How To Remove Mildew From Leather

Have you experienced taking out your much-loved leather jacket, bag, or shoes from storage only to see it is all covered in white dust? That white dust is mildew. Leather materials stored for a long time in high moisture areas are prone to mildew growth. Do not worry; there are ways we have found through our research to make your leather items look good again.

When removing mildew from leather, the most important thing is to ensure that the leather will have the least damage possible. There are remedies available at home that will not be harmful to leather:

  • A soft bristle brush is the first household item that can remove mildew.
  • Baking soda is the best mildew killer for delicate leather items.
  • Mild detergent soap is a gentle cleanser on a leather surface.
  • Isopropyl alcohol mixed with water is safe to use for removing mildew on leather.
  • White distilled vinegar and water is another solution to clean leather from mildew.

When cleaning leather, testing the solution on a small area first is recommended. It will also help to know that there are ways to care for the leather before storing it to avoid mildew growth.

Knowing that some household items can solve the problem of mildew on leather, read on to learn how to use these readily available items. We will give more details on how to make the right mix of household items for cleaning leather. 

A leather bag with mold spreading on surface, How To Remove Mildew From Leather

What is the difference between mildew and mold? 

We commonly hear mold and mildew, often used interchangeably when discussing leather infiltration. Is there a difference? Mold is a fungus that grows on organic matter, especially in places where moisture is high. There are different species of mold; mildew is one of them.

Mold and mildew differ in appearance and smell. Mold looks slimy or fuzzy. The color can be black, white, green, or orange, whereas mildew is dry, flat, and powdery. It is usually white or gray in color.

Mildew emits a mild and musty smell. Mold has a stronger and more pungent smell. Thus, cleaning mold will take more than just using household items.

Cleaning Mildew from Leather

Brush off mildew

Mildew spreading on the leather

Before cleaning leather with homemade solutions, brushing off loose particles from the leather surface should be done first. A soft-bristled brush is best used to gently remove the dry mildew. You are removing mildew spores that can grow more if left untended. 

Baking Soda

Baking soda has a pH level that is suitable for cleaning. It removes tough stains and dirt and is not harmful to leather. So it is a great alternative to removing mildew from leather. 

One way to use baking soda is to sprinkle it on the leather surface. Wait for a few hours before dusting it off. You can also use the vacuum to remove the residue; this technique is best, so it will not cause discoloration on the leather.

Once done removing loose particles with a soft bristle brush, gently rub a baking soda solution onto the leather surface.

  • Mix two tablespoons of baking soda and one cup of water to make a paste.
  • Moisten a cloth on the paste and rub the mixture gently on the area of your leather item with mildew. 

Mild Detergent Soap 

Woman putting dishwashing on the sponge

Another way of removing mildew from leather is by using mild detergent soap. Mix this with warm water. Pour the solution into a spray bottle. The solution can be sprayed directly on the mildew. With a clean cloth, wipe the area where it was sprayed.

Isopropyl Alcohol and Water 

Another cleaning material available in any household is isopropyl alcohol. You need to mix an equal amount of isopropyl alcohol and water. Using a soft cloth, dampen it in the mixture and clean an area not easily visible, like creases. This is to test how the leather will react to the mixture as alcohol can remove the dye.

Vinegar and Water 

Vinegar is a good cleaning agent, specifically white distilled vinegar. This can also be used to kill mildew on your leather item. Also, it has 5% acidity, and when mixed with equal parts of water, it is safe to use for cleaning off mildew. 

Is alcohol or vinegar better to kill mold on leather?

Toothbrush and vinegar on the background

Alcohol and vinegar are good to be used as long as you don’t spray these directly on the leather surface. It is best to be mixed with water, and use a cloth moistened with the mixture to wipe on the affected area. This is to prevent further damage to your leather item.

However, alcohol contains chemicals that can dry out leather easily as well as your skin if exposed when cleaning. Vinegar is natural, so it is not too harsh to be used for cleaning leather.  

Safety during cleaning 

Removing mildew should be done outside so the spores will not spread around your house. The spores can start growing on other surfaces and will be harmful to the people living in the house.

Wear a mask when cleaning so you don’t inhale the mildew particles. Mildew can also cause skin irritation. It is recommended to also wear gloves to avoid mildew getting into your skin. 

If going outdoors is not possible, vacuum the area after cleaning the leather. This will prevent the mildew particles from staying inside your house and start growing on your furniture and floor.

Mildew odor

As you clean your leather, the smell of mildew can remain in the area. Baking soda is a good odor neutralizer. Leaving a box of baking soda in the cabinet or storage area can help eliminate the mildew odor.  

How do you get rid of mildew stains?

Removing mold on the leather sofa

Various household items that can be used to clean mildew are also great solutions to get rid of stains caused by mildew. After cleaning the affected area, use a new dry cloth to gently wipe over it again with the mixture you used for cleaning. Keep doing this repeatedly to ensure that the stains are gone.

Drying leather after cleaning

It is best not to place the item you have cleaned directly under the sun as this can dry out the leather. If still damp, you can leave windows open to air out cleaned leather. Naturally, air drying for at least 24 hours will be best. Completely dry the item before storing it to prevent your leather item from growing mildew again.

Storing Leather Mildew-free

Dust bags and silica gels

A small pile of Silica gel

Using dust bags to wrap your leather bag or shoe can also protect it from getting mildew. You may put silica gel to remove moisture build-up inside the dust bag when storing. W

hen you buy shoes or bags, these usually have silica gel packs inside the boxes. Keep a pack and place it inside the leather item when storing.

Cleaning after use

For leather bags and shoes, remove any dust after use. The trick is to remove as much dirt on the surface as possible. You may use a vacuum cleaner to ensure this. A damp cloth can be used to clean leather too. 

Air out leather

Airing leather items will prevent mildew growth. It is recommended to air out your stored leather items at least once a month. 

Leather can last for years

A leather bag with mold spreading on surface

Mildew can be a ghastly sight on your leather. This is easily removed using household items that are not harsh to the leather. Cleaning the item thoroughly before storing it can also prevent mildew. Take time to do this to keep your well-loved leather items mildew-free, and enjoy using these for years.

For more great leather cleaning tips, check out: 

How To Get A Cigarette Smell Out Of Leather Furniture [5 Methods]

How To Whiten Yellowed Leather Sofa [7 Steps]

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