how to clean mold off leather

How to Clean Mold off Leather Shoes, Purses & Clothing

In a world of consistent catastrophes and dizzying disasters, mold anywhere may not sound like a problem anyone should worry too much about. But when there’s white mold, green mold, or black mold on your leather shoes, purses, boots, or clothes, that’s definitely a concern.

Here’s the deal: Mold looks and smells bad on everything, but it looks even worse on leather. That’s why learning how to clean mold off leather isn’t a waste of time.

Giving moldy leather clothes and other items some TLC is the smartest way to keep them looking great while lasting forever.

A Summary on How to Clean Mold off a Leather Bag

To clean mold off real-leather or faux-leather clothing, purses, shoes, or sheepskin boots, use a soft-thistle brush or rag to scrape off the mold. Then, kill the mold by dabbing at mold-stained spots with a cloth or sponge dipped into a water/rubbing alcohol (Isopropyl alcohol) solution. Alternatively, use a water/white vinegar cleaner.

Next, wet a clean cloth in a warm soapy solution and wring it before wiping down the leather item. After cleaning, dip a cloth or sponge into clean warm water and rinse off any soap residue.

Then, air-dry the item and apply a leather conditioner to add back the oil that rubbing alcohol or vinegar might have removed. Finally, store it in a cool dry place.

What Mold Types Build Colonies on Leather?

White mold is the type of mold often seen on leather shoes, bags, couches, and leather car seats in abandoned vehicles. It could be penicillium, cladosporium herbarum, or aspergillus. And the good news is that it isn’t too hard to get rid of white mold on leather items.

Black mold isn’t common on leather, but when it grows, removing it can be hard if not impossible.  Usually, the best way to deal with black mold on leather is to pre-treat the item with a blocker and then recolor it.

Is Mold On Leather Dangerous?

White mold, green mold, and black mold on leather are definitely dangerous to humans. Inhaling or touching mold can cause all kinds of allergic reactions from wheezing and sneezing to having a runny nose, teary eyes, difficulty breathing and even asthma attacks according to the NHS.

And In some cases, mold can produce toxic substances such as mycotoxins that have the potential to cause illness. It’s best to remove mold from leather as soon as you notice it.

Quick Tips for Cleaning Mold Off Leather Shoes, Bags, Furniture, and Clothes

  • If you’re allergic to irritants and allergens from mold, ask someone in your family or a friend to help you remove it.
  • Take the moldy leather item outside and clean it there to avoid spreading mold spores to the rest of your home.
  • Quickly brush off the mold with a soft-bristle brush or old rag to remove visible mold.
  • Get mold stains off leather using a solution created from clean water and rubbing alcohol/water and white vinegar.
  • Clean leather items using warm water and a mild detergent or saddle soap.
  • Air-dry mold-free leather items.
  • Store mold-free leather shoes, boots, purses, and clothes in a place with a humidity of 40%-60% to prevent mold build-up.
  • Wear a proper respirator mask such as N95 while cleaning mold off leather to filter out mold spores.

What Not to Do When Cleaning Leather Items

  • Do not spritz white vinegar or rubbing alcohol directly onto leather surfaces. Do not leave vinegar/water droplets on leather to prevent stains after it dries up.
  • Do not dry leather goods in direct sunlight to prevent discoloring them.
  • Do not store leather goods in places with too much humidity and heat or poor ventilation.
  • Do not clean moldy leather goods in the house.
  • Do not machine-wash, machine-dry, or iron leather items.
  • Do not habitually use vinegar and isopropyl alcohol or any products containing these substances on leather.

A Step by Step Guide on How to Clean Mold off Leather

leather shoes

Below is a step-by-step guide for getting mold off your leather belongings.

Step #1:  Use a Brush to Scrape Off Visible Mold

If you have asthma or suffer from allergies, it’s a bad idea to handle moldy leather yourself. Instead, request help from a loved one or a friend.

Using a soft-thistle brush, get down to work and get that mold off the item. Wear a mask while doing this unless you like inhaling green mold spores and getting sick!

Brushing mold off leather inside your house is a bad idea because mold multiplies incredibly fast. A few mold spores soon grow into a worrying colony that makes your walls, leather, and everything else look horrible.

In case you’re wondering how fast mold grows, it starts germinating and growing in 24-48 hours according to Restoration Master. Colony formation kicks off anywhere between day 3 and 12. And after just 18-21 days, you start seeing mold everywhere.

So, perform this initial step outside and bag the mold for disposal.

Step #2: Deal with Mold Stains and Kill Spores

The best way to tackle mold stains on leather is to dab the item with a sponge or cloth dipped into a rubbing alcohol/water solution. Mix equal parts of water and rubbing alcohol to prepare this homemade leather cleaner. You can also mix white vinegar and water in the same ratio.

Note: Rubbing alcohol and vinegar CAN damage leather goods. So, use them ONLY when you really have to, like when you want to kill mold on leather. Also, wipe away the alcohol or vinegar once done and condition the leather to replenish any oils that might have been removed.

Don’t apply this homemade mold stain remover directly onto the leather surface. Dabbing problem areas with this concoction not only kills mold spores, but it also removes mold stains. Make circular motions to rub in the custom cleaner.

If the item you’re cleaning has a removable liner with mildew stains, get rid of them using dry oxygen bleach mixed with water. To create this leather-safe bleach, add two spoonfuls of dry oxygen bleach such as Nellie’s All Natural Oxygen Brightenerto a cup of water.

