Summer is around the corner and that means it’s soon time to head to the beach to soak up all the sunshine and take a dip in the refreshing ocean. You unzip the bag where you stored your swim gear for the winter and notice something peculiar: black dots on your swimsuit or bikini or even your swim caps. It might also be all crumpled up. You scratch your head, wondering if your bathing suit originally had a polka dot design.
You look closer and you realize the black dots are actually kind of fuzzy, and it can even be rubbed off. Those “black dots” are in fact mold, which thrives in damp conditions. You might have seen them along windowsills, doorways, or areas that are constantly exposed to moisture.
As you’ve just now experienced, a damp bathing suit that has been crumpled and stuffed in a poorly ventilated bag is a fertile environment for mold to grow. If your bathing suit is showing signs of mold spots or has an unpleasantly musty smell, you will need to thoroughly wash it all off. You can still salvage the swimsuit if you are quick and thorough. You can get rid of the black dots on your bathing suit in a few ways: washing it with distilled white vinegar, washing it with lemon juice, washing it with baking soda, or washing it with liquid soap.
In this article, we will go over each method in more detail to help you get rid of all the mold from your bathing suit so that it is safe to wear again. We will also go over ways to prevent mold from growing on your swimsuit so that you don’t have to deal with this ever again.
What causes mold growth on bathing suits?
Mold thrives in damp environments. If, after swimming or washing your swimsuit, you don’t allow it to fully dry, then in just a span of a few hours it can start to get that “musty smell” and black dots are soon to appear as well.
Of course, some amount of this is unavoidable. It would be unreasonable to assume that all beach goers would fully dry their swimsuit before bringing it home. However, you should still try your best to get back home quickly (or to a hotel if you’re traveling) and to wash it thoroughly before hanging it up to dry.
That said, even when people are aware about mold growth, they can sometimes still subject their swimsuits to conditions where mold growth can happen. For instance, if you hang your bathing suit to dry but do so in a room that is damp and not well-ventilated, it will take a long time to dry and in the meantime, mold may begin to grow.
Another common mistake is being impatient. Perhaps after hanging up your bathing suit for a few hours to dry, you take it off the rack and store it in the bag because you thought it was dry when there were still damp spots. This can also result in mold growth.
What’s the big deal about mold?
You might be wondering why we are writing an article to provide tips on how to get rid of mold from your bathing suits and “saving” it, as if it’s such a big deal? Well, that’s because it is kind of a big deal; mold can have adverse health effects if you are exposed to it. Its effect is different on each person, but for some it can be uncomfortable.
We recommend you at least skim this CDC article on mold, particularly the section titled “How do molds affect people?” Some of the examples of its symptoms are: stuffy nose, wheezing, red or itchy eyes or skin, fever, shortness of breath, upper respiratory tract symptoms, and so on.
The more severe health effects are difficulty breathing, triggering of asthma, or lung infection from exposure to mold. Mold may affect you slightly or not at all, or you might be one of the few people who may have an extreme adverse reaction to it. Better to err on the side of caution and learn how to get rid of it as well as how to prevent mold growth from occurring in the first place.
How to clean black dots (mold) off bathing suits
The first thing to do, no matter which method you follow, is take the moldy bathing suit outside and brush off the mold with a soft-bristled brush. Be very gentle so as not to damage your delicate bathing suit. Then, we proceed with one of the methods below.
Method 1: Vinegar
For our first method, distilled white vinegar will be our primary cleaning agent. Vinegar is commonly used as a natural disinfectant, and it can be used for various other applications at home; today we will be using it to deal with mold on a bathing suit.
After brushing off as much mold as you can, apply vinegar on the areas where mold is still visible. You can easily do this by soaking a cotton ball with vinegar and dabbing the affected areas with the cotton ball. Afterwards, wait until the vinegar has dried up.
Next, fill a basin or the sink with equal parts water and vinegar. Stir until the solution has mixed, then soak the bathing suit in this solution for at least a couple of hours. Once enough time has passed, you can drain the sink or basin.
Now, your bathing suit is probably going to reek of a strong vinegar smell. Not pleasant. Fill the sink or basin with water and pour in a mild liquid soap (hand soap or dish soap work fine).
Mix the soap into the water and then place the swimsuit in this new solution. We recommend giving it a good scrub and then leaving it in for a few more hours. Drain the water, and now your bathing suit should be clean, but we’re not done yet.
If you don’t properly dry your newly washed bathing suit, you will experience mold growth all over again, which is what we are trying to fix and avoid. Furthermore, do not make the mistake of wringing your bathing suit dry; it is very delicate and can get damaged like this.
Instead, place your bathing suit on a dry towel, place another towel over it (or fold the first towel in half if it’s long enough) and gently push down on the towel, squeezing out the water in the bathing suit and absorbing it into the towel(s). This is a much more gentle way of squeezing out most of the water.
Finally, line dry your bathing suit in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. Be sure that the suit is completely dry before storing it. If it feels even a bit damp, it needs more time to dry.
