My clothes are moldy.
September 6, 2006 12:54 PM   Subscribe

All my clothing that is stored in my closets or drawers ends up smelling moldy or actually growing mold. How can I prevent this? (more inside)

I live in an apartment in San Francisco. There is a signifcant amount of moisture in my bedroom and closet, which I assume comes from the daily condensation on the windows. I have a pot of damp-rid in the closet which helps, but the moldering of my clothes and stored items continues unabated. AND the mold sets off my allergies, so it's a double-whammy. Any ideas?
posted by gnutron to Home & Garden (23 answers total)
Buy a dehumidifier.
posted by crypticgeek at 12:57 PM on September 6, 2006

store stuff in plastic, airtight bins.
posted by sulaine at 12:59 PM on September 6, 2006

This might sound crazy, but I recently had a small bug problem in my dresser, and I stored all my clean clothes in gigantic Ziploc bags. It worked well. I just took out what I needed each morning and sealed them right back up. I'm sure Space Bags could do the same trick.
posted by Not in my backyard at 1:02 PM on September 6, 2006

You can also purchase moisture-absorbing bags of silica gel and put them in with your clothes.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:22 PM on September 6, 2006

you are cleaning these clothes, right?
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:26 PM on September 6, 2006

An air filter (device) might help your allergies, and (though I've not seen this discusses) maybe it could reduce the concentration of mold spores enough to make a difference.

Also, try more damp rid. Several little buckets.
posted by amtho at 1:33 PM on September 6, 2006

Dehumidifiers and damp-rid are definitely good ideas, but you may want to look for (or ask your landlord to look for)the actual source of the moisture. I've only visited San Francisco once, but I don't recall that it was particularly humid. Even then, adequate ventilation in the closet should be enough to prevent that degree of moisture buildup.

Without knowing anything more than what you've told us in your message, my guess is that there's some other source of moisture, other than the environment itself. Find and fix that, and your mold problem will go away.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:47 PM on September 6, 2006

Are you renting or have you purchased this place? I ask because this sounds like a serious problem and your purchase of damp rid suggests that you've got a big serious problem. There are a lot of kinds of mold that are not just bad for your allergies, but bad for even people who aren't allergic.

Your best bet is to document everything and send your landlord a letter if you are a renter, after checking into your tenant rights regarding mold. If you own the house/apartment, get it checked.

It's not even necessarily true that the removal of water source at this point will solve the mold problem. If it's bad enough, the spores are everywhere and it's doubtful (but not impossible) that you brought them in.
posted by bilabial at 1:57 PM on September 6, 2006

I've read the leaving a light on all the time in a closet can significantly decrease the mold growth in it. Probably a dehumidifier would be best if you have a real damp problem in general. Your landlord may be obliged to do something as well, depending on the cause of the dampness (or so I understand).
posted by advil at 1:58 PM on September 6, 2006

Friends who live in the Sunset (a very foggy area of SF) showed me that the closets in their old-ish house all have light bulbs in them. Keeping the closet lights on all the time raises the temperature inside the closets, thus decreasing the relative humidity. This keeps the mold at bay.

Deadmessenger and others, this problem happens in the fog belt because the fog brings a tremendous amount of moisture everywhere it blows. No other source of water is required.

On preview: like advil said.
posted by Quietgal at 1:59 PM on September 6, 2006

Are you sure they are completely dry when you put them away?

I know when I rush things out of the dryer (still sort of damp, but hot from the dryer so you can't always tell) and then get them out later, they really reek.

I agree with the light thing. Also dehumidifiers.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:15 PM on September 6, 2006

Response by poster: thanks for the responses. i'll try leaving the light on and placing more pots of damp-rid, and even consider purchasing a dehumidifier if things aren't improved. it's a big closet, so i think i should try to organize and store stuff better.

this is definitely something beyond unclean or wet clothes. the bedroom and closet windows are wet with condensation every morning. there is mold on the wooden window frames, venetian blinds, and furniture near the windows that requires regular cleaning. this is the only source of siginificant moisture i can see.

it's a rental - so while i could complain to the owner, it seems like it's just a result of environmental conditions and there's not much they could do. and while this situation isn't completely ruining my life, it's a serious annoyance.
posted by gnutron at 2:23 PM on September 6, 2006

there's also this recent question.
posted by knapah at 2:27 PM on September 6, 2006

Actually, not a recent question. About a year old. I just saw it recently. Damn me for not checking dates.
posted by knapah at 2:28 PM on September 6, 2006

My parents always put mothballs in with clothes when storing them away and they never got moldy or wet.

