I am visiting my sister for a few weeks, and because I have started this blog and been experimenting with all of my anti-fungal solutions and potions, she had a few mold-related projects lined up for me to help her with. Oh, joy! I mean, I guess I should expect this kind of reception. Cleaning for mold has now morphed into my acknowledged “specialty,” even in my own family. I guess if that means I’m helping someone, I’ll take it!
One job she had lined up for me was to help her clean some linen curtain panels for mold. The back-story with the panels is as follows: My sister just moved into a new home 6 weeks ago. Many of the windows in her new home are double-height, and all of her window treatments had to be custom-made or altered to fit her windows. Unfortunately for my sister, and the health of her home, the woman she hired to alter her curtain panels lived in a moldy home. When my sister got the panels back, they were basically contaminated with mold. You could smell the moldy smell on them. It was bad and stinky. Her home is clean and beautiful. It wasn’t going to fly.
My sister had tried steaming the panels. She steamed them with both distilled water, and then with distilled water and a small amount of the CitriDrops, but felt that she was still not able to totally eliminate moldy the smell. (I will say that the steamer she used was a clothing steamer that did not heat up to the same temperature as the handhelds I use and recommend in this blog.) When I arrived, she was ready for anything I suggested—she was desperate. I like desperate, because I know I have a willing helper.
First, I had to sniff these panels for myself. As I discussed in my Whys and Wherefores of Stinky Laundry post, I needed to make sure the smell was biological—bacteria, mold—and not chemical—something in the fabric itself, like chemicals or dyes causing the odor.
The sniff test confirmed to me that the smell was mildew. We definitely needed to kill the bacteria and mold that had gotten onto the panels. Then, the smell should be gone. You cannot just clean mold from fabric. You have to kill it, so that the smell will go away. I even thought we may need to further deodorize the panels after killing the mold, since we wouldn’t be actually washing them. The panels are labeled “dry clean only,” but dry cleaning has its own set of problems with chemical off-gassing that is toxic and can accumulate in the body. We definitely didn’t need that new set of problems.
Now, I developed my plan. This was actually going to be a simple one. Before we began, we checked the weather. Seeing as it is now mid-June, and my sister lives in Tennessee, temperatures have been getting as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the sun. That sunshine and heat was going to work for us. As long as there wasn’t any rain on the forecast, we were going to proceed with my cleaning plan, and use the hot, hot sunshine and UV rays to dry the panels, further killing the mold and eliminating the odor naturally and effectively. But, I’m moving too quickly. Here’s the breakdown:
- EC3 Mold Solution Spray (this is my preferred mold-killing agent and what I used for the panels, because any homemade solution doesn’t have evidence of killing mold or bacteria at the same levels as the EC3 products), OR a 32 oz. bottle filled with distilled water, 1/3 cup rubbing alcohol and 1tsp. grapefruit seed extract. (In this story, I am advising you to use the alcohol, rather than another agent, mainly because it is quick-drying, and less likely to damage your fabric, much like a dry cleaning solution. You must, must include the grapefruit seed extract with this mixture, though, because it acts as the mold-killing agent. The alcohol is a solvent and will kill bacteria, but not mold spores.)
- Liquid dish soap (I use Dawn.)
- Small brush, safe to use on upholstery
- Baking soda
- Nice, clean place in the sun to place or hang the linen panels to dry
- Handheld vacuum with upholstery attachment
- Stand on a ladder or stool to reach top of panels, and moving section-by-section, mist the panels with the EC3 spray or your alcohol solution. Be certain that you cover every inch. You need to do this to both the front and back of the panels. It is time consuming, but imperative. The solution is the workhorse and will kill the mold and bacteria causing the smell.
- Once panels are fully misted, remove them from their hanging position, and carefully take them outside to the area you have selected and prepared for them.
- Now, carefully look them over for any spots where the mold or mildew may have created black spots or discoloration. My sister’s panels did not have any visible mold or mildew. If you do, mix a pea-size amount of dish soap with water and dab the areas with it. Use your brush to work on those spots gently, brushing them until they are gone. This is important to do outside, because you are aggravating the mold spores, and don’t want to release them into your home.
- Lay the panels out to dry and “cure” in the sunshine. We left my sister’s out for about 5 hours. Just make sure it is not going to rain, because introducing water will create a whole host of problems and possibly mildew that you do NOT want to deal with. The heat of the sun and the UV rays both work to kill mold.
- When we had about an hour left of sun time, we sprinkled dry baking soda over each panel, using our hands and our soft brush to spread it over all of the material. Then, we allowed the baking soda to sit for the final hour to further deodorize the linen.
- Before bringing the panels inside, we shook all of the baking soda off vigorously.
- We brought them inside, hung them, and then used my sister’s handheld vacuum to carefully vacuum and suck any remaining baking soda and mold spores off of the panels.
- Once we completed vacuuming the panels, we fluffed them a bit and admired our handiwork.
The panels now smell fresh, clean and like sunshine—another benefit to drying them outside. Also, my sister didn’t have any on hand, but if you prefer a little fragrance for your linens, adding a few drops of lemon, lavender, or jasmine essential oil to either spray solution will give them a beautiful, subtle scent.
I hope this technique comes in handy for you one day soon. The summer is the best time for “sunshine” curing linens and fabrics. Just make sure to check the weather first. Happy cleaning!!!