How to Remove Mold/Mildew from Leather Shoes

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Frank asked: How do I  clean mold/mildew from leather shoes? The shoes were stored in a dark, damp location. I now have a green colored mold or mildew on and inside of several pairs of shoes. How do I safely remove it and protect against this in the future?

Mold requires moisture to grow. Whether it comes from perspiration that develops while wearing or from a damp room, the moisture must be removed to stop the growth of mold and mildew. Once the source of the problem is identified, you can remove the mold and mildew once and for all. There are different methods for leather shoes, depending on the durability of the leather. Suede and Nubuck should be treated the gentlest to avoid damaging the nap on the surface.

You Will Need:

  • Simple Green
  • Stiff nylon brush
  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Soft cloths

Steps to Remove the Mold and Mildew:

  1. Begin by dry-brushing the surface with a stiff, nylon brush. This will brush away most of the mold and mildew that has built up on the surface of the shoe.
  2. For suede and nubuck leathers, this is all that can be safely done. If further cleaning is needed, utilize a suede cleaner to remove any remaining mold and mildew. Follow the directions on the packaging for application instructions.
  3. For smooth leather shoes, as long as the leather remains unaffected, it is safe to continue on with further cleaning methods.
  4. Mix one part vinegar with one part water.
  5. Moisten a soft cloth with the mixture and use it to wipe the surface of the shoes clean.
  6. If the mold and mildew persist, spray the surface with Simple Green and wipe away with a clean, soft cloth.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • Damp Rid can be purchased from most stores, including Wal-Mart. Simply place it in the closet to absorb extra moisture to help prevent the return of mold.
  • Silica gel can be purchased from craft stores. Simply place it in a small sachet and set in shoes when not in use to absorb excess moisture.
  • To prevent moisture from building up, rotate through the shoes so that each pair is only worn for one day and then has a chance to dry out.
  • Sunshine is a natural mold killer. If nothing else will kill the mold, set them in the sun for a day.

Comments

  1. Leather shoes says:

    Good post! After the mildew is removed, use some talcum powder on the insides and keep the shoes wrapped up in cloth to avoid the attack of mildew again.

  2. Michael says:

    Hi. After returning from a tour, I found all my shoes moldy in the cabinet. I washed and cleaned them, but when I wear them, a moldy smell emulates from them.
    How do I get rid of this smell? (Smooth leather shoes.)
    Mike

  3. Karen K. says:

    Vinegar will permanently RUIN leather! Never use it. One part rubbing alcohol and one part water, mixed and sprayed on will kill the mildew. Always follow up with a leather conditioner after your item has dried. My *best* results were in using tea tree oil; kills mildew and conditions the leather all in one step. Mike–this should fix your shoe problem permanently.

  4. Mike says:

    Hi, What about the inside of the shoe? If don’t get out all the mold, can this be bad for contracting fungus growths on your toenails and on your feet?

  5. Melanie says:

    Michael,
    You could try the trick used for smelly books:
    Cover the bottom of a storage container with baking soda, place a baking rack in the container, set the shoes on the rack and seal the container for a couple days. If you use a sealed container, this should also suffocate any potentially remaining mold. You could also place the shoes in a container with coffee beans or grounds for several days so they will emulate the smell of coffee instead.

    Source: Book Think – How to Remove Odors from Books

  6. Lorentz says:

    Thank you for the tips; my shoes are shiny now!

  7. Gina says:

    What is the method for using the tea tree oil?

  8. Bill says:

    White vinegar works for me. Had some boots that developed mildew/mold inside and out. I mopped the outside down with WV and filled the insides with WV, then drained it out. It killed the funky foot odor, too.

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