Mildew odors can be removed from clothing by machine washing the garments with vinegar in place of regular laundry detergent. Mildew odors can also be eliminated by machine washing clothes with regular laundry detergent and adding a cup of vinegar to the final rinse cycle. For stronger odors, the amount of vinegar can be increased by 1/2 cup.
Machine washing garments in the hottest water possible with 2 cups of sudsy ammonia can also help to eliminate musty mildew odors. No detergent is necessary when using this method, as ammonia naturally cuts through grease and oil. Clothing should be rinsed twice regardless of the procedure used. If mildew stains persist or return following treatment, it is best to discard the items, as mildew can cause health problems such as allergies and skin irritation.
Mildew can develop in area where excess moisture and poor ventilation are present, such as basements, closets and clothes hampers. It can be prevented by proper laundry storage along with prompt washing and drying of dirty, damp clothes. Moth balls placed in garment bags or sealed trunks can minimize mildew growth on clothes, but it is important that the clothing is clean and dry prior to storage.