cleaning mold on canvas material

How to Clean Mold From Canvas Tents

Mold and mildew thrive in moist conditions. That means musty-smelling growth can be found just as easily on damp clothing as it can on carpets and upholstered furniture. (Ew!)

To help avoid this situation, TODAY Home asked some cleaning pros the best way to manage mold.

Here’s how to remove mold and mildew from …

Remove mold & mildew from your fabric with a mild detergent, Iosso Mold & Mildew Cleaner or bleach


In a perfect world, it would be best to prevent mold and mildew from growing altogether. While prevention isn’t foolproof, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the risk of mold and mildew growing on your fabric in the first place. First, cleaning your fabric regularly will keep dirt and other contaminants from forming a home inside the fibers of your fabric. It’s also best practice to let canvas covers and other fabric pieces dry thoroughly before being put in storage. Packing away damp fabric invites mold and mildew to grow. Additionally, any fabric pieces that don’t need to be left out in the elements, like patio cushions, can be packed away when not in use to reduce exposure to moisture.

However, if you do find mold or mildew growing on your fabric, it’s best to address it as soon as possible. To do this, we suggest trying a stepped approach to cleaning, starting with a gentle cleaning first and gradually working up to more intense cleaners if necessary. As you work through the cleaning process, remember to always use soft bristled brushes when cleaning your fabric to avoid unnecessary abrasion. We also don’t recommend using a power sprayer at any phase of cleaning.

Try First: Soap & Water

Woolite is a good, mild detergent to try cleaning outdoor fabrics with

The first step is to try giving the fabric piece a thorough washing, using a mild detergent (like Woolite or Ivory Snow) and fresh water. Some cushion cover fabrics could even be machine-washed at this point. For mild cases of mold or mildew, this basic cleaning should clear up the offending fungus. If the mold and mildew persist, you’ll need to move on to using a more powerful soap.

Try Next: Iosso® Mold & Mildew Stain Remover

Iosso Mold & Mildew Stain Remover can be used to clean outdoor fabrics

For this second step, we recommend using a mold and mildew removing cleaner like Iosso Mold & Mildew Stain Remover. Mix this concentrated powder with water to clean vinyl, canvas and sails plus plastic, wood, carpeting, fiberglass and painted surfaces. Free of bleach and chlorine, Mold & Mildew Stain Remover is safe on colorful fabrics as well as sewn seams, zippers and hook and loop fasteners.

To use this Iosso cleaner, mix one scoop of powder for every quart of water. The mixture will turn blue at first. Stir until the color disappears. Wet down your fabric with water first, then apply the solution to the fabric using a sponge, soft brush or gentle sprayer. Let the mixture stand on the fabric for at least 15 minutes. Agitate the solution on the fabric with a soft bristled brush or sponge before rinsing with fresh water.

Try Last: Bleach Solution

If your fabrics are rated for it, bleach will remove all mold and mildew

If you have a really stubborn mold or mildew growth you can clean your fabric with a bleach and water solution. Before using bleach, there are a few considerations to make. First, your fabric must be rated to handle a bleach cleaning. Fabrics sold by Sailrite® will specify if they are okay to be cleaned with bleach on their product pages. Sunbrella®, Bella-Dura® and Phifertex® are all examples of fabrics that can stand up to bleach.

Once you’ve determined that your fabric is bleach cleanable, think about the thread and accessories on your cushion or canvas cover — can they be bleached? This makes a difference because bleach will damage the integrity of polyester thread, for example. In general, careful spot cleaning with bleach can be used on fabrics sewn with polyester thread, but a full soaking in a bleach solution should only be done on canvas that has been sewn with a PTFE or lifetime thread, which won’t be affected by bleach. Similarly, zippers, hook and loop, and clear vinyl can all be damaged by bleach so care should be taken if any of these elements are present on your cover.

When you’re ready to start your bleach cleaning, be sure to follow the fabric manufacturer’s recommendations for the concentration of bleach that’s acceptable for your particular fabric.

We hope that using this stepped approach to cleaning your mold and mildew will help you solve the problem with the least amount of hassle. Get more fabric care and cleaning tips in our guides, right here at Sailrite.

Do you have a go-to way of cleaning mold and mildew from fabric? Share it with us in the comments below.

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