Method 2: Lemon juice
For the second method, we will be using lemon juice instead of vinegar. Like vinegar, lemon juice is also another commonly used, natural cleaning agent. You probably have some at home already and if not, it’s cheap and readily available so it’s convenient for a lot of people.
To start, fill a basin or bowl with water and add 1 cup of concentrated lemon juice into the water. Add a tablespoon (15 ml) of salt into the mixture, and stir for about a minute for everything to dissolve and mix together.
Next, place your bathing suit into this mixture. Keep it submerged for at least 30 minutes. We recommend stirring the mixture every few minutes so that the ingredients don’t just settle at the bottom.
Drain the water and rinse the bathing suit with fresh water. Once again fill the basin or sink with water and mix it with a mild detergent. Once again, submerge the bathing suit and give it a good scrub to get the lemon smell out of it. Make sure there isn’t any salt residue left on the suit.
Lastly, drain the water, rinse the bathing suit with fresh water once again, and dry it between a towel as described above. Line dry your bathing suit in a well-ventilated location out of direct sunlight. Make sure the bathing suit is completely dry before storing it.
Method 3: Baking soda
Our last method utilizes baking soda. Baking soda is a deodorizer and cleaning agent as well. It will prove helpful in cleaning the black dots off a bathing suit.
As usual, fill a basin or sink with water. Add baking soda to the water and stir until fully dissolved. Then, place the bathing suit in this mixture.
Let the bathing suit soak for at least 30 minutes. Afterwards, drain the water and rinse the bathing suit one more time. There should not be a strong smell you need to get rid unlike our previous two recommendations, but if you’d like, you can let the bathing suit soak in water with a mild detergent.
Afterwards, rinse off any bubbles, dry the bathing suit between two towels, and let it hang dry in a well-ventilated location out of direct sunlight.
How to prevent mold growth on bathing suits in the first place
Now you know some of the ways to clean a moldy bathing suit, that does not stop the underlying problem of how it got moldy in the first place. It’s disgusting to have to clean a moldy swimsuit every summer, and depending on how molded it is, you may not even be able to fully clean it all. Better to prevent it from happening in the first place, and here are some tips on how:
Rinse bathing suits as soon as possible
When you’re at the beach or traveling in another country, you may feel less motivated to thoroughly rinse your bathing suit after getting out of the water. You just want to have fun, not worry about the condition of your swimsuit.
However, all we are saying is to run it under some fresh water and give it a good scrub. Doing so has multiple advantages such as getting rid of salt, chlorine, or any specks of sand. It will also keep the swimsuit from getting too smelly.
This step is especially important if you know that you won’t be able to give your bathing suit a proper rinse until a few hours later. During that time, your bathing suit can start to get really smelly, and that makes it harder to wash off the smell later on.
If there are any stains, the stain could set in if not rinsed as quickly as possible. Rinsing it will make stain removal easier later on.
Some bags are designed with mesh linings so that your swimwear can be exposed to fresh air, helping it to dry faster and not get smelly. We highly recommend a bag like this if you want to decrease the chances of mold growth happening.
Wash thoroughly when you can
Once you’ve made it back home or back to the hotel if you’re abroad, it’s time to give your bathing suit a thorough wash. This time, you will be soaking the bathing suit in water mixed with a mild detergent like dish soap or hand soap. This will help get rid of the smell and bacteria. Give the swimsuit a good scrub as well to dislodge any bits of debris trapped inside.
Dry your bathing suit properly
To finish off the cleaning process, you need to do one final crucial step, which is to fully dry it. A damp bathing suit can lead to mold growth if it doesn’t dry in time or if it’s stored before it has fully dried. This is the step that many people mess up on and it can undo all of the hard work put into cleaning the suit thus far.
The first mistake people make is that they wring their bathing suit in an attempt to squeeze as much water out of it. The sentiment is correct, but this is not the correct method. Wringing can wear down your bathing suit quickly, and you may need to replace it earlier because of it which is not a desirable outcome either.
To properly squeeze the water out, place your bathing suit on a towel. Either place another tower on top, or fold the first towel in half to cover the bathing suit if it’s big enough. Now you can either press down on the bathing suit with your hands, or you can step on it with your feet. This is a less damaging way of squeezing water out of your bathing suit.
At this point, most of the water has been squeezed out but your bathing suit is still damp. You will need to hang it to dry. We recommend line drying it in a shaded and well-ventilated area. A mistake people make is to hang it in direct sunlight. The UV rays can damage the swimsuit and make it brittle.
The final mistake people make is that they take off the bathing suit after an arbitrary amount of time has passed and store it in the bag. Depending on the environment, it may take more than 24 hours for the bathing suit to fully dry. For instance, some people leave it hanging for the night and take it off the line in the morning without checking if it’s actually dry or not.
If you store the bathing suit in a bag when it’s still damp, you’re going to end up with black dots on your bathing suit next summer all over again. Don’t make these mistakes in the first place, and you won’t even need to use our cleaning methods to get rid of any mold.