the complete guide on cleaning mold or mildew off your bathing suits_1

How To Clean Mold & Mildew Off Your Bathing Suits

Like any regular clothing, your wet swimwear is also prone to developing molds and mildew.

They are super gross, smelly, unhygienic, and harmful – not just for your garment, but for you too.

If not treated promptly, they can spread all over your swimwear in no time. And before you know it, your expensive bathing suit is nothing more than a dwelling house of molds.

Let’s talk about molds and mildew in swimwear – how to identify them, their causes, and of course, tips to prevent and get rid of them.

How to know if my swimsuits got mold or mildew?

Visually, molds and mildew are easy to identify.

They are a kind of fungus that breed in damp conditions with a lack of sunlight. If the same persists for 4-5 days in a row, specks of fuzz start appearing, which, within three weeks, germinate to full size.

what does mold and mildew look like (1)

So, if your swimsuit is not properly dry or tucked away in some corner that’s home to a similar humid condition, look for these three signs to check if it’s infested with molds/mildew;

Sign #1: Fuzzy patches

If there are blotches of fuzz on your swimsuit, it means it is moldy.

They can be green, white, or black. If they’re white or green, that means the mold is fresh and can be easily removed. [Source: Persil]

However, if they’re black or darker, the mold is mature and stubborn.

Sign #2: Musty smell

Moldy swimsuits emit a very pungent, unpleasant odor that’s woody and earthy. It’s similar to the smell of rotten wood or old clothes. This odor can be extremely tough to remove, especially if the mold has been there for some time. 

Sign #3: Prominent discoloration

Swimsuits infested with molds or mildew look washed out. They have faint white spots spread irregularly all over them. Moreover, this discoloration is prominent and mostly irreversible.

Can moldy swimsuits be washed?

It’s possible to wash a swimsuit that’s moldy and musty. However, it’s also likely that despite that, you are unable to restore it to its original, immaculate state. But that’s only if the molds are old and huge in size.

how do I wash moldy swimsuits(1)

If the molds on your swimsuit are fresh (green or white in color), they can be rinsed off very easily. 

The only catch? You need to be particularly careful with the washing process. There are two main reasons for that.

Firstly, a mold infestation already takes a toll on the fabric of the garment. It makes it weak and faded. So, if you go too harsh and use a lot of chemicals to wash them off, your swimsuit fabric will get more damaged.

Secondly, molds and mildew are extremely unhygienic. So, improper handling while washing can cause allergic reactions like cough, cold, and asthma. [EPA]

If you already have a mold allergy, there’s a high chance that its prolonged exposure adversely affects your health. 

Read also: 9 Things to Know about washing swimsuits >

How do I wash bathing suits with molds or mildew?

Generally, there are various ways to get rid of mold from clothes.

But when it comes to swimwear, you must be extra attentive so that no damage is caused. By following these steps, you can do exactly that;

Step 1:  Brush off the visible fuzz

First off, take a brush with soft bristles and clean away all the visible fuzz from your swimwear. [cleanipedia]

If the fabric is too delicate, use a paper towel instead.

This way, you can gently remove all the mold without chemical intervention and minimize the damage. 

Step 2: Spray vinegar 

Next up, it’s time to treat those discolored patches. 

Fill a spray bottle with equal proportions of white vinegar and water and spray it directly over the faded mold patches on your swimwear. 

Vinegar helps in retrieving and sealing the swimsuit’s color. Not to mention, it’s also an effective disinfectant with anti-bacterial properties. (Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information)

Step 3: Soak the swimwear

After the vinegar has dried, fill a bucket with cold water, add three tablespoons of vinegar, and soak your swimwear for 30 minutes.

You can also use lemon juice or baking soda as a substitute. 

If the stain/smell is too stubborn, go for borax or hydrogen peroxide. However, use these in smaller amounts and only on white-colored swimwear.

Step 4: Hand wash as usual

Once the soaking is done, rinse the swimwear with cold water and squeeze it gently.

Now, fill the bucket with water, add one tablespoon of shampoo, and let the treated garment sit in it for another 30 minutes. 

