Leather’s worst enemy is moisture. Wet or damp leather can lead to mold, mildew and difficult to remove stains. Mold and mildew will grow on leather items if they are kept in dark and damp spaces. If a favorite purse, leather jacket, coat, car seat or couch gets infested with mildew, don’t panic, we have some simple procedures to get remove mold from leather.
Safety issues when you remove mold from leather
Mold can carry some serious health risks for some individuals. I may be advisable to simply through away some mold infested items rather than trying to rescue them. This is particularly important if items have been in contact with black water or sewage. Please refer to our article Water Damage Repair for more advise on health risks from water damage.
How to remove mold from leather
Before you remove mold from leather, it is essential to understand that not all types of leather are the same, nor do they require the same approach to cleaning. Some leathers are smooth and shiny; others are soft with natural textures. General cleaning tips may share similarities, but unique stains can mean that a different cleaning process is warranted.
Most importantly, read the manufacturer’s label that came with the product. They know the type of leather you purchased and how best to care for it. Stores that sell leather products often sell leather cleaning kits. Many of these products are very effective, just be sure that the ingredients on the product do not contain any water based cleaning agents. Some products have fungicidal agents to deal with mold removal specifically. If you no longer have the instructions, there are general tips to remove mold from leather that can work on most types of leather. It may be advisable to test the cleaning procedure first on a less seen area of your product.
Using a soft brush, get rid of surface mold. To prevent spores from becoming airborne in your house, do this outside. The first step is to remove loose mold with a soft bristle brush. Be certain to wash the brush when you are done with it. Collect more of the mold with a vacuum cleaner. Dispose of the vacuum bag immediately or empty the canister outside.
Place the leather object in the sun to remove moisture. You may prefer to use a fan and/or an electric heater and a fan to dry the leather.
Use a clean, damp, soft cloth or sponge to remove the surface mildew. When the rag is dirty, get a clean one. Reusing the rag or simply rinsing it out in the same bucket of water will continue to spread the mold spores. Clean the rags with bleach when you’re finished or throw them away.
How to remove mold/mildew from finished leather
Finished leather has a coating of pigment applied to it. If you are sure you have finished leather give an overall cleaning with mild soap and water. We suggest one part dish-washing soap to five parts water. Be careful not to get the leather wet, lightly rub with the sudsy solution and immediately wipe it off with a clean cloth.
How to remove mold/mildew from unfinished leather
For unfinished leather, a damp cloth or sponge can be used with saddle soap rubbed into the item. Finish with a leather preservative product like mink oil.
To keep leather soft mix one part white vinegar with two parts linseed oil. Shake in a covered container. Apply to the leather with a soft cloth and then let dry for at least 12 hours, then buff. This solution may be stored and used again.
Extra Care with Leather furniture
If you have cushions with zipper access, and you suspect the fungi or bacteria have migrated into the internals of the cushion, remove the cushion cores and treat accordingly, or replace with new.
When mold is found inside the furniture frame it needs to be dried out as well as you can manage. Open the underside dust cover to dry inside surfaces. When the project seems too much you may want to send it to a service that can remove mold from leather by fumigating and disinfecting. You may find such services listed as “mold remediation“. Some companies have ozone chambers that can be helpful with mold- infected furniture.
Here are additional notes from the Canadian Conservation Institute.
Store your leather items wrapped in an acid free tissue paper. This will help slow down the oil oxidation process.
Keep leather away from UV light. If in display cases, try using a film that shields UV or lights that have covers to reduce UV.
Keep the humidity around 50%. Do not let the humidity go above 70%. Leather will mold at 70% humidity and above. Storage of leather in conditions where the humidity is below 30% will dry out the leather over time.
Proper storage will help ensure you will not need to remove mold from leather.