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What Causes Mold on Shoes & Clothing?

Mold growth on clothing is due to two possible sources: the item was stored while wet or the closet/room suffers from excess humidity.  If it’s the first scenario, the answer is straightforward.  Wash and/or dry damp clothing within 24 hours.  The second possibility, excess humidity, is trickier to solve.  Closets nearly always suffer from poor ventilation.  They lack a heat source and have no avenue for airflow.  In a modern, well insulated home with low overall humidity, this won’t present a problem.  However, if any of these elements are substandard, mold growth can occur.

Quick Tips:

Buy a relative humidity gauge and place it in your closet (or wherever you’re encountering issues).

Is the RH above 60%?  If so, you’ll want to take active steps to lower the humidity.  Relative humidity above 60% can lead to mold growth on clothing, shoes, furniture, etc.

Keep the door open

If possible, keep the closet door slightly open throughout the day.  this will allow the temperature and humidity levels in the closet to stabilize with the rest of the home.  If this isn’t a possibility, consider installing louvered doors on the closet.

Maintain air gap with exterior walls

In older homes with poorly insulated walls, it’s especially important to maintain an air gap between the wall and the contents.  This will substantially lower the odds of mold growth on the wall (and subsequently, on your clothes).

Mold growth on leather shoes

White mold growth on black leather shoe.

Mold growth on sandals

Surprisingly, mold can grow quite readily on synthetic surfaces such as rubber sandals and foam insoles.  As with other items, the key is moisture management.  Ensure all clothing items are fully dried before storage.

White mold growing on sandals

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Question:

I live in the lower ground appartnment of a 4 story building. The building is brand new, built in 2021. I have mould growing on the cardboard back of my mirror and all my suede shoes stored in my closet and is staring to affect my clothes. How do I stop this?

 

There are two potential culprits here:  excess humidity and/or water vapor from the concrete slab.  Because you mentioned this is a ground floor unit, I would recommend investigating the slab.   A large amount of water vapor can pass through concrete, which leads to high levels of humidity in the air.  Often the first indication of an issue is mold growth on shoes, because they are so close to the ground, where the humidity levels are high.

If possible, rent or buy a moisture meter and test the carpeting after a period of rain.  If the carpet is damp, you’re very likely looking at an issue with water vapor coming through the concrete.  If the carpet is dry, the problem is likely due to poor ventilation.  See notes above on lowering the humidity.