How to Clean Mildew Off Leather Shoes

Do your leather shoes have that tell-tale smell of mildew? If so, you’re not alone – it’s a common problem. Not to worry though – with the right care and knowledge, it’s possible to get rid of mildew on leather shoes effectively.

In this blog post, we’ll be exploring how to clean mildew off leather shoes step by step, as well as offering some advice on what steps you can take to prevent future growth. Read along for more!

How to Clean Mildew Off Leather Shoes

Needed Materials

Given below are the materials needed for cleaning mildew off leather shoes:

White Vinegar

This will help to combat mildew and other bacteria.

Soft Cloth

A soft cloth is best for wiping down the leather surface without damaging it.

Mild Soap

Mild soap can be used to further clean the surface of your shoes while also moisturizing them.

Shoe Brush

The brush will help to remove and debris.

11 Step by Step Guidelines on How to Clean Mildew Off Leather Shoes

Step 1: Clean the Surface

Begin by using a soft cloth and some mild soap to clean the surface of your shoes. Make sure to get into all of the crevices, as this can help to remove excess dirt and debris that may be encouraging mildew growth. If your shoes are especially dirty, you may want to use a shoe brush. It’s important to clean the surface thoroughly so that mildew is removed effectively.

Using a Soft Cloth and 
Some Mild Soap to Clean

Step 2: Disinfect with Vinegar

Once the surface of your shoes is clean and free from dirt, you can use white vinegar to disinfect them. Simply wipe down the leather with a cloth soaked in vinegar – this will help to kill any bacteria or mildew present on the surface. But be sure to rinse off the vinegar with a damp cloth after you’ve finished. This will help to ensure no lingering vinegar residue remains. It’s also important to note that vinegar should not be used on suede or other delicate leathers.

Step 3: Rinse & Dry

Rinse your shoes off with warm water, then dry them thoroughly using a soft cloth. It’s important not to leave them damp as this can encourage mildew growth again. If you are unable to air dry your shoes, you can use a blow dryer on the cool setting. But be sure to keep the blow dryer moving so you don’t overheat and damage your leather. This is especially important for sensitive leathers.

Step 4: Treat With Leather Conditioner

Once your shoes are clean and dry, treat them with a leather conditioner that’s appropriate for the type of leather you are dealing with. This will help to restore moisture levels and keep your shoes looking pristine. If your shoes have been particularly damaged by mildew, you may want to consider using a leather repair kit instead. Otherwise, simply follow the instructions on your leather conditioner’s packaging.

Treat Them With a 
Leather Conditioner

Step 5: Brush Away Excess Mildew

If there is still some mildew present on your shoes, use a soft brush to gently remove it. Make sure you brush away from the leather so that you don’t cause any damage. Although it may take some time and effort, this is an important step in getting rid of mildew on leather shoes. This will also help to ensure that the leather conditioner is able to penetrate deep into the material and restore its luster.

Step 6: Spot Check

Do a spot check to make sure all of the mildew has been removed. If there are still traces of mildew left behind, repeat steps 1-5 until they are gone. But be sure not to overdo it when cleaning your shoes – too much cleansing can cause damage to the leather. It’s better to take your time and do it correctly the first time. This will help to preserve the life of your leather shoes.

Step 7: Apply Water Repellent

Once your shoes have been thoroughly cleaned and dried, apply a water repellent spray or cream to help protect them from future mildew growth. This will also help to protect the leather from damage caused by moisture. It’s best to use a product specifically designed for leather, as this will give you the best protection. But be sure to follow the instructions on the product’s packaging so you can get the best results.

Apply a Water Repellent Spray

Step 8: Let Dry Fully

Allow your shoes to dry fully before wearing them again. This will help to ensure that any remaining mildew or bacteria is killed off before you put them on your feet. It’s also important to let them dry naturally and away from direct sunlight as this can damage the leather. Once your shoes are completely dry, they should look and feel as good as new.