After that, lightly scrub the moldy patches with a gentle brush, and finally, wash your swimwear with cold, running water. 

Read also: How To Properly Hand Wash Your Bathing Suits >

Tip: add a teaspoon of disinfectant to the soapy mix for extra protection against molds/mildew.

Step 5: Dry your swimwear

Lastly, take a towel and lay your swimwear flat on it. Cover it up with another towel for 5-10 minutes and then remove it to let the garment air dry.

After the swimsuit has dried, expose it to direct sunlight for 5 minutes before finally storing it.

Why do bathing suits get moldy?

You can prevent molds and mildew from latching onto your favorite swimwear by following a few simple tips.

where do mold and mildew come from(1)

But first, let’s understand what causes them and what can possibly happen if you leave them untreated.

Molds and mildew propagate in wetness.

The only way they can grow on fabric (or even in your home) is if it’s wet or damp. (source: Persil)

So, if your bathing suit has got moldy, here are three possible reasons that might have caused it;

  • Your bathing suit is not dry: If you don’t thoroughly dry your bathing suit before putting it in the wardrobe, over time, the moisture trapped in its fibers will cause molds to grow. 
  • Your wardrobe is damp: Sometimes, even if you dry your bathing suit in the heat before storing it, there might be fuzzy molds on it the next time you take it out. That’s probably because your wardrobe is damp or there’s a lack of ventilation in it.
  • Your bathing suit is not clean: A filthy bathing suit invites mold and mildew growth on it. So, if you’re putting away one that’s unclean and untidy, full of oils and sunscreen, then it will eventually become a rearing ground for molds.

What happens if molds get on bathing suits

Mold getting on bathing suits is more than just a hygiene issue. 

what happens if mold or mildew get on bathing suits(1)

It’ll also do damage to your swimwear, as they are immensely detrimental. And if you leave your swimsuits untreated for a prolonged time period, molds end up causing;

  • Fabric damage: Molds and mildew cause havoc on the fabric of the swimwear. They weaken its fibers, leading to fabric loosening and thinning. 
  • Discoloration: Molds cause fabric discoloration. They make the swimwear look old and worn out, with bleached-out patches appearing on every contaminated area.
  • Gross stink: Swimwear infested with molds reek of a musty smell. It’s super strong, unbearable, and worst – really tough to do away with.
  • Allergy: Moldy swimwear causes various infections and allergies if they come in contact with the skin. For instance, yeast infections, eye infections, skin allergies, etc.

5 tips to prevent mold or mildew growth on bathing suits

Here are the tips to prevent molds and mildew on swimwear;

Tip #1. Wash your swimsuit before storing it

A swimsuit that’s clean will never attract mold or mildew. So before jamming it into your closet, wash and sanitize your used swimsuit. For extra safety, rinse it with a vinegar-water solution before finally drying and storing it.

Tip #2. Make sure your swimsuit is dry

The only thing molds need for sprouting is dampness.

To prevent that, make sure your swimsuit is dry to the last inch before putting it in the wardrobe.

If air drying doesn’t seem enough, use a hair dryer for 10 seconds to root out all the moisture.

Tip #3. Ventilate your wardrobe

Ventilation is essential to curb mold infestation. While there are various methods to do so, the most effective and inexpensive way is not to stuff up your wardrobe with too many clothes. (cdc)

Another easy way to ensure maximum ventilation in the wardrobe is by installing ventilation plates.

Tip #4. Take help from sunlight

We know – drying your wet swimsuit in direct sunlight is a bad idea. But every once in a while, take out your swimsuit from the closet and lay it flat in sunlight for 4-5 minutes. It keeps the garment fresh, removes odor, and ceases any type of mold or mildew growth.

Tip #5. Use wardrobe fresheners

Wardrobe fresheners come in handy when dealing with molds and mildew. They not only eliminate any foul smell but also keep mold infestation at bay by keeping your closet fresh. So, use them, especially if your wardrobe isn’t amply ventilated or it’s the monsoon season.

Luna Wilde covers the latest swimwear collections, designer collabs, tutorials and industry innovations. She brings over 5 years of digital journalism experience to crafting clever, conversational content about all swimwear-involved things.

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