Cleaning mould from curtains with several constraints
April 8, 2014 6:35 AM   Subscribe

I need to clean a bunch of white curtains with black mildew spots. They all have plastic rings sewed on for hanging and no tags to show what material they're made from, but they look like a cotton blend. I don't have a washing machine (I bring clothes to a laundrette) and have serious space limitations (no room to air dry, unless *absolutely* necessary). What is the best approach to cleaning these things? Will a dryer melt the plastic rings? Will a hot wash damage the curtains? Is dry cleaning an option? Thanks!
posted by hannahlambda to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I just heard Terry Gross interview Jolie Kerr and ask a similar question about mildew and towels. Kerr advocates vinegar and not too much detergent.

Here's another option.
posted by bunderful at 7:02 AM on April 8, 2014

I'd use an Oxy product in your bathtub with hot water. Just let them soak for awhile. See if that does anything for it.

Why not let them dry on the curtain rods?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:04 AM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ruthless Bunny: Good suggestion to let them dry on the curtain rods, but I need to wash them where I live which is 100km from the curtain rods. There's no option to do this in the place they "belong".

Also, I don't have a bathtub or big sink. I guess I'll buy a big plastic tub.
posted by hannahlambda at 7:11 AM on April 8, 2014

If you want to save the curtains (vs. throwing them out) I'd recommend a multi-step approach.

Spot treatment with white vinegar (I'd use a strong vinegar with 15 - 20 %, it's strong stuff, protect your skin and use gloves, don't breathe in the fumes) - vinegar kills ~90% of all kinds of mold. Make sure to get all the spores. You'll be able to rub off all the dark spots easily.

Once that is done, give it a warm soak, wash as best you can by hand with a little bit of detergent. By this point it should be clean. If there are still stains, try a bit of bleach in the water (test on small spot first).

Bring the wet curtains to a self-service laundromat and stick them in the dryer. If it'd make you feel better, wash them (they are clean now) in the machine there once more before drying.
posted by travelwithcats at 7:17 AM on April 8, 2014

Wash them in the washing machine at the launderette. Use a bunch of oxyclean or another peroxide-based cleaner, along with your detergent. In fact, maybe pre-treat the mildew spots with an oxyclean paste or with peroxide and let it sit for 24 hours. After they finish washing in the machine, they'll be damp, but not dripping. Bring them home and hang them on the curtain rod to dry.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:47 AM on April 8, 2014

Thanks for the tips everyone. If anyone's interested, I did an overnight soak in a strong solution of oxygen bleach, then a hot wash and a cool dry in the laundrette. Nothing melted and the overnight soak got rid of 80% of the damage, with the hot wash getting it to 90%. If I had it I would have also soaked for a while in chlorine bleach.
posted by hannahlambda at 7:52 AM on April 9, 2014

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