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How to Prevent Mold Growth in Closets

How to Prevent Mold Growth in Closets

Mold thrives in dark, damp spaces so it’s not surprising that it tends to grow in closets – usually hidden behind clothes where you can’t see it spreading. The spores love to feast on fabric and the dirt embedded in your soiled clothes and shoes. 

Fortunately, there are some simple steps that you can take to prevent mold from taking hold in your custom closets

  • Eliminate Moisture
  • Keep It Clean
  • Air It Out
  • Trust Your Nose
  • Use Green Cleaners

Keep reading for expert tips and tricks on how to make sure your closets remain mold-free.

Eliminate Moisture

Mold can’t grow without moisture. In addition to being dark, enclosed spaces, closets tend to have high humidity because of their close proximity to the bathroom. Between the post-shower steaminess and the possibility of a plumbing leak, the humidity level can quickly creep up inside of a closet. Another common culprit is mold migrating from the attic or crawlspace (or basement), two other spaces prone to high humidity levels.

According to HVAC.com, you want to maintain a moderate humidity level – generally 30-50% – in your home. Too low and it could create a host of health issues such as worsening allergy and asthma symptoms and causing chapped lips and dry skin. On the flip side, if the humidity level is too high then mold, mildew, bacteria, and viruses will grow, in addition to making your home feel muggy.  

NOTE: In particularly cold climates – like here in Minnesota – indoor humidity levels should stay below 30% during the winter months and under 20% when the temperature dips below zero.

Dehumidifiers and desiccants (moisture-absorbing products) are inexpensive ways to reduce or eliminate moisture in your closets. Silica gel is a popular option. You’re probably already familiar with this substance because manufacturers often put tiny packs of it inside shoe boxes, suitcases, and purses. You can collect these packets and scatter them inside your closets. 

Baking soda is another common household item that can help eliminate moisture in many areas. All you need to do is fill a few small plates or shallow bowls with baking soda or, if you don’t want to run the risk of a spill, simply fill a few breathable fabric bags with it. Not only will baking soda help control dampness, but it also eliminates any and all foul odors as well.


Keep It Clean

Mold is a living organism and just like you, it needs food for fuel. Mold especially loves dirt and shed skin cells in fabric fibers. So, it is super important that you always wash and dry your clothes before putting them away. Ideally, you should keep your laundry hamper in another location – like the laundry room or bathroom. And, after exercising, be sure to let your workout clothes air out and dry completely before tossing them into the hamper. The moisture in sweaty clothes can speed up mold growth.

In addition to making sure the clothes in your closet are clean, you want to ensure the closet itself is tidy. The best way to do this is with a periodic deep clean. Remove everything, dust any shelves or cabinets, vacuum or sweep the floor, and let your closet air out for a few hours.  While you are waiting, why not go through your clothes and get rid of the stuff you no longer wear or that no longer fits? If it’s in good condition, consider taking it to a consignment shop – maybe you can make a few bucks – or donating it to a charitable organization.  

Air It Out

To help prevent mold growth in your closets, you’ll want to provide plenty of airflow. Start by making sure your clothes aren’t crammed together. Be sure to spread out the hangers, allowing air to circulate. Speaking of hanging clothes, always remove the plastic dry cleaning bags before you put your clothes away. This will ensure that the bags don’t trap humidity, which can cause mold to grow. 

For the same reason, you should keep your closet floors clear. You don’t want to leave shoe boxes or other storage bins on the floor where moisture can get trapped underneath. Plus, if you have any sort of leak, mold and mildew can grow without you noticing if the floor is covered.

It’s also generally a good idea to leave the door open a crack to allow for maximum airflow. But, if your closet is adjacent to the bathroom, you should keep it closed, especially when taking a steamy shower. Another easy tip is to leave the light on. The warmth from a low-wattage bulb can help eliminate the moisture needed to grow mold. Just be sure to keep the light bulb away from fabric.

Clothes Hangers

Trust Your Nose

One of the first signs of mold is that tell-tale musty scent. If you smell something funky, search around for the source. Mold tends to grow in the dark recesses of a closet, so be sure to look behind clothes, in the corners, and under shelves.

Use Green Cleaners

If you do discover mold, you will want to get rid of it as quickly as you can because mold spreads rapidly. For severe infestations, you should contact a mold remediation specialist, but for small patches, you can easily clean them yourself without using harsh chemicals. 

There are plenty of “green” cleaners that can be used to treat mold, the most common being white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. One of the easiest ways to get rid of mold is to fill a spray bottle with undiluted white vinegar and thoroughly wet the moldy spot. Let it soak in for about an hour, then wipe the area down with water and allow it to dry. The vinegar scent should dissipate after a few hours. 

Another option is to use hydrogen peroxide, but you’ll want to do a test patch first to make sure it doesn’t discolor or damage your cabinetry. Just like the vinegar treatment, you will need to use a spray bottle to cover the mold, but only leave the peroxide on for about ten minutes. You may need to scrub a bit to remove the mold stain. Then, just wipe the area clean.  

Not only can baking soda help prevent mold, but it can also be used to remove it as well. All you need to do is mix about a teaspoon of baking soda with water. Using a spray bottle, thoroughly douse the area and then use a scrub brush to get rid of the mold. Rinse the area with water and then respray the solution to keep the mold from coming back.

You can remove mold and freshen the scent in your closets by using lemons. The citric acid helps break down mold, making it easy to wipe away. Start by juicing three to five lemons and then pouring the fresh juice over the moldy patch. After five minutes, you can wipe it off using a wet rag.

Tea tree oil is another pleasant-smelling mold remover. You’ll need your spray bottle for this process. Add one teaspoon of the essential oil to one cup of water and shake vigorously. Spray the solution over the mold and let it sit for about an hour. Then wipe it down with a dry towel.


Mold likes to lurk in dark, dank spaces, so it’s not surprising that it often takes up residence in your closets. Fortunately, if you are proactive you can prevent mold and mildew from growing by keeping your closets clean and dry. And, if you do find evidence of mold, you can easily get rid of it without using toxic chemicals.