Finding a patch of mold or mildew on your favorite leather jacket or on your leather couch is quite disheartening, but it doesn't have to be the end. Removing mold from leather isn't as difficult as most people think. Although you should never use water on unfinished leather, most leather easily comes clean with just a little soap and water.
Preventing Mold and Mildew
As is the case with so many of life's problems, preventing mold and mildew is easier than cleaning up the mess. When storing leather clothing and shoes, always do so in a well-ventilated area. Make sure the garments are clean and dry before storing them. When hanging a leather jacket in a closet, don't cram it in between the other articles of clothing. Instead, space your clothes out a bit. so air can circulate around them.
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When storing clothes, furniture, and other leather items, avoid doing so in damp areas. If you have no choice, install a dehumidifier in the storage space to keep the air dry. For extra protection, store leather items with a store-bought mildew inhibitor.
Things You'll Need
How to Remove Mold and Mildew From Leather
Step 1: Get Your Safety On
Mold is no joke, and it's important to exercise caution when working around it. The dreaded black mold can, of course, make you sick, but so can other mold varieties. Always assume that any mold you're dealing with is toxic and protect yourself accordingly.
Don a disposable painter's mask and a pair of rubber gloves before you start working.
Place the molded item outdoors so the disturbed mold spores don't settle inside.
Spot test any and all cleaners you plan to use on your leather before you start cleaning in earnest.
Step 2: Brush Away Some of the Mold
Sometimes removing mold from leather is as simple as brushing it off. If the mold is sitting on the surface of the leather, you might be able to simply sweep most of it away. This trick only works if the leather is completely dry.
- Scrub the mold with a dry soft-bristled toothbrush. Wipe away any mold that comes loose this way.
- Vacuum up any loose mold if necessary. If you have an item like a leather couch that is too heavy or bulky to move outside, vacuum up the mold spores as soon as you've loosened them with your brush.
Step 3: Wash the Molded Area
Both rubbing alcohol and soapy water can remove mold from leather. You may need to try both since there are so many varieties of mold and each is a little different. The key to this step is using as little liquid as possible so you dampen the leather without saturating it.
- Combine water and rubbing alcohol in a 50-50 mixture.
- Dampen a clean white cloth with the alcohol mixture and rub it onto the mold stain.
- Allow the leather to air dry.
- Check the mold and make sure it's gone. If it isn't, dissolve a mild dish soap or baby shampoo in some warm water and try cleaning the spot again.
Step 4: Address the Odor
Sometimes an odor remains in leather even after you've removed and mold or mildew. To get rid of it, reach for some white vinegar.
- Choose your application method. When cleaning leather with lots of nooks and crannies, like a leather car seat, it's easiest to put the vinegar in a spray bottle. When working with a small area, however, dabbing vinegar on the leather with a rag gives you more control.
- Apply the vinegar straight to the leather using your chosen method. You need not dilute it.
- Wipe the vinegar off the leather with a clean, dry cloth.
Step 5: Condition the Leather
Water and other liquids aren't good for leather and can dry out the leather by removing its natural oils. After you've removed the mold and mildew from your leather, it's a good idea to condition it with a store-bought leather conditioner.
- Apply some leather conditioner to a clean, white cloth. Do not apply it to the leather directly.
- Use the cloth to rub the conditioner into the leather. Use a circular motion and do a panel at a time rather than just the area that was moldy. If you removed the mold from a couch cushion, for instance, condition the entire cushion.
- Buff the leather with a dry cloth.