It is that time of the year in Hong Kong when humidity rises above 70% and everything feels just a little bit damp. It’s getting warm too – perfect conditions for mould to enter our lives…and into our clothes. You can’t escape the humidity and neither can your clothes. So how do we tackle mould? More importantly, how can we prevent mould setting in? Because once you get mould, it’s difficult to get rid of!
First step is to try and prevent the damp conditions that help mould flourish. Luckily, in Hong Kong we have products we can buy to help in the battle against mould. Keys are good ventilation, air-conditioning and dehumidifiers to keep things as dry as possible while maintaining good air flow. Keep traditional fans in your bathroom and kitchen but buy electrical dehumidifiers for your bedroom, living room and wardrobe space.
Disposable dehumidifiers and silica gel sachets sold in supermarkets or local hardware stores are also really useful. These are plastic tubs filled with materials such as charcoal that soak up the humidity and trap the water in the tubs. Once the tubs are full, you simply throw them away and replace with new ones. Also for the wardrobes, you can find hanging desiccant/silica gel sachets that do the same job. However more natural materials such as charcoal are best when they are close to your clothes.
Stylists also recommend heat bars which can be installed in wardrobes but take note that furs, leathers, synthetics and delicates should not be hung close to these heat sources. A wardrobe that is overstuffed will encourage mould to grow as there needs to be breathing space between your clothes.
Getting Rid of Mould
Ok, so you get out your favourite piece of clothing and find it covered with mould and smelling less than fragrant (the smell of mould is musty like a damp and dirty basement, one of the worst smells…). What do you do?
First of all check the label to see what cleaning care is recommended. If it is dry clean only, then any home remedy cleaning is not applicable, you will need to send the garment over to the dry cleaners to get it professionally cleaned.
A soaking in one of these amber rainstorms really kills shoes and clothes. The high humidity just doesn’t let stuff dry out properly. So you may not have thought that natural sunlight not only is an inexpensive and pretty effective way of drying stuff out but fresh air also helps deodorize – simply air the garment and then brush off any loose mould, or even gently vacuum the mould off the garment with a hoover that has a HEPA filter.
This is probably the least invasive cleaning method. However a word of warning – strong sunlight can fade colours so be careful of which garments you leave out in the sun.
Rub in a mould stain remover or scrub it off with a toothbrush – there are several products you can try. If the fabric is tough, like cotton or denim, you can try gently scrubbing off the mould with a clean toothbrush. Just remember you are attacking fabric and not floors – so be gentle.
Wash at the hottest recommended temperature with a good detergent – it has the best chance of killing mould spores, but remember to follow the care label instructions. That way you can avoid ending up with a bigger mess than when you originally started.
What Sort of Anti-mould products?
There are several products you can try, however, not all are suitable for all fabrics. To be safe, test the product on an inconspicuous part of the fabric first and follow the safety precautions detailed in the product’s label. Remember to read both the label on the product as well as the tag on your clothing!
- Household soap – For old stains, everyday household soap, either liquid or in bar form, can be rubbed in directly and rinsed out with water. Then leave the fabric in the sun to dry.
- White Distilled Vinegar – An excellent mould-killer, diluted vinegar can be worked directly into the stain – or you can pre-soak the clothing in a bucket of water mixed with one cup of vinegar. You can also add 1-2 cups of vinegar to your washing machine per cycle to kill any mildew odours and brighten your whites.
- Hydrogen Peroxide – Mix 1 part 20% hydrogen peroxide with 4 parts water to create a solution. This should only be used on organic fabrics (cotton, linen, etc.) that aren’t flame-resistant or don’t have easy-care finishes.
- Borax – This water-soluble mineral is also a natural mould-killer, which you can buy as a detergent or in powder form. If you get it as a powder, mix one half cup thoroughly with hot water according to the instructions. Then add the solution directly into the drum of your washing machine, and launder the clothes as normal.
- Bleach – Bleach is effective at killing mould, but it will also fade colours. So use bleach only on whites or colour-fast clothes, by pre-soaking or scrubbing directly onto the mould itself.
Always follow the product instructions, wear rubber gloves, and work in a well-ventilated area away from children, as bleach fumes can be harmful! Also remember to store the bleach in a secure cupboard out of the reach of children or pets.
So there you go, hopefully we have given you some ways to tackle the dreaded mould (if in doubt do seek professional help!).
The best remedy is TLC for your clothes and moisture control – so space between your clothes, dehumidifiers, air-conditioning as well as simple fans to get the air circulating. Remember, prevention is better than cure.