Treat the affected spots with this mildew stain remover and wait for one hour before using a damp cloth to rinse it off.

Step #3: Use a Damp Cloth to Wipe Down the Leather Item

Dip a clean piece of cloth into warm soapy water and wring it gently to squeeze out excess water. Then, use the damp cloth to wipe down the item. Use a mild laundry detergent or leather saddle soap for the job.

Wondering if saddle soap is good for cleaning leather? YES, saddle soap is safe on leather. In fact, it’s one of the earliest leather care products around. And it does a fantastic job.

Leather care experts recommend saddle soap because it preserves and conditions leather, helping maintain its original appearance.

What’s more, saddle soap gets rid of stains and moisturizes leather, but not too much that mold starts growing on leather!

Finally, use a damp sponge or cloth to rinse off any soap residue.

Step #4: Air-dry Your Clean Leather Goods

The best and safest way to dry leather products is to air-dry them. It’s easy to succumb to the temptation of drying leather shoes and other belongings in direct sunlight, but don’t do this.

When the sun’s ultraviolet rays strike directly onto a leather surface, a certain amount of discoloration/fading happens. UV rays degrade leather on a chemical level, and the damage caused isn’t reversible. And this makes your item look less appealing over time.

Step #5: Apply a Conditioner On Leather to Replace Removed Oils

Conditioning leather preserves it and helps prevent cracking. A good conditioner also softens up leather, which improves its breathability. In other words, reconditioning leather goods keeps them looking good for longer. Read leather conditioner reviews to learn which option is the best for the job.

Step #6: Store Your Leather Belongings in a Low-humidity Location

Do you know what causes mold on leather? It’s too much moisture, excessive heat, and poor ventilation. Incorrect storage of leather encourages mold growth on leather. So, how do you store clean leather items to prevent mold and mildew?

How to Clean Moldy Leather Using White Vinegar

Add one part of vinegar to an equal amount of water to prep this leather-cleaning solution. Then, dip a microfiber cloth or sponge into the solution, wring it, and wipe down the item.

Every time you dip a new portion of the rag/cloth into the homemade cleaner, wring it thoroughly before moving on to the next one.

Spritzing the water/vinegar solution onto leather goods isn’t a good idea, neither is leaving droplets of vinegar-rich water on leather as this can easily stain it.

Use a dry microfiber cloth and wipe away any remaining traces of vinegar on the surface. Finally, apply a conditioner on the shoes or whatever to moisturize and revitalize it.

How to Store Leather Shoes and Clothes

Place your leather shoes and boots on a flat surface such as in the closet. As for leather clothes and purses, you can hang them. Store clean leather items in a cool dry place where relative humidity stays in the 40%-60% range. If the ambient temperature in the storage area is too high, humidity constantly rises past the 70% mark, and air circulation is poor, mold will definitely germinate and grow.

Cleaning Mold Off Leather FAQs

Below are a few questions people who own leather goods frequently ask.

What Causes Mold on Leather Shoes, Furniture, and Clothes?

Storing leather goods in hot, humid, and poorly ventilated conditions, mold will definitely grow on them. That’s why it’s often seen thriving on the walls and windowsills in damp basements. Make sure to tackle mold immediately after you notice it.

Is Mold On Leather Dangerous?

Mold on leather can be dangerous especially to people who have asthma and allergies. Touching mold or breathing it in can trigger reactions such as difficulty breathing, sneezing, teary eyes, a runny nose, and other symptoms. Don’t clean moldy leather items if you have a respiratory condition.

Does Mold Come Out of Leather?

Yes, getting certain kinds of mold such as white mold off leather is relatively easy. However, some types such as black mold can be extremely difficult to remove.

Does Vinegar Kill Mold on Leather?

Yes, white vinegar mixed with water in the ratio 1:1 kills mold on leather. It’s always a good idea to try treating a small area of the item before using this solution to remove mold. That’s because this homemade cleaner can cause discoloration.

Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Mold on Leather?

Yes, a solution of rubbing alcohol mixed with water in the ratio of 1:1 is a proven way to kill mold spores on leather.

How Do You Prevent Mold On Leather?

The best way to prevent mold on leather is to store leather items correctly. Storing leather goods in an environment with a 40-60% humidity, moderate ambient temperature, and adequate ventilation discourages mold growth.

One way to control humidity levels in a room is to use a dehumidifier. And if your home has leaky pipes and windows, take action.

Improving air circulation and waterproofing damp floors and walls are other ways to keep moisture out, curbing mold multiplication. 

Is Using Vinegar or Rubbing Alcohol on Leather Safe?

Vinegar or rubbing alcohol shouldn’t damage leather as long as you use the correct technique when applying it. Instead of spritzing the water/vinegar or water/rubbing alcohol solution onto the leather’s surface, use a damp (not wet) microfiber cloth to clean up the mold.

Final Thoughts on Removing Mold from Leather

One way to get rid of mold on leather is to dab the moldy areas using a cloth dampened with a water/isopropyl alcohol solution. Another approach is to use a solution made of equal parts of water and equal parts of white vinegar.

Before you apply either of these mold removal solutions on leather, brush off any visible mold.

Once you’ve dealt with the mold, wipe down the item with a damp cloth and rinse off any soap residue with a dry cloth.

Air-dry the product (not in direct sunlight), condition it, and store it in a cool dry place. That, my friends, is how to clean mold off leather.



  1. Noticed some unpleasant-smelling, unsightly mold on your leather car seats? You need to get rid of them fast before they can cause allergic reactions or health problems and serious damage to your car’s interior.

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