closet mold and moldy clothes
Identifying Mold | Maintenance | Moisture Problems

Closet Mold, Moldy Clothes

Cesar Collado
February 22, 2023

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Closet Mold Can Follow You Everywhere

Closet mold occurs more often than people believe. The primary reason is that many closets often do not have ventilation or duct access. Clothing such as coats, jackets, and shoes, are directly exposed to the environment. When worn and hung without washing, mold spores are stowaways into any closet. Closets are a place where moisture and organic materials, such as textiles, wood, drywall, or paper are present together. The warm and moist environment within a closet can create the ideal conditions for mold to grow. Moisture is sometimes physically introduced when hanging wet garments or storing wet shoes.

Closets are rarely checked for mold. If left unchecked, mold can cause structural damage, decay clothing, create unpleasant odors, and potentially lead to health problems.

closet mold and moldy clothes

How To Inspections for Closet Mold

Musty smells are the most common indicator. Trust your nose. Investigate the walls and corners behind clothing for visual mold, moisture, and discoloration. Pay special attention to closets that share a wall with a bathroom or external wall. You can pay attention to any temperature differential between the closet and the rest of the homes by simply feeling it. A flashlight is often helpful as closet lighting is often insufficient. A moisture reader can help you with precise moisture measurement.

DIY Mold Testing

In the event you believe there is mold in your closet, you can order an ImmunoLytics Test Kit to test multiple spots in the closet. It is important to test visual mold on walls with a swab. It is also helpful to test carpeting in the closet for mold with a tap test. Mold that reproduces on the paper backing of drywall commonly hosts multiple mycotoxin producing molds.

Immunolytics Mold Test Kit

Closet Ventilation and Moldy Clothes

Closets are not typically vented in residential or commercial buildings. When a home is exposed to damp or humid conditions, an interior closet can absorb and maintain or insulate moisture. Many humid geographies are conducive to these conditions.

In addition, most builder floorplans do not have duct ventilation throughout every room. Most building contractors will not take the time or expense to add air registers or exhaust fans to small unventilated spaces in the finished home. Closets and pantries are often not ventilated. 

Mold Causes: Condensation in Closets 

This occurs when the closet is part of the exterior of the home. An example of mold occurring in an unventilated closet during winter is that of a closet on an exterior wall. The heat loss can be significant, and the closet will be colder than the bedroom it is attached to. If the air pressure in the bedroom is the same as the air pressure in the closet (which it typically is), and the closet is colder, then the relative humidity in the closet will be higher than the relative humidity in the bedroom. Controlled ventilation (air exchange) in the house will often reduce the relative humidity in the house, unless the humidity outside is exceptionally high. In this case, a dehumidifier is necessary.

closet mold and moldy clothes

Adding Humidity to Home

Humidity is often elevated due to the following:

  • High moisture levels can be generated within the closet or in a room nearby. It is not uncommon for the placement of clothes washers and dryers in, or adjacent to the closet. Dryers generate significant humidity.  
  • Humidifiers can also be considered problematic. Some people like to add humidity to the HVAC system or home for the dry winter months. While this may seem practical for health reasons, humidifiers have severe consequences in mold reproduction and distribution if not properly maintained.
  • Shower steam exposure to closets is not uncommon. Any added humidity that reaches closets can become problematic by promoting mold growth.

mold laundry additive cleaning moldy clothes

DIY Mold Suggestions

  1. Wash all washable clothes in the closet. 
  1. Remove the closet door. I removed both of my closet doors as I viewed them as space wasters. This allows for some air exchange and ventilation.
  1. Replacing the door with a door with louvers. This will not eliminate moisture issues; however, it will mitigate severe moisture with added ventilation.

  2. Add a closet exhaust or air register to the duct system to ventilate the closet. An exhaust system, like bathroom exhaust systems, is the most cost efficient. Adding a register would require an HVAC professional to collectively address the moisture in the closet as it relates to the entire home ventilation. This will likely be costly.

What to Do When You Identify Closet Mold

  1. Everything must be washed or cleaned!  Coats can be sent to dry cleaners and other clothing can be laundered using Remedy Laundry Liquid Detergent. The exception being that if mold is growing on fabric, it should be disposed of.
  1. Shoes (including leather) should be examined closely. Testing for mold species is not necessary. Any mold or dust should be cleaned using a nontoxic cleaning solutions such as Remedy Multipurpose Treatment Spray and a microfiber cloth to wipe down.
  1. Closet Fogging – Because we have so many clothes including seasonal, keepsakes, and outfits for special occasions, washing machine and dry-cleaning solutions may not be practical. An optimal solution is to fog the entire closet with the Haven Fog Mini Kit. Filling the air volume of the room will expose all clothing to the non-toxic, botanical fog. Overfilling the space will help the fog to penetrate clothing that is hanging on shelves and even shoes. Once the closet is filled. Close the door and let the fog set for 24 hours. Read more about fogging HERE.
  1. After fogging, small particulate clean-up is recommended. This includes HEPA Vacuuming and wiping down surfaces to collect mold debris. Detailed small particulate clean up instructions can be found HERE.