Mold on Money – Can It Get Moldy & What To Do

How safe is any money you have thriftily stashed away? Can it actually get moldy?

The answer is yes, your cash can and will get moldy, if the surrounding conditions are right. Often, this will have something to do with your money getting damp.

Mold simply loves damp. As a variety of fungus, it thrives in conditions that are damp, dark, humid and just the right temperature. They also need a source of food, which can be just about any organic matter including dust.

They are extremely well adapted to grow in many places and on a variety of surfaces.

Mold can grow on all of your spare cash, but it is more likely to grow on bank notes than coins.

Also, coins tend to be easier to clean than notes as they are more durable and can withstand washing.

Dollar notes are made from a special cotton fibre which mold can feed on. It also provides an ideal growing environment as it is fairly absorbent and retains any moisture it comes into contact with.

Moisture may even be found in the air itself if it is humid. This can all combine to provide a perfect environment for mold to grow.

How Long Does it Take for Money to Get Moldy?

So we have seen above how mold can be happily living its best life on your money but how long does it take for this to happen?

Well, mold can grow on money surprisingly quickly. It takes only 24-48 hours for mold to take hold on your hard-earned cash and around 2-3 weeks before obvious signs of growth begin to appear.

Ways that Mold can Destroy Money

While it is actively growing and reproducing, mold excretes enzymes that can alter, weaken or stain surfaces such as paper, cloth or leather.

Money does not last forever. All paper will start to rot and degrade eventually and the presence of mold will hasten this process.

Signs of Mold on Money

The signs of mold growth on money are;

  • Dark spots or dark coloured stains, these may be a variety of colours and you may notice a fuzzy texture or even slimy
  • A strong and pungent musty odour

Most Common Causes of Mold Growth on Money

The cause of mold growth on your spare cash is likely to be connected to the way it is stored.

Storage that allows access to damp, food and darkness can easily foster that grisly old mold growth.

You may also have gotten your money wet by mistakenly washing it.

Dirty Money

Money can carry germs as well as mold. Did you know that paper money can carry more germs than a household toilet?

Dollar bills are an ideal environment for all sorts of nasty microbes, bacteria and even viruses and they can survive there for extended periods. They may also be present on coins.


Is Moldy Money Dangerous?

Exposure to mold can be dangerous if prolonged or if a person with a weak or compromised immune system is exposed.

In some cases, it may be a major health hazard and lead to illnesses including respiratory conditions, rashes, coughs, allergies and many other health issues.

How to Clean Moldy Money

You can usually clean the mold from your money, especially if you act promptly and discover it early enough.

It will be easier to clean mold from coins than notes. See below for suggested methods for both types of cash.

Use rubber gloves, breathing mask and goggles when you are dealing with mold infestations and work in a well ventilated area.

To Clean Mold From Coins

Place your moldy coins into a cup or bowl of white vinegar. Add a spoonful of salt and leave to soak for several hours or overnight.

Remove the coins and spread out on a paper towel. Take each coin and rub it gently with a soft cloth or paper towel.

The mold should come off easily leaving them shiny and bright. Use an old toothbrush on any stubborn areas.

Dispose of all cleaning materials afterwards.

To Clean Mold From Bank Notes

You will need to take more time and care when cleaning mold from notes as they are less durable and more absorbent than coins and you don’t want to damage them even more.

The best method to use will depend on the condition of the notes. The more fragile, the more care you will need to take.

If your notes are not too damaged, you can try placing them into a bowl filled with warm water with a dash of laundry detergent and a drop of bleach.

Unfold them before inserting them. You want to put them in, get them clean and get them out in the shortest time possible. Use a sweeping motion to pull them through the solution.

For more stubborn stains, swish them around in the solution for a bit longer. Use a cloth to rub the mold off.

Do not leave soaking for too long. As soon as the mold is gone, remove them.

Rinse and hang them to dry in a warm, airy place such as near an open window or outside if it is safe to do so and the weather is fine or sunny. Mold hates sunlight. You can make a drying line with some string pulled taught and use clothes pegs to hang your notes along it.

If Your Notes are Very Delicate

For more delicate-looking notes, you can use a sponge dipped into the cleaning solution to wipe the note without immersing it fully. (You can also do this if the mold is only mild).

You can also dip an abrasive scouring sponge into hot water and then dip the sponge into baking soda at one end. Use this to lightly scour the mold off the surface.

Be very gentle and don’t use excess water. Work from the centre to the outer edges with fast, clean strokes and be very careful not to tear the note as you wipe.

Repeat with plain water to rinse and dry hanging up in a warn and airy place.

To Dry and Clean Wet Moldy Money

Separate out each note and unfold.

Leave notes to dry, ideally in direct sunlight and lying flat placed on paper towels.

After about an hour, the mold should become powdery so you should be able to brush it off. Use a soft, clean brush such as a toothbrush or nailbrush. Use a sweeping motion to remove the mold.

If it does not brush off, use the immersing cleaning method above.

How to Get Musty Smell Out of Paper Money

After you have cleaned off the mold and dried the notes fully, allow them to ‘air’ for several hours as this will help to remove a lot of the smell.

If they still smell musty after this, spread them out on paper towels on a flat surface and sprinkle with talcum powder (or you could use baking soda).

Leave overnight. Pick each note up and shake away the talcum powder or use a dry cloth to wipe away.

Another method is to spray the notes very lightly with a product such as ‘Febreze’ odour remover. Alternatively, fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and spray lightly over the notes (you want to set your nozzle to a fine mist). Let them sit for several hours to dry out and turn over periodically so both sides dry.

What Can I do With Money That Has Been Mold Damaged?

You should be able to use one of the methods listed in this guide to clean money that has been mold damaged. However, if you don’t fancy the task of grappling with the mold or the notes are very damaged, you should be able to take them along to a bank.

Most banks are usually fairly accommodating when it comes to replacing damaged money or money that has suffered a mishap. Ideally, they will want to see at least half of the note remaining before they are willing to swap it over for a crisp and clean new one.

Preventing Mold Growth on Money

If you are storing bank notes at your home it makes sense to take the utmost care that you store them correctly to prevent the growth of mold.

Follow these tips below.

  • Store them somewhere dry such as a drawer or cupboard and in a watertight container or ziplock bag in a container
  • Dry thoroughly before placing into storage
  • Store away from naturally damper areas of the home such as attics, basements, sheds or garages
  • If your home is very humid, consider installing a de-humidifier. Mold can get into many of your possessions or valuables and damage them
  • Put silica gel pads inside the container you store them in

Can Money Get Moldy in a Safe?

Money can still get moldy even in a safe, especially if you place damp money in there or if the safe is kept in a damp environment.

Safes are usually dark, tightly sealed boxes that do not allow light or airflow to enter. This means money or other valuables can develop mold and mildew inside if moisture finds a way in.

Dry your money well before placing it into the safe. You can also place moisture absorbers inside the safe to further protect the contents from mold. A cup of rice or baking soda will also work.

Open the safe door and allow it to air out for twenty minutes every fortnight.

It should be easy to keep your cash and valuables mold-free if you follow these tips!



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