Mildew is a form of mold, a fungus that can produce mild allergic reactions or severe health problems, depending on the extent of exposure. Symptoms include throat and nose irritation, red or watery eyes, sneezing, and headaches. Mildew feeds on organic matter (this includes cotton, leather, and silk garments, as well as food stains on garments) and grows in damp, warm places. It can develop on wet garments whether they are clean or dirty. Even the small amount of moisture from perspiration can be enough to grow mildew if the garment is not aired out and washed.
To prevent mildew, make sure garments are completely dry before putting them away. Do not leave wet garments sitting in a pile. Mildew has an unpleasant, musty smell and appears as black dots on clothing. It is best to take very mildewed garments to a cleaner. More information on removing mildew stains can be found in our section on Water Damage.