Step 9: Store Properly

Make sure you store your leather shoes in a place where they can air out and get plenty of ventilation. This will help to keep mildew at bay, as it cannot survive in well-ventilated areas. If you don’t have a good place to store them, consider buying a shoe bag that is specifically designed to protect your leather shoes from moisture and mildew.

Step 10: Keep Them Clean

Be sure to clean your leather shoes regularly – this will reduce the chance of mildew growth significantly. Use a soft cloth and some mild soap or leather cleaner every couple of weeks to keep them looking good and smelling fresh. But be sure not to over-clean them or you may end up damaging the leather.

Step 11: Take Preventative Steps

Finally, be sure to take preventative steps such as using water-repellent sprays or creams, storing your shoes in a well-ventilated area, and cleaning them regularly. Taking these small steps will go a long way in preventing mildew growth on your leather shoes. It will also help to extend their life and keep them looking fresh and new.

By following the above steps, you can easily get rid of mildew on leather shoes and enjoy wearing them for years to come. Just remember that prevention is key, so make sure to apply water repellents, clean them regularly and store them properly.

Do You Need Help From a Professional?

If you’ve tried cleaning your leather shoes and still can’t get rid of the mildew, it might be time to call in a professional. A leather care specialist will be able to diagnose the problem and suggest solutions that are tailored specifically to your needs. 

Might Be Time to 
Call in a Professional

It’s always best to consult a professional if you’re feeling unsure or having trouble getting rid of mildew on leather shoes. Your leather shoes are an investment, so make sure you take good care of them! 

By following these steps on how to clean mildew off leather shoes, you can ensure they stay looking great for years to come.

How Much Will It Cost?

The cost of professional services depends on the type of leather and the extent of the mildew damage. Generally, professional cleaning and repair can cost upwards of $50. However, it’s important to remember that this is an investment in your shoes – they will last much longer with proper care than without them. But if you want to save some money, you can try cleaning your leather shoes yourself first.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How Long Does It Take to Get Rid of Mildew on Leather Shoes?

A: Depending on the severity of the mildew, it can take anywhere from a few hours to several days. Be sure to allow your shoes enough time to dry completely before wearing them again.

Q: What is the Best Way to Prevent Mildew Growth on Leather Shoes?

A: The best way to prevent mildew growth is to apply water-repellent sprays or creams regularly and store your shoes in a well-ventilated area. Additionally, make sure you clean them with a soft cloth and some mild soap every couple of weeks.

Q: Is There Anything Else I Should Do After Cleaning My Leather Shoes?

A: It’s also a good idea to condition your leather shoes with a quality leather conditioner before wearing them again. This will help keep the leather soft and supple.

Q: How Often Should I Clean My Leather Shoes?

A: You should clean your leather shoes at least every couple of weeks to keep them looking and smelling fresh. Additionally, it’s a good idea to apply water-repellent sprays or creams regularly to help protect the leather from moisture damage.


To wrap up, if you have leather shoes that have become the unfortunate victims of mildew, fear not. With the right techniques and products, you can bring them back to a beautiful (almost) like-new life. 

Start by removing excess dirt and debris off the leather and then using a mixture of water, vinegar, or rubbing alcohol and a brush to delicately scrub away mildew stains. 

Finish with an approved specialty leather cleaner in order to maintain your shoes’ protective coating and ensure softness. Remember, it takes patience and gentle cleaning motion to avoid damaging the leather material itself. 

By following these methods, you can make sure your shoe investment lasts for years to come! Thank you for reading our helpful tips on how to clean mildew off leather shoes – we hope we could provide some insight into maintaining your beloved footwear!

Photo of author

Matt Clark

Hi, this is Matt, and I am a leathercraft hobbyist. I have been working with leather for quite a bit of time. When I was a teenager, my father taught me the basics of leathercraft. Along the way I have learned a lot of things about leather work leather items, restoring leather, and creating leather accessories. I started this blog to share my knowledge of leatherworking with others and help people learn about this amazing craft. I also wanted to create a community of like-minded people who could share ideas and support each other in their leatherworking journey.

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