Mold can grow on damp clothes and shoes thus causing damage to them. Clothes made from natural fibers such as cotton, linen, ramie, jute, rayon, wool and silk are more susceptible to microbial damage than those made from synthetic fibers. Mold on clothes produce enzymes that breakdown the cellulose or protein to compounds which the mold use as food. Compared to clothes made from plant fibers, those made of protein fibers (such as wool and silk) are less susceptible to attack but they are also damaged by molds capable of breaking down protein.
How to detect growth of mold on clothes
Often, the initial indication of a problem of mold on clothes is a characteristic musty odor in the closet. Careful examination of clothes may reveal stains with clearly visible pigmentations or visible mold growth. Also, observation under a microscope in a laboratory can reveal mold on clothes at the early stages of growth.
Mold on Clothes as A Health Hazard
One of the common questions we receive is whether mold on clothes is a health hazard and whether people should throw away their clothes if there was an outbreak of mold growth in their houses. In most instances it is not necessary to dispose of the clothes especially if the clothes show no visible mold growth and no musty or moldy odor is detected from the clothes. Mold on clothes may be in form of settled spores and these can easily be washed away during laundering. However, health risks must be considered whenever visible mold growth occurs on clothes. If the clothes have visible mold growth and appear to be damaged, the best thing would be to dispose them off. Such clothes should be handled with care since certain species of molds that attack clothes, such as species of Aspergillus, are opportunistic pathogens especially to people with weak immune system. Aspergillus fumigatus, for example, is a common cause of a respiratory problem called invasive aspergillosis. Some molds may not cause infections but can cause strong allergic reactions to sensitive individuals. There is also the risk of mycotoxin poisoning if the clothes are infested by toxigenic molds and are not effectively decontaminated before they are worn.
Badly infested clothes should be isolated by sealing them in polyethylene bags and disposing them immediately or sending them to trained professionals for decontamination.
How To Control Growth of Mold on Clothes
To control growth of mold on clothes we have to control the conditions that promote mold growth. This is by far the most effective method of preventing mold growth on any susceptible material including clothes. It is effective not only for the control of mold but also for control of other microorganisms and agents of damage such as insects. Clothes should be kept in a cool, dry environment with adequate ventilation. Relative humidity should be maintained below 65%. Use of dehumidifiers to reduce dampness is recommended. If the clothes are not frequently used, it is important to regularly check for mold infestation.
If you have a question regarding mold on clothes or any other question on mold or bacteria, please contact us at 905-290-9101 if calling from eastern Canada or 604-435-6555 if calling from western Canada.