Remember all those trunks filled with your grandparents' and their parents' clothes, stored away in the attic? While the clothes looked interesting and would make wonderful costumes, except of the fact that they were mildewed and smelt funny! Mildew is a living organism. It gets into your clothes or fabric, which are either damp or when the stored environment is dark and humid. Mildew is a type of fungus and has to be got rid off by using any fungicidal disinfectant. The sooner you get to removing it, the easier it will go. Listed below is an easy 5 step process to remove mildew stains from fabric.
Brush. First, brush off the mildewed piece. This must not be done indoors as the spores can move on to other pastures within. If the washing instruction for the fabric mentions 'dry clean only', then after this brushing, give the piece to a professional dry cleaner with specific instructions for mildew stain removal.
Solar exposure. If the washing instructions do not mention 'only dry clean', then, once the brushing is done, leave the fabric outside, soaking in the sun as direct sunlight and heat can kill mildew.
Soak in water. If any stains remain after this, presoak the fabric in cold water and then launder in warm water.
Dry outdoors. Once washed, dry the once-mildewed fabric or clothes outdoors. The sunlight will kill off any remaining spores and the fabric should be ready to use, once air-dried.
Stubborn stains. If some more stubborn stains persist, soak only the stained area with chlorine bleach solution (diluted 2 tablespoons bleach to 1 quart water) for about 10-15 minutes and then wash off. An alternative to chlorine bleach is to soak the stained areas with lemon juice, apply some salt and then allow the sun to dry it. Once the fabric has dried, wash the stained area with water. If the fabric is not cotton, then use a solution of hydrogen peroxide (1unit peroxide to 6 units water). Now launder this piece as you would normally and dry in the sun. This should do the trick.
Prevention. Prevent mildew by keeping all areas (especially the storage areas) free of damp and moisture, not putting any wet/damp clothes in the laundry basket, using moisture inhibitors when storing clothes and spraying with fungicidal formulations.
Mildew is unsightly and can not only destroy looks but also strength by weakening the fabric. It is, like any unwelcome guest, difficult to get rid of. Ensure that you don't invite the mildew into your house. Let fresh air and sunlight in and let mildew out!