removing black mold from shower curtain

parrot_phanApril 17, 2008

I got a new polyester curtain from Linens & Things about four months ago.

I notice last weekend that that reddish algae -- or whatever that reddish gunk is -- had started to colonize the area around the hem. I took it down to wash it and discovered a small patch of black mold (ick!) as well.

I sprayed the hem with Zout (I figured the extra surfactants would help loosen the gunk), set the Miele to 180 degrees F, and washed on the long Cotton cycle in Mexican-made Ariel OxyAzul. I hesitated to crank the machine's temperature to its highest setting for fear it would melt the plastic suction cups sewn into the side of the curtain.

The curtain is sparkly white, reddish stuff is definitely gone, but the black mold stain remains. Is the stain there permanently? And did the 180 degree bath in the detergent likely kill everything?

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I suggest you cut off the hem (or at least open it and re-hem so that the hem folds up towards the outside, not the inside) and remove the suction cups so the curtain hangs more freely and perhaps with a little less contact to the tub sides. This will help avoid the problem in the future.

But you didn't ask that!

I think 180F will probably kill whatever is on the curtain, now, but it will be re-infested as soon as you start using it again. That red fungi is particularly insidious and it loves the fats in soaps and body oils. If the curtain is really pretty, perhaps you can get a vinyl liner and use that inside while keeping the one you just washed outside the tub. If you do this, cut off the hem on the vinyl liner and the magnets, if any. This will remove a potential growth site for the moldiness; plus shorten the vinyl liner a bit to get it away from the floor of the tub and keep it from sticking too tightly. And spring for the heavy duty vinyl liner if you go that route. The cheap ones tear out right away.

That being said, I still get the red stuff on my liners in the summer (too cold here in the winter). So I wash the vinyl liners in the Miele at the highest setting along with a few old towels to give it a good scrubbing at the same time. If it's really bad, I'll give it a scrubbing before sticking it in the machine to loosen up the accretions. Then I hang it out in the sun. Don't machine dry the vinyl liners. If you don't have an outdoor line, just re-install it and set a chair in the tub to hold it away from the side of the tub until it's throughly dry.

Now as to the black spots: I'm afraid they may be permanent (don't worry you didn't set them). Mildew is the very devil to remove, but you can try (assuming you're willing to risk a little color damage) one of the proprietary anti-mildew products sold for cleaning bathrooms. They are pretty fierce, and mostly sodium hypochlorite bleach - Clorox - and they may fade the dark stains somewhat, or even remove them altogether if you are succesful. BUt it's at the risk of fading the color, so of course, test first in a hidden place (like on the hem you cut off!) If color damage is a particular concern you could try straight hydrogen peroxide of the wound-cleaning strength (I think that's 3%, but it may be 5%). Slightly stronger Hydrogen peroxide used for bleaching hair (get at Sally's Beauty Shop) might also work, but at that point you'd begin to risk color damage. A day in strong sunshine would be another, relatively safe, thing to try as would lemon juice. In my experience, you will work your way up to the use-Clorox-or-not dilemma with mildew stains. But it wouldn't hurt to start out gently and see if you'll get lucky. Rinse throughly between testing the various potions, of course.



    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 11:34PM
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I have a white poly curtain/liner in my bath, and I have the same problems with the pink mold. Even washing it through a cycle doesn't always get it white again, so what I do now is soak it in a bucket of Oxy Clean overnight. Came out perfectly white. I don't know if it works on black mold, however.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 1:10AM
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If it is a pure white I would try using a Clorox bleach pen on the mold stain. .Debbie

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 10:06AM
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They sell shower curtains that won't mildew.. about $14 - $20

    Bookmark   April 19, 2008 at 1:24AM
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Molly -- you are SO right about the direction the hem faces. What an easy way to cut down on places for microbe colonies to grow. Thanks for that and all your other sensible suggestions.

My curtain is white, and I may try the old Tilex on it. I definitely try to dry it in the sun -- Mom always said sunlight was a great disinfectant. Chlorox pen and soaking in good old OxyClean are also great ideas.

Regus -- I thought this was a non-mildew curtain, but I guess it was just a mildew "resistant" one (not mildew proof). Are the ones you suggest plastic or fabric?

Thanks so much, everyone!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2008 at 7:23PM
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I just went through that! (as we speak actually) I have an over sized white fabric hotel style shower curtain that wraps around the front and back side of the tub. Once a week I put it through the wash. Then I noticed at the bottom hem area and corner,( just a small area) it had black and pink spots.

Yesterday I filled a bucket with full strength Charlies soap all purpose cleaner, borax, and charlies soap detergent, added very hot water and soaked it over night..I did take it out a few times, and scrubbed that area with a grout brush, put it back in to soak. This morning I took it out, it lightened up, but was still there.. I am desperate, I called my neighbor and asked her for bleach (gasp) (I don't use chemicals..) she didn't have any either, but brought over soft scrub ... well..I poured it on the spots, scrubed again with the brush, let it sit..and it was completely gone!!!! I washed it all out in the sink and put it in the wash..brand new and white as can be... I think the soaking over night really helped, but the soft scrub finished the job... I am so happy I got it out, it was expensive and wasn't looking forward to buying a new one... give this a really worked..

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 9:46AM
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The one we have was more like a fabric, although after about 2 - 3 years, now, it's getting stiff and there is some mold...
time for a new one...

..may depend on your water, well water, city water, clorinated, ect. We have city water.
Bought locally at LNT.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 10:33PM
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Bleach would have worked the first time had you added it to the wash. One cup per load for a TL and no mold/mildew would have remained.

By the way, my softscrub contains BLEACH.

Bleach is our friend!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2008 at 4:59PM
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yes..the soft scrub I used was with bleach, something I do not use. it's truly not everyone's friend~
my alternative is nature bright, unfortunately, I had run out..

    Bookmark   April 23, 2008 at 10:42AM
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I am definitely looking for ways to prevent mold in the first place if possible, and hopefully without using lots of chemicals.

The shower hook things sound interesting... I did check out their website and found some green cleaning tips, but I want a good honest review if the product works or not before I buy it. Anybody out there tried them yet? Is it worth it and do they actually work.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 12:40AM
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