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Humidity and Leather Toys
Flirting With Disaster
Mildew Prevention and Removal

By Bootblack Elegant of Archer & Elegant

Blame weather conditions of constant rain, soaring heat and high humidity for a large-scale invasion of molds and mildews but don't blame the weather for the ruin of your leather toys, clothing, boots and shoes, because proper care and storage can be a barrier to this earthy enemy.

Mildew is a thin, often whitish to bluish-green growth produced by molds. Molds are fungi and grow rampantly under the right conditions: those that cause mildew only need moisture and a certain temperature in order to grow. As the tiny fungi mature, they bloom and burst to spew billions of microscopic spores into the air. Rub a patch of mold or mildew and you send those spores forth to multiply throughout the air and onto everything around. Mildew flourishes in areas that are damp, warm, poorly lighted or where air is not circulated: closets, basements, crawl spaces, toy boxes, car trunks, closed cabinets etc. They grow on cellulose and protein products such as cotton, linen, wood, paper, silk, leather and wool. In addition to an unpleasant musty odor, molds and mildew cause considerable damage if permitted to grow. They discolor their food source and sometimes eat into them until the source rots and falls apart.

Prevention is the best mildew policy for your leather toys, clothing and accessories. If these items are kept clean, well ventilated, dry and free from other contaminated items, your chances of having a mildew invasion are greatly lessened.


Keep items clean! Sweat, blood, oils and other body fluids can supply enough food for mildew to start growing. Even ordinary substances such as alcoholic beverages, sodas and juice, gasoline and body lotions can damage leather clothing and shoes. Thoroughly clean leather after each use. Wipe down with a clean, damp cloth and sanitize if necessary. Let items dry thoroughly in a well-ventilated area before storing.


Leather is porous and needs to breathe. You should store your leather in an airy, dry area that is not too hot or cold and certainly not damp. Do not impede air circulation by hanging toys and clothing in a tightly packed closet. Do not store in direct contact with the flow of heating vents or near heating units and avoid direct sunlight as this will dry and fade leather. Always use sturdy, padded hangers to help preserve the shape of your leather clothing and if you choose to cover leather items use a breathable material like a cotton sheet. Avoid storing any leather items in plastic bags, plastic containers, tight drawers, car trunks, bathrooms or packed tightly into a toybag or toybox.


Mildew can attack even with proper cleaning and storage. If you discover that lovely lacey stenciling on your leathers the first step is to REMOVE the affected item outside gently and carefully. That way, you'll avoid filling the air with mold spores that will simply infect other items in the confined space.

Have a supply of old soft rags that you are willing to throw out. Start wiping away any surface mold with a wet rag. Wipe and capture as much of the mold as you can then throw the rag away. Don't rinse and reuse your rags. That only spreads the mold spores. Use an old toothbrush to clean stitching lines and crevices. Finish cleaning the leather using a water-based, pH neutral product to float away any remaining organic surface dirt that could support mold and mildew growth.

Dry the leather in the sun to take advantage of the disinfectant properties of the sun's ultraviolet light. (Hint: Do this on a breezy day so that there is less time the leather needs to remain in the sunlight.)

Vinegar, household bleach or alcohol can also be used to remove mold and mildew from leather but do know that they can all damage the fibers, will cause excess drying of the leather and could cause extreme discoloration. For heavily mildewed leather I suggest a 50/50 mix of 70% isopropyl alcohol and water. After washing the leather as noted above spray a fine mist of the alcohol solution over the leather, wipe with a clean soft cloth and let air dry in the sun.

You will need to recondition your leather after removing mold and mildew. You have removed the villain but you have also removed the natural and impregnated leather oils that keep quality leather in top-quality condition! For superior results take your leather clothing and boots to an experienced bootblack for quality care.

Written By Bootblack Elegant
For comments and questions, please email Elegant at
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