There's 1 Secret Ingredient You Need to Prevent Flood-Damaged Clothes From Getting Mildew

POPSUGAR Photography | Tara Block
POPSUGAR Photography | Tara Block

For people dealing with the destructive aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, one of the major issues they face is how to clean their flood-damaged clothing, towels, and other fabrics that were left sitting in flood waters in the days following the storm.

Tide's disaster-relief program, Loads of Hope, invited me to help volunteer in Houston the week following Harvey, where I assisted in the program's complementary washing of clothes for those affected by the hurricane. It was clear just how important this service is to the community in this time of recovery.

Larry Sanders, the Loads of Hope team leader at Matthew: 25 Ministries, which partners with Tide on this program, has been deployed around 50 times to disasters around the US for the past seven years, doing load after load of laundry. A question he often receives, and one I had as well, is what they do with severely flood-damaged clothing to get out the mildew smell and prevent mold. His secret ingredient? Vinegar.

"If they bring wet clothes before they hit the molding or mildew process, I put about a half a cup of vinegar straight in with the laundry; that helps prevent them from getting mold or mildew," he told me.

After doing hundreds of loads of laundry in some truly dire situations, the man knows what he's talking about. He also adds that he does everything in cold water, and the rest is simple: Tide Pods with color guards, Downy fabric softener, and then a standard dry setting.

When I asked if there are ever loads that still come out with a musty smell, he swore the vinegar wipes it out. So whether you're dealing with wet towels that have been sitting in the corner of your bathroom or a much more serious flooding issue, now you know how to keep mildew and mold at bay.