Clothes, if left wet or damp for long periods of time, may develop mildew, a mold fungus that grows on wet surfaces. You can safely destroy the mildew using household ammonia, as long as you apply it correctly. Ammonia is not just a powerful cleaning solution; it also has fungicidal properties and can kill mildew on fabrics.
Before applying ammonia to mildewed clothes, you should first dry the affected garments completely. This rule of thumb applies to all mold removal efforts, because moisture removal neutralizes the spores and stops them from multiplying. For best results, hang dry your clothes in the sunlight. If you cannot use sunlight, use an alternative source of heat, like a hair dryer. Avoid using a clothes dryer, because you may spread the spores within the dryer and cause them to redistribute to other clothes at a later time.
Diluting Your Ammonia
When applying ammonia to clothing, you should always dilute it with an equal amount of water. In other words, you might mix 1 cup of ammonia with 1 cup of water, or 1 qt. of ammonia with 1 qt. of water. This is especially important if removing mildew from wool, silk or spandex. While other materials, like cotton, may withstand the effects of full-strength ammonia, materials like wool and silk may become permanently damaged. As a precaution, you should always dilute your ammonia.
Applying the Ammonia
Do not soak your fabric in the ammonia solution, but use the ammonia sparingly. Apply your diluted ammonia mix to a soft cloth or sponge and squeeze it out to remove the excess liquid. Using your damp sponge, dab any areas of the fabric affected by mildew. Allow the ammonia to penetrate the fabric for about 10 to 15 minutes, because total disinfection does not occur immediately.
After applying the ammonia to the mildew, you can place the affected garments in a washing machine and launder them as you normally would, using your preferred laundry detergent. Alternatively, you can rinse the ammonia in your sink and dry the garments a second time, using sunlight or an alternative heat source -- this time, you may use your dryer, since you have disinfected the garments. If you choose to put your garments in a washing machine, do not add bleach. It may react with any remaining traces of ammonia and create toxic fumes.