Does Dry Cleaning Kill Mold And Remove The Stains It Causes?

Dry clean only clothes are expensive at the best of times, so what happens when you go to your closet to pick out your best dress or tuxedo, only to find it covered in mold?

Will taking it to the dry cleaners fix the problem once and for all, or do you need to throw it out?

In this article we will be covering what causes dry clean clothes to get moldy in the first place, answering whether or not dry cleaning is the solution, and how to prevent your finest clothing items from becoming moldy in the first place, so keep reading.

Mold spores will be killed by the dry cleaning process. A combination of both powerful solvents and extreme temperatures used during heat drying will kill even the strongest of mold strains. Most stains and smells caused by mold will also be removed by the dry cleaning process.

Dry cleaning mold

What causes mold on dry-clean-only clothes?

Storage is the root cause for most items of clothing becoming moldy, but dry-clean-only items are actually more likely to suffer this problem.

Mold needs a certain environment in order to breed and thrive in your closet. These are:

  • A lack of natural sunlight
  • A temperature between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Humidity levels over 55%
  • A source of nutrients

Unfortunately, most closets provide exactly these circumstances.

Wet items of clothing stored away before properly dry, or leaks can push the humidity levels up, most homes are heated to the perfect temperatures for mold to breed, closets are often dark and not exposed to sunlight, and finally, they are often not cleaned regularly, resulting in skin cells and organic matter becoming a food source for mold.

Dry clean clothes often come in a bag to be stored away in. This traps in the air that may have mold spores in it and will not provide any airflow which allows the mold spores to settle and begin a colony that can spread over the entirety of the garment.

Does dry cleaning fix mold?

Dry cleaning kills mold as a result of the use of the liquid solvent tetrachloroethylene which is powerful enough to kill the spores.

Dry cleaning also often uses high-temperature drying and “heat pressing”, processes that can reach up to 220 degrees. This when combined with the powerful solvents used in dry cleaning will more than likely kill even the toughest of mold spores.

Despite the high likelihood of the dry cleaning process killing mold and its spores, many dry cleaning companies will still be hesitant to guarantee that your clothes will be 100% mold-free after dry cleaning.

Signs and symptoms of mold on dry-clean-only clothes

One of the first symptoms of mold on your dry cleaning will be a strong “musty” scent as you open the bag or plastic covering that your dry cleaning has been stored in. It can smell “earthy”, and similar to decaying wood.

If your clothes have been stored away for some time, you may also see patches of white, black, or bluey/green circular or irregular growth, the texture of which can be powdery, slimy, spongey, or velvety.

How do you get mold out of dry-clean-only clothes?

Taking your clothing to the dry cleaners can add up in terms of cost fairly quickly, so here are a few simple measures you can use to remove mold from dry clean clothes only, yourself, before resorting to forking out for another service.

Of course, it goes without saying that if you are not 100% confident that you can safely clean dry clean only clothes at home yourself, it may be worthwhile the expense of taking it to a professional. If you are certain and want to give it a go yourself first, try these methods.

Hand washing

Dry cleaning doesn’t use water (as the name would imply), so when using the hand washing method at home, make sure to only use cold water and a simple bar of soap.

Gently rub the soap bar on the areas affected by the mold and leave it to soak in the soapy water. Scrub the affected area clean with a soft-bristled brush until no mold residue remains.

Once cleaned, leave the item to air dry, and ensure they are returned to the closet only once they are fully dry to avoid mold growing on them once again.


For larger patches of more established mold, soap on its own may simply not be up to the task. In this scenario, you can use distilled white vinegar.

Soak the affected area of the item in a solution of white vinegar and water in equal parts, and gently scrub the area with a soft-bristled brush until the mold begins to lift. Once the mold is removed, leave the item to air dry fully before placing it back into the closet. Any residual smell of vinegar will dissipate after a few days.

Is mold on dry-clean-only clothes dangerous?

The mold that grows on any clothing can be potentially hazardous to your health. Spores that are released by mold can be inhaled and are known to cause breathing difficulties and allergic reactions to those sensitive to them.

For others who have immune deficiencies, inhalation of these spores can cause asthma attacks and skin irritation.

