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leather mildewed

msm | Posted in General Discussion on

i am unpacking some clothes that have been in storage for a few years and have discovered that a leather skirt and most shoes have light grey mildew fuzzy areas. how best to clean these DIY? i figured to start with a wipedown with lysol, but what next? airing in the sun and possibly a spritz with something else for a scent freshener?
thanks- mary


  1. mimi | | #1

    I had the same thing happen to me years ago, my favorite boots meldewed after a plumbing leak in a bathroom adjacent to the closet.  Sunlight is the least caustic measure you can take.  I never found the lysol to work.  You might try wiping out the inside of the shoes/clothes with a diluted bleach solution.  Afterwards put some activated charcoal in the boots when you store them to absorb any off odors.


  2. SewTruTerry | | #2

    Do not use Lysol or other chemicals of that nature on leather it is too caustic what you need to get is leather soap.  Leather soap can be purchased at any shoe repair shop or other shop catering to leather repair or cleaning.  The leather soap will clean and moisturize the leather so that it will not crack.  The Lysol and other cleaning products of that nature will only cause more deteriation of the leather.  As far as the possiblility of any odor that may be cause from the mildew the activated charcoal is a good one or use baking soda in an old nylon stuffed into the toes.  Again the key is not to use anything that will cause the leather to dry out so much to crack.  Good luck.

    1. msm | | #3

      thanks for the warning bout lysol; was just thinking that some osrt of fungicide might kill any potentially active spores. mildew is one of those icky things i really want to get rid of. i know sunlight is supposed to b best, but it just doesn't feel like enough, KWIM? lol-
      where exactly does one purchase activated charcoal?
      thanks again ladies-

      1. SewTruTerry | | #4

        You should be able to get activated charcoal at any pharmacy. It is used for possible poisonings and is usually included in most first aid kits.  Otherwise you might also find it at pool supply stores but you may have to buy a larger quantity.

  3. bea | | #5


    You can try white vinegar and water 50/50, don't over wet. The vinegar kills yeast growth ,so it should clean your boots. I use pickle juice on my shoes, when I have salt stains in winter, so it won't hurt the leather. Bea

    1. User avater
      maddog3 | | #6

      I saw this question and was wondering if the remedies listed would work on my waxed ...canvas?... work coat (Filson)

      1. bea | | #7


        Try it in a hidden place first. Mildew is the worst, if you use the vingear dab it on and then dab on some clear water .  When it is dry, wax the item  to keep the air away from the mildew area. On a canvas I would wax the inside and buff it so the mildew can't grow inside the coat.I use vinegar and free laundry detergent daily and never had any problem. Put  the vinegar in with the detergent and it removes odors and kills dust mites.  Bea

        1. User avater
          maddog3 | | #8

          Thank you very much bea,the coat is impregnated with the wax and it is waterPROOF, and cannot be washed ,but I will give the vinegar a whirl

          1. msm | | #9

            thanks bea- great tips!
            maddog- i've never heard of waxed canvas, though i'm familiar with canvas impregnated with various other substances, like latex. what sort of wax or oi, specifically, is used? and has the mildew created grey stains in the canvas istself, or is it just a bad smell? the stains can be really hard to get rid of, though sunlight does a good job.

          2. User avater
            maddog3 | | #10

            Sorry for the long wait.....I was guessing at the canvas maybe its just cotton, anyway if the temp is below 50 the coat is sitff as a board, and yes the mildew seems to be in the fabric,
            Filson sells the coat as "tin cloth".... their name for the fabric, and they stick a small tin in the pocket to use for maintenance
            http://www.filson.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2092279&cp=2065676.2065769.2117308&parentPage=familymy coat is about 20 years old.... I got it just the way I want it, and now this

          3. Elisabeth | | #11

            Ultra violet radiation can kill mildew and putting mildewed things in the sun has been the remedy for ages. A dry breezy sunny day that isn't too hot works wonders. Be patient and let the coat hang there inside out all day while the sun shines. And repeat if necessary. Sunlight disinfects and will get rid of many odors as well. Since the tin cloth cannot be washed you might hang the coat out in the sun a bit on occasion just as a prentative. You can vacuum the inside of the coat first to get rid of as much of the mildew spores as possible. The coat could be stored with a form of dessicant if the storage conditions are not dry enough to prevent mildew.

          4. User avater
            maddog3 | | #12

            .....Ok then, we'll put 'ol Sol to work ....,Thank You for your time......Tom

          5. bea | | #13

            I would try vinegar for the stain , dab it on and when dry oil it as directed by the manufacture. Oiling will smother the mildew. Bea

          6. User avater
            maddog3 | | #14

            I tried the vinegar a couple days ago , and I saw a litte improvement, bur the weather was cool and the vinegar just rolled off ! I took the coat for a stroll yesterday , with little noticeable difference, so today I will just let it hang out in the sun, wait till it softens up and try the vinegar again.Sunny with rain later todayI will have a report on the desk ASAP

          7. User avater
            maddog3 | | #15

            the coat has been outside since yesterday,and the mildew spots are hardly noitceable today, ....for good measure , I left it out overnight thru the storms that rolled in after dark, thank you msm, Elisabeth and bea for your time .Tom

          8. mygaley | | #16

            For restoring leather boots and even the waxed coat I would try the local boot repair and western store (they sell the coats).   On a slow day, the local boot craftsman could take a lot of interest in a project like this, and they cater to ladies.

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