Well, unless they are made of gorgeous, velvety green suede this is probably a bad thing.
Leather is a natural product and mold and mildew (fungi!) will grow on it in the right conditions. These conditions usually involve dampness and darkness and it doesn’t take long. Basements, car trunks, and the back of closets are all places wet shoes and boots can linger and get moldy and funky.
Even if your boots weren’t wet when you stored them, they may get funky in a damp place. Most leather is hygroscopic, meaning that it will absorb moisture from the surrounding atmosphere until the leather reaches a point at which microorganisms will grow on it. It’s best to stop that process as soon as possible. Essentially you need to clean the surface of your boots and dry out the leather a bit.
If your boots smell like mold or mildew, it’s a good bet that you’re dealing with fungus growing on your leather. If your boots don’t smell moldy, but they look weird, there may be something else going on. (Our next post will continue this topic and will discuss on other funky stuff that can happen to boots.)
But I digress. Back to mold and mildew. Here’s a simple way to clean surface mold and mildew off of your leather boots or shoes. Other remedies are available which employ harsh cleaning agents (like alcohol or bleach), but try this method before resorting to the big guns. You don’t want to risk discoloring your leather.
You will need:
- Clean towel or cloth for initial wipe down
- Another cloth or natural bristle brush for cleaning
- Bucket or sink
- Warm water
- White vinegar
- Clean, dry towel
What to do:
- Dampen a clean towel or cloth with clean water and wipe down the boots top to bottom to remove as much surface gunk as possible.
- Make a solution of white vinegar and water – 1 cup vinegar to 1 cup warm (not hot) water.
- If this is starting to sound familiar, you may have read our article on removing salt stains from leather but these instructions vary a bit.
Using your clean soft cloth or natural bristle brush, gently scrub your boots. Remember: to avoid creating water stains it is important to get the entire surface of the boot wet. It’s best to bring water up to the boot. Do not submerge your boot. If your boots are really smelly, use a damp rag to wash the inside as well.
- Once you have wetted and gently scrubbed your leather top to bottom with vinegar and water, rinse gently with clear water. Remember to bring the water up to the boots. No dunking.
- Pat your boots with a clean, dry towel to remove any excess water. If your boots are a light color you may want to use a light colored towel just to be sure you don’t transfer color from the towel onto the boot.
- Once you’ve removed any excess water, set your boots someplace with good air circulation and allow them to dry thoroughly. If you can set them outside in the sun that will help. Remember, avoid high heat areas like near a fireplace, wood stove, or radiator. The key is plenty of fresh air and sunshine. If you can put them outside, great. If not, just put them some place airy to dry.
- Once your boots are dry, check them over and buff gently with a dry cloth. If mold and mildew remain, follow up with a second cleaning using a mild soap solution (¼ teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap to 2 quarts warm water). Wash with soap as indicated above using a cloth or natural bristle brush to gently scrub any trouble spots. On smooth leather (not suede) you can also use saddle soap following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Again, rinse well by bringing clean water up to your boots with a cloth or natural bristle brush.
- Pat dry with a clean towel. Use a light colored towel for light colored leather to prevent possible color transfer from the towel to the leather.
- Allow to dry thoroughly with plenty of fresh air. Avoid heat.
- When dry, condition and waterproof your boots with MooBuzz!
Good Job! You’re taking great care of your leather.