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:
- Long sleeve shirt
- A mask
- Stiff nylon brush
- White vinegar
- Soft cloth
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Leather conditioner
- Simple Green
Steps to Remove the Mold and Mildew:
- Put on a long sleeve shirt, gloves, and a mask to prevent inhaling the spores.
- Take the shoes outside.
- 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. Try not to inhale any of the spores and stand out of the wind direction to prevent getting any spores on you.
- For suede and nubuck leathers, this is all that can be safely done. If further cleaning is needed, such as for stains or if the mold returns repeatedly (signaling that the spores need to be killed), use a suede cleaner. Follow the directions on the packaging for application instructions. If that still does not remedy the problem, continue with the steps below but test each solution on a small hidden area first and allow it to fully dry to look for any adverse reaction.
- For smooth leather shoes, it is safe (and recommended) to continue on with further cleaning methods.
- Mix one part vinegar with one part water.
- Moisten a soft cloth with the mixture and use it to wipe the surface of the shoes where the mold was located. Vinegar is effective against most types (80+%) of mold.
- If the mold and mildew return, a stronger cleaning method will be needed. Isopropyl alcohol works very well for killing mold, however it must be tested in a small hidden area first, such as on the edge of the shoe tongue or underneath a flap, as the alcohol could remove the dye on the leather or have other adverse effects. Do not use rubbing alcohol, which contains other additives including dyes.
- After using alcohol, it is important to use a leather conditioner as the alcohol can have a drying effect on the leather.
- If you would prefer not to use alcohol, or if the mold still persists, spray the surface with Simple Green and wipe away with a clean, soft cloth. Again, be sure to test this on a small hidden area first.
Additional Tips and Ideas
- DampRid 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.
- Another option to remove moisture from the area is to make your own low-budget dehumidifier, which can be as simple as a bowl or bucket filled with plain (no lighter fluid added) charcoal bricquettes.
- 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. Another option is to pour salt or baking soda in your shoes between uses to absorb 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.