How To Remove Mildew From Leather

Mildew grows best on natural products exposed to moisture, yet many people do not know how to remove mildew growing on their leather products, whether it be shoes, belts, or car seats.

Although some people throw away mildewy leather products, we’ve done the research, and learning how to remove mildew from leather is easy if you follow these simple steps.

Now, you can save your leather items and save yourself money and frustration.

What You’ll Need

You’ll need a few simple things to remove mildew from leather products properly.

Now that you have everything you need, read on to learn how to remove mildew from leather.

1. Brush Loose Mildew off of the Leather

You should remove mildew from your leather as soon as you notice it.

Mildew will keep growing, and the more mildew there is, the harder it will be to remove.

As soon as you see mildew on your leather, take a soft cleaning brush and brush the affected area to remove any loose mildew.

I recommend the Colourlock Leather & Textile Cleaning Brush.

It’s specifically made for leather and gets excellent reviews on Amazon.

Brush gently to avoid damaging the leather. If possible, you should brush your leather outside to prevent the mildew spores from settling elsewhere in your house.

Pro tip: If you want to be extra thorough, you can also vacuum the affected area after you have brushed it.

Doing this will remove more of the loose mildew.

If you choose to vacuum, do so outside and dispose of the cleaning bag immediately to prevent the mildew from settling elsewhere in your home.

2. Mix Rubbing Alcohol and Water

In a bowl, mix a mixture of one part rubbing or denatured alcohol and one part water.

Create as much as you need for the affected area of the leather.

3. Wipe the Affected Area with a Dampened Cleaning Cloth

Dip your cleaning cloth in the water and alcohol mixture to wet it, and then wring the cloth out thoroughly.

I recommend using these Microfiber Cleaning Cloths that I found on Amazon.

They are very soft and work well with leather surfaces, plus they get great reviews.

You will know that you have sufficiently wrung the cloth when it is damp and does not drip water anymore.

It would be best if you didn’t let your cleaning cloth become any wetter than necessary.

Leather can absorb moisture, which will ruin it instead of removing the mildew and saving the leather.

Wipe your dampened cleaning cloth over the affected area of the leather.

Then, as mildew comes off the leather and onto the cloth, rinse your cleaning cloth and dampen it again with the water and alcohol mixture.

You may have to repeat this process several times to remove the mildew from your leather items altogether.

4. Allow the Leather to Dry Completely

Leather does best when it stays dry, so once you have finished removing the mildew, you should wipe your leather down with a dry cleaning cloth to remove excess moisture.

Then, set your leather items in a well-ventilated area to air-dry completely.

This area could be near an open window or a fan.

Please do not put your leather items away until they are completely dry.

If they are still slightly damp when you put them away, the mildew may grow back.

Pro tip: While some people dry items in the sun to further prevent the return of mildew, putting leather in the sun can have unintended side effects.

While the sun does kill off many forms of mold and mildew, it can also discolor your leather.

If you choose to dry your mildew in the sun, keep a close eye on it to prevent discolorations.

5. Treat Your Leather with a Leather Conditioner

Once your leather items are completely dry, rub an appropriate amount of leather conditioner on them.

You can certainly use the saddle soap as the video below recommends, but only if the leather is heavy.

If you are working on heavy leather, I recommend the Leather Honey Leather Conditioner.

It’s the best-reviewed leather conditioner that I could find on Amazon, and it works really well.

Using a leather conditioner will help restore the leather’s natural moisture levels, preventing it from cracking and allowing you to enjoy your leather items for many years ahead.

Follow the instructions on your particular bottle of leather conditioner.

And that’s all there is to it.

Five simple steps to effectively remove mildew from leather with easy-to-find household items.

If you are more of a visual learner, check out the video below to learn how to remove mildew from leather.

0:44 – Mix 1 part rubbing alcohol and 1 part water.

0:53 – Dampen cleaning cloth with the water and alcohol solution.

1:00 – Rub the affected area gently.

1:09 – Allow the leather to air dry.

1:13 – Repeat as needed until the mildew is gone.

1:17 – Saddle soap is also a solution for heavy leather items.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I remove mildew on my unfinished leather?

Unfinished leather requires a little more care than finished leather, so you will need a slightly different method to remove it if you discover mildew on your unfinished leather. 

When cleaning unfinished leather, we recommend Fiebing’s Saddle Soap.

It’s easy to find at most hardware stores, or you can order it here, and it’s less likely to cause damage to the unfinished leather than a leather cleaner or a water and alcohol mixture.

First, pour a dime-sized portion of saddle soap onto a dampened cleaning cloth—again, be sure only to use as much water as is necessary to dampen the cloth.

Then, gently rub the soap on the affected area of the leather until light lather forms.

Once you have removed all the mildew, wipe the area clean with a second damp cleaning cloth.

Make sure you remove all the soap and mildew residue.

Then, allow your unfinished leather item to air dry completely.

Avoid drying it in the sun and high heat areas; both of these can damage your leather.

Finally, once your unfinished leather is dry, please treat it with a leather conditioner to protect it from damage.

How can I prevent mildew from growing on my leather?

Mildew thrives in warm, moist environments, and leather can provide an ideal location for mildew to grow.

Leather is a natural material that gives mildew sustenance to destroy your leather goods.

If you allow your leather to become and stay wet, it will grow mildew.

To prevent this, keep your leather as dry as possible—store leather items in dry, well-ventilated areas.

Although you cannot wash leather, you can work to keep it clean and in good shape.

If it accidentally gets wet, make sure to dry it thoroughly before storing it away.