The mold you may find growing on your dry-cleaned clothes can appear in shades of bluey grey, white, black, or even red. The most common strains found are Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Cladosporium.

Whilst some of these strains can cause only minor effects on health, Aspergillus Niger (black mold) has been known to cause serious conditions in both humans and animals.

Can mold on dry clean only clothes spread?

Yes, mold can easily spread across clothing items in your closet. Even if your item is hung in the plastic wrapping after being cleaned, spores could still travel through the air each time you open and close the doors, giving them an opportunity to settle on other items of clothing.

This is why it is imperative that if you spot signs of mold or mildew on any item of clothing in a closet, you should remove all of them and ensure they are properly cleaned, and the mold killed. It is not only the infected item that needs to be cleaned as the spores are tiny, and could have already settled on another piece of clothing.

How to prevent mold on dry clean only clothes

Removing and killing mold is one thing, but it’s much better to prevent it from occurring in the first place, so here are a few measures you can take to prevent mold from growing on your dry-clean-only clothes.

  • Make sure they get natural sunlight at least once a month. The UV rays in sunlight will kill mold spores, so giving them a quick blast of light is a good way to kill spores that you can’t see.
  • Store the items in a very dry location. Mold cannot grow under 55% humidity, so you should find the driest location in your home to store your dry-clean-only clothes. Depending on the layout of your home, you may need to make use of a dehumidifier if wet rooms (bathroom/kitchen), are close to the closet, as these spaces pump out moisture into adjacent rooms.
  • Keep the area they are stored clean. Your clothes may be clean, but it’s important to make sure where they are stored is too. For example, if you hang your clothes in a closet that hasn’t been cleaned in months, you are putting them in an environment that is rich in nutrients for mold to feed off. Clean your wardrobes/closet at least once per month to remove any organic matter mold can use as sustenance.

Should you dry-clean clothes after mold removal?

Some people may feel it necessary to send their clothing to the dry cleaners after removing mold themselves at home. After all, why would you want to run the risk of mold returning? It makes sense to have it dry cleaned after so that the powerful chemicals and high temperatures can make sure that mold’s gone for good.

In reality, most of the methods described to remove mold from clothes, (vinegar use, machine washing, etc), is ample in terms of mold removal. It is more likely that new mold will form if you store your clothing items in the same conditions where they accrued mold growth before.

That being said, if you really want to be 100% certain that there are no mold spores or patches that you may have missed, sending it to the dry cleaners is a good way to make sure.

How to remove mold stains from dry clean only clothes

Mold has a nasty habit of staining clothes even once it’s been removed, and sending it back to the dry cleaners can again be expensive, especially if the affected area is only small.

In most cases, you have the option to clean a mold stain from dry-clean-only clothes yourself, you just need to take a little extra care.

Look at the label of the item, it should tell you which kinds of cleaning products should be avoided. Bleach is generally not recommended, as it can discolor and damage the item. If you are unsure and are concerned about damaging your clothing, do a test patch somewhere inconspicuous.

For mold stains on clothing, a paste made from baking soda, salt, and vinegar will be powerful enough to remove most stains and get deep into the fabric. Mix three parts of baking powder with one part white vinegar and one part salt. This should create a thick paste. If the paste is too dry, you can add more vinegar until it can be spread.

Take some of the paste and place it on the affected area. Gently scrub the stain spot with a soft-bristled brush (like an old toothbrush). The salt and baking soda work as an abrasive to help the vinegar work deep into the stain and lift it.

Scrape off any paste residue and allow to dry. If needed, the area can be dabbed clean with a sponge and water, but be careful to make sure it is fully dry before returning to the closet. Any smell of vinegar should disappear within a few days.


The key takeaways from today’s article are that in most cases, sending your clothes to the dry cleaners will kill most mold spores.

Remember that if your clothes have been cleaned, but you put them back into the same closet where the mold was initially formed, it may well grow once again if the correct precautions (listed above) are not taken into consideration.

Chris Walker

Chris Walker has struggled for several years with mold after buying his own property. After finding the solutions to several issues around his home, he decided to create this site in order to answer as many questions about mold and mildew as possible to help others dealing with the same problems.

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