup chlorine bleach. If the garment can’t be washed in hot water and bleach, soak it in a solution of 1/4 cup oxygen bleach (labeled “all fabric” or “perborate”) in 1 gallon warm water for 30 minutes before washing.
If you’re short on chlorine, make a paste of lemon juice and salt and rub it on the affected area. Then, dry the clothes in sunlight. Repeat the process until the stain is gone. This works well for rust stains on clothes too. Here are some different ways you’re not using bleach, but should.
To clean hard to reach spots
There are always hard-to-reach spots in the bathroom, usually around the fixtures, where mildew may breed in the grout between tiles. Forget about becoming a contortionist to return the sparkle to those areas. Soak a few cotton balls in bleach and place them in those difficult spots. Leave them to work their magic for a few hours. When you remove them, you’ll find your job has been done. Finish by rinsing with a warm-water wash. To help banish other messes around the house, these are the cleaning products professional house cleaners always buy.