If the only thing standing between you and a clean house is an unpleasant musty odor wafting from your curtains, you're not alone. This problem vexes many homeowners, and mold and mildew frequently are the causes. Curtains breed and trap fungi, which thrive on humidity, darkness and stagnant air. Removing the musty smell from curtains -- and the mold and mildew along with it -- promotes a healthier environment.
Bust That Dust
Schedule curtain vacuuming for a temperate day in spring or summer when you can open windows, as vacuuming inside stirs up potentially toxic dust and releases it into your home. Dispose of the vacuum bag afterward as mildew spores spread quickly. For an extra burst of clean, sprinkle baking soda over the fabric first, leave it on for several hours -- overnight is ideal -- and vacuum it in the morning. If the scent persists, repeat the process.
Many curtains can be thrown in the washing machine. Consult the manufacturer's tag for cleaning instructions. If your curtains are machine washable, do not use hot water, extra-strength stain removers and chlorine as these products can break down delicate fibers and lead to excess wear and tear. Never put curtains in the dryer; hang them to dry in a warm, clean place. Dry-clean-only instructions should be followed. Inform your dry cleaner about the problem as dealing with mildew stains may involve additional treatments.
Bigger mold and mildew problems require more vigorous efforts. Generously pour lemon juice over the fabric, letting it completely soak in. Cover the fabric with a thick layer of salt, allowing it to set for 15 minutes. Gently scrub the area with a soft cloth, rinse thoroughly, and return the curtain to the washing machine before hanging it to dry. It is critical the lemon juice be completely removed to avoid causing a new stain.
While many homeowners have success with treating the problem of a moldy smell on curtains through some or all of the recommended treatments, preventing mold and mildew from re-forming is the most effective measure. Fungi thrive in dark, moist places. Freshen up the room by opening windows and letting the sun in. Not only does this create a fresh breeze but the circulating air combats mold and mildew.