How To Remove Mold From Leather The Easy Way

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Seeing how expensive quality leather is these days, no one wants to find mold growing on their leather items or even smell a mildew or musty smell on them. Whether it’s a leather jacket, leather purse, leather boots, leather shoes, or even leather tack, it’s always disappointing to see that you are dealing with a mold problem.

Why Does Mold Grow On Leather?

Leather is an organic material with a wee bit of moisture content. Yes, even tanned leather contains a little bit of moisture still. If it didn’t it would be impossible to work with.

As you know from reading my mold basics, mold needs moisture and a food source. It gets both from leather. The leather itself is a food source but mold can also consume important additives used in leather making, such as fat liquors, tannins, etc.

In addition to that, leather jackets, leather purses, and leather shoes are often kept in a closet which does not allow for a lot of airflow. The stagnant air enhances mold’s ability to flourish. Let’s not forget that closets are dark, another thing mold prefers.

Soiling, organic residues, and stains will enhance the growth of mold on leather items. Basically it’s like the icing on the cake.

A moldy leather jacket and the title "how to remove mold from leather the easy way."

Tips To Prevent Mold From Growing On Leather Goods

Here’s the deal – the majority of leather goods you purchase are already contaminated with mold. Ultimate success in the battle against mold on leather starts after the leather is removed from its host animal. The first step to prevent mold from growing on leather begins at the tannery and the conditions in which the leather is stored in the factory where the leather will be turned into a finished product. Most likely you have no control over that. Therefore, here is how you can prevent leather mold at home.

Dry wet leather immediately. Leather motorcycle jackets are notoriously moldy since they get wet in the elements. You cannot leave leather wet!

Keep The Leather Clean – Soiling can supply enough food for mold to start growing when moisture and temperature are right. Body oils, perfumes or colognes, lotions, hair products, deodorant, food spills, grease / oil, body fluids, etc… can all provide mold with a delicious meal to feast on.

Don’t leave leather jackets, pants, purses, and belts on the floor. They won’t get any air flow and if something damp were to accidentally end up on top of the item, mold would grow pretty quickly.  In addition, if leather is placed directly on concrete it will soak up the moisture that is naturally released by the concrete floor.

Store leather at room temperature and keep humidity low.

Never keep your leather items in a basement or attic.

If you are storing your leather items you should wrap them in acid-free paper. There are a few benefits to using acid-free paper, one of which is the simple fact that it serves as a barrier of protection against moisture, dust, dirt and bugs.

Leather garments should only be stored in some type of breathable container or bag. You can use a special leather jacket storage bag, or you can create your own “breathable bag” by poking holes into it. The bottom line is that air must be able to pass through it.

Can You Remove Mold From Leather

When mold starts growing on leather, it is invisible. It becomes visible only when it has multiplied to the point that permanently removing it becomes much more difficult, and simply wiping the surface clean will not solve the problem as it will grow right back again. The leather product will need to be thoroughly cleaned with an anti-mold fungicide solution if there is any hope of saving it.

Having said that, if you have mold growing on leather that is stored inside your home, you may have a larger mold problem. Mold testing is a very good idea at that point.

I also can’t in good faith advise you to try to clean and keep anything with mold actively growing on it. That is a health hazard. But I understand people’s attachment to things or their financial limitations. Hence why I will share the only way I would attempt to remove mold from leather.

How To Remove Mold From Leather The Easy Way

  1. If the leather is damp or wet, allow it to dry in a warm area but away from direct sunlight.
  2. Take the leather outside. You do not want mold spores to run amuck in your house.
  3. Using a damp soft cotton cloth, wipe the entire leather item to remove any surface mold. Make sure to use care around buttons and button holes, zippers, etc… as mold spores will accumulate there.
  4. Allow the leather to dry. This should not take long outside. If you are able to hang it up to dry that is ideal.
  5. Once the leather is dry, wipe it again with a soft cotton cloth soaked in EC3 Laundry Additive. The EC3 laundry additive is safe for leather, made from plant botanicals, and has been lab tested to render mold spores and mycotoxins inactive.
  6. Allow the leather item to dry.
  7. After it has dried, spot check it for any water marks. The EC3 laundry additive may leave a very thin film in places. This is fine. Just wipe it off with a damp cloth and allow the leather to dry one last time.

An important note about leather saddles and tack.

Some people are of the opinion that mold growth on horse tack is a good sign that the tack is healthy. Therefore, they approach mold removal a slightly different way. This article about saddle mold is worth a quick read.

In this post I refer to EC3 products. They are one of the only three mold and mycotoxin removal products that I personally use and recommend. Please read my article outlining what makes EC3 superior when it comes to killing mold and mycotoxins. It has been independently lab tested and proven to be 99% effective when used properly. I encourage you to purchase EC3 products directly through Micro Balance. If you prefer to shop on Amazon, Micro Balance has a presence there as well.

A leather jacket with an overlay that says "check out these simple steps to getting mold off leather."

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  1. Jennifer I appreciate the article. One question is that the EC3 laundry additive is not used straight, but is diluted with the water in the washer. Thus it must be a concentrate. Do we use the additive ‘straight’ out of the bottle or dilute it as is done when it’s used in the clothes washer?

    1. Hi Frank! Use the Laundry Additive straight out of the bottle!

      1. Thanks for your wonderful website! I’m linking to a couple pages for our business that specializes in leather and vinyl repair. The question I have about the EC3 laundry additive is its pH (not seeing this on the product’s specs)? When treating leather, one does not want to alter the pH, and oil residue would need to be cleaned with alcohol before the leather can be refinished. And FYI, the link to your anti-mold fungicide solution on Amazon is broken. Thanks!

        1. Hi Lesandre! I am still trying to find out the PH of EC3. I was told it was neutral but that doesn’t exactly answer the question. I will reach back out to them again.

  2. Lonnie Ayers says:

    My name is Lonnie Ayers I have, motorcycle gear such as chaps, vest, jackets. They got stored in a basement and came out with mold on them. Can I use your method to remove the mold.

    1. Hi Lonnie! Yes, you can definitely use this method. Success really depends on how moldy the items are.

  3. Hey Jennifer, I know we’ve talked about this one before — Do the chemicals that manufacturers treat leather with really smell EXACTLY like mold though? I still can’t wrap my head around this.

    I took a whiff of a new (new in package, but copyright 2009) Polyurethane Leather belt today, it burned my throat and I think it irritated my eyes somewhat.. I’ll be bummed if I have to return it. I’ve noticed that most cheap leather goods in stores have this same smell about them, it sets off my body’s mold alarm every time!

    1. Hey Cristal! So yes and no! We all interpret smells differently. And sometimes our brains retain memories of the reactions we have had to certain smells thereby allowing those responses to occur in the presence of a similar smell. In addition, if ANYTHING is shipped overseas on a boat, it is treated with an antifungal that also adds it’s own moldy smell. Chemical based dyes are also changing and starting to smell more and more like mold. The bottom line is you are reacting. It could be to the chemicals. It could be actual mold. It could be both. But whatever the case, do not compromise your health and err on the side of caution.

  4. Sound advice as always, thank you!