Of course, now I associate the smell of mothballs with my parents...
posted by badlydubbedboy at 3:21 PM on September 6, 2006

Buy a Dehumidifier and a Humidistat: I'm in Santa Cruz and I did that last week. $120 at Sears and $6 at OSH, respectively.

I think those Damp Rid buckets aren't much good for an ongoing problem. Once they're spent they actually fill up with water which itself molds. I had mine tucked into a drawer... bad mistake. Just made the problem worse, that did. Freaking gross, actually. They're not that cheap, so I would say that a small (35 pint) dehumidifier will do a better job for longer and at about the price of 6 mos. worth of silica or Damp Rid. If that stuff can even be sufficiently effective, which where we are, I just doubt.

My new dehumidifier was practically FULL after five hours. At 35 pints, I was mighty impressed. Plus - free distilled water! Noisier than a fan, less so than a dishwasher.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:30 PM on September 6, 2006

Storing clothes is a NIGHTMARE. Especially if you have a lot of them, most of which you don't wear, but cannot bear to part with because they are your thing (speaking for myself).

Something similar happened to mine, but with random bugs that apparently were supposed to be cupboard/carpet bugs, but which got lost in my closet while I was on a long hiatus from my house overseas (they apparently enjoy some clothing fabrics too). I actually found one on my carpet in my closet, put it in a bag, and then looked it up on a bug identifying website (actually exists!).

Upon further research, I learned I had to rewash everything to get rid of them, which is what I'm assuming you'll have to do with your clothes. And finally to get to the POINT of my story - make sure to quarantine everything you've rewashed or recleaned to ensure they don't get recontaminated. Bugs & mold spread like nothing else. A good way to do that is to by plastic bins and/or hanging wardrobe racks, which come relatively cheap and can be stored easily in pieces later.
posted by orangeshoe at 3:42 PM on September 6, 2006

by = buy
posted by orangeshoe at 3:43 PM on September 6, 2006

We had the mold problem in our closet, along with a few growing spots on the bedroom ceiling. The culprit is probably the ensuite bathroom, which doesn't vent the shower moisture very well. We ended up buying a dehumidifier out of the Trading Post (the Australian dead-tree version of Craig's List) and it's solved the problem completely. The damn thing fills up really quickly but we don't have any more mold. It also has a digital readout of the humidity level so we can tell what raises it. It turns out that running our clothes dryer (even though it's on the other side of the apartment) raises it quite a bit too.
posted by web-goddess at 5:39 PM on September 6, 2006

...the bedroom and closet windows are wet with condensation every morning. there is mold on the wooden window frames, venetian blinds, and furniture near the windows...

This is more than just mold on clothes. You WILL need the dehumidifier.

Have you tried putting heat-shrink plastic on the windows, and other weatherization techniques?

Your landlord could think that it's a problem too. The LL will have to rent to someone else after you leave, and it will be harder to do that if the walls and window frames are rotting due to moisture. And it will save on your electricity bill.
posted by cathoo at 7:26 PM on September 6, 2006

In the tropics, the standard solution is to place a heating unit inside the closet.
This is far more effective and efficient than a de-humidifier, which, as previously mentioned, tends to fill up or need to be replaced.
Where I lived, the humidity was so intense that any leather objects (shoes, purses etc) would be covered with a layer of white mould inside two weeks. A small heater inside the closet (not in contact with the contents, naturally!) solved this problem, no worries.

This solution extends to all sorts of mould issues - for instance, to prevent our matresses running, we kept electric blankets running all day between the matress and box spring.
posted by defcom1 at 8:48 PM on September 6, 2006

There are cat litters available made out of silica gel, which is good because you get a lot of silica gel for very cheap. Also, when silica gel is full, you can reactivate it by leaving it in a warm oven for a few hours. Try large cloth bags full of silica-gel cat litter in your clothes drawers.

And crack the window open a little when you sleep. A lot of that moisture will be coming out of you.
posted by flabdablet at 1:00 AM on September 7, 2006

When I lived in Taiwan as a kid (decades ago) all of the closets in our house had caged light fixtures in the floor that stayed on all the time to prevent mold. Even as I kid I could see having a hot bulb on the closet floor probably wasn't a great idea safety wise, but a decade or so later living in a basement apartment we had a serious mold problem so we bought one of those caged work lights (like this one), chose a place to hang it in the closet where it wouldn't ever come in contact with anything that could catch on fire, and left it plugged in all the time. The heat from the light bulb kept things drier, and the light inhibited mold growth. Plus, you could always find what you needed. If you do this, be careful, as it is still obviously a fire hazard. A light fixture installed in the closet would probably be a safer idea. (We also kept electric blankets on the beds turned on low all the time to keep the beds dry, too. )
posted by redheadeb at 8:00 PM on September 8, 2006

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