Foul, musty, earthy odor. These are signs of mold or fungal growth or mildew not just on clothes but also walls, carpets, furniture, and interiors of houses which have been kept damp and lacked good air circulation. In the Philippines, they call this odor as “kulob”. Unfortunately, even clothes that have gone through commercial laundry wash and dry can be victims of microorganism growth especially during rainy season, especially if we don’t understand the #ScienceOfCleaning. There are extra steps that need to be taken to preventing malodor.

But first… what causes this odor?

Molds, which are a group of fungi, are sources of this strong musty odor. Mold growth occurs on organic matter and are contribute to the decay of matter and soil enrichment. Inside your home, they grow on materials from your clothes to leather, on walls and ceilings. They reproduce via spores, floating in the air until they land on a wet surface where they can grow.

On the other hand, mildew generally refers to mold growth at an early stage. They appear as white threadlike hyphae, sometimes black growth of molds.

Here are some of the causes of their growth:

  • Dark places
  • Moist or damp items
  • Poor ventilation
  • Humid conditions

Both molds and mildew cause damage to your possessions as they consume organic material. They can discolor and even break the fabric. The worst case is when these organisms attack the fibers of the fabric, causing black stains that are difficult to remove and eventually lead to damage on your clothes and linen.

If left unaddressed, mold growth can lead to health issues for your family including allergic reactions (dermatitis, sneezing, and runny nose).

Preventing molds and mildew

Mold on linen. Photo: Shutterstock

“The key to mold control is moisture control,” according to the US Environment Protection Agency, which says molds occur within 24-48 hours after a material has been wet.

Ask yourself: Aside from the wash process, where else can moisture occur?

  • Soiled items

Moisture occurs when your customer piles up their damp clothes into a bag and you are unable to wash them immediately. You must hang soiled items to prevent mildew

  • Fabric softener / fabric conditioner

I have always taught my students that fabric conditioners are not always necessary.

It is only recommended during two scenarios. First, use it if you have clothes and linens that you want to stay soft and fluffy (like terries such as towels). Second, use it if you want your clothes to dry faster.

  • Rinse

It is also possible that insufficient rinsing leads to mold growth. You must stick with the standard rinse and avoid taking shortcuts whether it’s the dry or wet season.

  • Water condensation
Translation: Help. What is the cause of the musty smell on my client’s clothes? After 3-5 days, I received a complaint from the client. Our detergent and fab-con are Downy. Source: Facebook (Identity blurred/removed for privacy reasons)

I recently saw this problem posted on a Facebook group. One possible cause of the mildew is the handling post-drying. The handler must have bagged the clean clothes in plastic while they were still warm. Fluctuations in temperature and humidity cause moisture condensation – a similar concept to why your windows and bathroom mirrors fog.

After drying, you must let your clothes and linens cool down first before bagging in a plastic. Check if they have also dried completely. In DIY laundry shops, customers miss checking if parts of their clothes are still damp. Molds occur and spread inside the cabinet without them knowing.

  • Disinfectant

Finally, if you cannot dry the washed garments immediately, put disinfectant to prevent mold growth and hang them.

How do you fix mildew?

The only solution to a linen or clothing where mold has grown is rewash. All moist and damp items, whether soiled or clean, require good air ventilation.

Event Alert: If you want to find out more about the science and business of laundry, Is It Clean? is organizing the 3rd Laundry Masterclass on October 9, 2-5pm (Manila time). Register here today

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