Can Money Get Moldy?: Here’s What You Need to Know

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If you’ve discovered that your money has developed mold, then you’re going to want to take immediate action to prevent it from happening again.

You’ll probably also want some ideas on how to clean your money and how to store it to prevent further issues from arising.

We’ll delve into the surprising science behind currency and explore the factors that could potentially lead to the growth of mold and other unwanted microorganisms on your money.

With that in mind, we’ve put together this article to look at precisely what mold is, why it occurs, what we can do to prevent it, and how we can clean any notes or coins already affected by it.

Can Money Get Moldy?: Short Answer

The short answer is that money can and will get moldy if the conditions are right, namely if your money gets damp and is in the right conditions for mold to thrive such as being in a warm, humid, and oxygen-rich environment.

What is Mold?

Molds are a large variety of fungal species that thrive in certain conditions such as:-

  • Where the temperature is between 77°F to 86°F (they cannot withstand temperatures below 40°F)
  • Where it is damp
  • Where it is humid
  • Where there is oxygen
  • Where there’s food

Molds are extremely robust and well-adapted to exist in many different environments and on many different surfaces.

They can thrive in many conditions even where oxygen is lacking.

Molds can consume and use any organic matter for their food meaning they don’t need a special diet to survive.

Why Does Money Go Moldy?

Mold can thrive on both notes and coins but especially on notes.

Dollar notes are made from cotton fiber which is a perfect material for mold to grow on, as it not only provides a food source but it is extremely absorbent and retains moisture.

Perfect conditions for molds to grow.

If dollar notes are stored inside or in an area where the temperature doesn’t drop too low, then molds can easily thrive.

Molds can also thrive on coins but they are generally much easier to clean than notes as they are obviously much tougher and are able to withstand more forceful cleaning.

Can You Clean Moldy Money and How?

Cleaning Mold off Coins

Metal coins are much easier to clean than notes.

For coins, we recommend placing them in a jar or tub with a cup of vinegar and a tablespoon of salt.

Allow the coins to sit in the solution for a few hours and then remove the coins onto a paper towel.

You can then rub each coin with a cloth or paper towels to make them shiny and clean.

Try an old toothbrush or wire brush if there are any stubborn areas.

Cleaning Mold off Dollar Notes

Notes are more difficult to clean than coins simply because of their absorbent and less robust material.

For notes, we recommend placing them in warm water with soap or baby laundry detergent.

Use a cloth to try and rub the mold off.

Whilst notes are nowhere near as tough as coins, they are still fairly robust so you should still be able to give them a good scrub without damaging them.

However, you should not leave notes soaking too long. We recommend removing them from the water as soon as you’ve removed the mold.

You should then hang them in a warm dry place to dry out.

We recommend avoiding strong detergents like bleach or strong cleaning products as these can spoil the paper.

Cool Money Fact:

At the height of his infamy, crime kingpin Pablo Escobar lost $2.1 billion a year through spoilage. This was usually due to his money getting water damaged, eaten by rats or because he simply misplaced it.

How to Get Rid of the Moldy Smell from Money?

After you have cleaned the mold from your money (as above), we recommend hanging it outside if possible or close to an open window to allow fresh air to get to it.

Obviously, you’ll want to make sure no one tries to steal your money, so we don’t recommend leaving it unaccompanied, especially if its outside.

You can also try an odor eliminator like Febreeze which you can gently spray on your money to remove any moldy stench left after cleaning.

Will the Bank Exchange Moldy Money?

Banks are normally fairly accommodating when it comes to replacing money that is past its best.

Provided more than half of the note remains then there is a good chance your local bank will replace your moldy money for fresh cash.

Tips for Preventing Money From Going Moldy

If you are storing money in the house or elsewhere, there are a number of things you can do to make sure it does not get moldy:-

  • Store it in a dry area such as a cupboard or drawer
  • If your money becomes damp, thoroughly dry it before putting it into storage
  • Store money away from areas of your house that are susceptible to dampness like basements, attics and your garage
  • Consider purchasing a dehumidifier if your property suffers from damp
  • Place moisture absorbers like silica gel packs in with the container you are storing your money in

Can Money Get Moldy in a Safe?

Money can still get moldy in a safe, especially if you place damp money in your safe if the safe itself is damp or you keep your safe in a damp environment.

You can avoid this by keeping your safe in a humid-free environment and by ensuring your money is dry before placing it in the safe.

We also recommend using moisture absorbers if there’s any risk your money could be exposed to dampness whilst being stored in the safe.

Can Money Get Contaminated?

Yes, money can get contaminated with various types of microorganisms and contaminants. As physical currency changes hands frequently, it comes into contact with countless surfaces, hands, and environments, making it susceptible to contamination. Here are some of the common ways money can become contaminated:

  1. Bacteria and Viruses: Bacteria and viruses can survive on surfaces for varying lengths of time, and money is no exception. Studies have found that pathogens like E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and the flu virus can potentially survive on banknotes and coins, especially if they are not regularly cleaned or disinfected.
  2. Dirt and Grime: Over time, money can accumulate dirt, oils, and other residues from handling, which can contribute to its overall contamination.
  3. Drug Residues: In some instances, drug residues can be found on money that has been used in drug transactions, posing health risks to individuals handling the currency.
  4. Allergens: Money can also carry allergens like pollen and dust, which may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
  5. Contaminants from Environments: The places where money is stored and used can impact its contamination level. For instance, money kept in humid environments may become a breeding ground for mold and fungi.
  6. Cross-Contamination: Money can transfer contaminants from one person to another when exchanged, especially if individuals do not practice proper hand hygiene.

Bottom Line

Money can be very susceptible to mold, especially paper notes.

However, keeping money free from mold is fairly easy to achieve provided you stick to the above tips.

If your money has developed mold then it’s not the end of the world and you should be able to salvage it by cleaning it or simply by taking it to your bank for it to be replaced.

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About the author

Oliver graduated from law school in 2008 and has practiced exclusively in the field of civil litigation for the last 10 years. He has a wealth of experience and expertise in litigation involving large financial losses and a special interest in consumer law. He has achieved numerous 7 figure settlements and has been involved in multi-billion dollar class-action consumer lawsuits against companies such as the Volkswagen Group. Away from the law, he is a consumer information and personal finance writer, having been featured in key publications such as Yahoo Finance, GO Banking Rates, NewsBreak, MEL Magazine, and many more.

-Chief Editor and Founder

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