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How to remove mildew from leather jackets

Hello everyone, nice day here in Florida. As much as I like it here in Florida, the humidity is not the best for leather. So today I’ll tell you how to get rid of mildew on leather jackets, or anything leather for that matter. Of course the best thing is to prevent it from forming in the first place. So lets see just why mildew forms on leather in the first place.

Ironically, most of the reason why mildew forms on leather has nothing to do with the leather itself, but the oils you put on it to keep it soft and in good shape. The worst thing you can do is put too much oil, or rather leather conditioner, on your leather jacket or item. Leather needs oils to lubricate the leather fibers to stop them drying out and cracking.

But if you put too much on, or use heavy junk, then the leather can’t breath. Soon moisture forms in the leather and oil, and mildew forms. You may notice that mildew often forms around seams, studs, snaps and places like that. That’s because when you put leather conditioner on it’s easy to let too much build up in those cracks and corners.

So you end up with a pool of oil in those areas, stopping the leather from breathing and forming mildew. When you put leather conditioner on it’s important to make sure you don’t let it build up in those areas. Leather braids are another problem area for that. Just remember a little oil goes a long way with leather.

Another common way to get mildew forming in your jacket is when you store it away for a long time. A dark, humid closet is a fun factory for mildew! Never put your leather jacket in plastic, and try to keep it so it’s not jammed tight against other clothes, try to keep some air going around it. So lets say you did store a leather jacket in a closet for 6 months, and now it smells like mildew, maybe even has mildew spots.

Well in a case like that, the best way to fix it is take it to a professional leather cleaner. That may sound like a cop out, but it’s the best way to get it cleaned. Ask your local dry cleaners if they know how to clean leather items. But lets say you want to try to fix it yourself, fine. first hang it out in a sunny spot and let it dry and bake for a few hours.

Then mix up a 50/50 mix of water and rubbing alcohol. If you can actually see mold, brush off what you can, but don’t force it. Take a clean washcloth and rub the mixture all over the leather jacket. Make sure you get it in those cracks and corners. Let it dry, then if you still see mildew try brushing it off and do the whole treatment again. Light colored leather may get discolored doing this, or darker.

Now take some leather cleaner like saddle soap, and clean the whole leather item. If it’s a leather jacket you want to pull the sleeves inside out and treat those too. Then let it dry once again. By now all the mildew should be gone and it should smell better. Doing all that has now stripped the leather item of oils, so you need to apply leather conditioner.

BUT REMEMBER, the oils in the conditioner are what makes the mildew in the first place! You DO need to apply it, as it protects the leather fibers. But don’t put too much on, use a light coat and rub it in well. Once done make sure you wipe off ALL the excess. Use a toothbrush on the seams and cracks to get it all off.

Now if it’s just one spot or so on your leather item, you do the same thing but just on that spot. Dry it, brush off the mildew, wipe with that mixture, dry it again, repeat if you have to, clean it with leather cleaner, and apply leather conditioner LIGHTLY!

So lets recap everything. To prevent mildew on leather jackets, don’t use too much leather conditioner, which is oil. Don’t let it build up in cracks and seams. Store your leather jacket without any plastic over it, try to store in a dry spot and let air circulate around it. Of course make sure it’s dry before storing.

If you do get mildew on your leather jacket, try to take it to a leather cleaner, they do a great job. To do it yourself, use the instructions above. Now, a light colored leather may get discolored or darker if you use the above method. So, try to take it to a cleaner. You may notice I don’t mention any brand names for the cleaners or conditioners. That’s because I’m trying to not push any product.

Any good leather jacket apparel or motorcycle jacket store should have plenty of good brands of leather cleaners and conditioners. Use it all lightly, and avoid any heavy or greasy looking conditioner. So that’s how you prevent and remove mildew from leather jackets and other leather apparel and items!

8 thoughts on “How to remove mildew from leather jackets

  1. This is awesome! I did it and it worked!!! I also used saddle soap to clean my coats (there were two) that I mistaken stored in the basement over the summer….ughh wont do that again. Thanks for the help !

  2. If one tries to clean a leather jacket using this method but it either doesn’t work or doesn’t work well enough, can it still be sent to the cleaners? Or is it best to use a cleaners first as you imply? How does one determine if the cleaner is qualaified?

    My son is at school in Ga. and called home to say that his leather jacket had hairy mold all over the front and that he had found a cleaner who said they could “try” to get it out but didn’t know if they could… $40. I’m not inclined to invest even $40 here because they don’t really sound like they know what they’re talking about.

    So if he can’t find a pro I thought he should try your home remedy and bring the jacket home over Christmas break for us to go to find a knowledgeable cleaner here if need be. But I don’t want to make matters worse. He needs to take some action right away though as I don’t know what type of mold this is (some can cause neurological damage) and I don’t want it to spread.

    What would you advise?

  3. HI there. Yes you can always try to fix it yourself and then if it does not work take it to a leather cleaner. However you said it has “hairy mold” on it. That sounds like a really bad case that has been there a while.

    If it is very bad the mildew spores actually eat and break up the leather, causing holes and/or layers of leather skin to flake off. It may be too far gone for home remedy and I suggest a pro to clean it.

    Look for leather cleaners or leather repair shops, not just a cleaning store. They would know just what to do, and will tell you if it’s too bad to be fixed. Good luck.

  4. Thanks.

  5. I have a question.My leather is a long leather that goes to my ankels and it is covered fron the top to the bottom and the front and back is coverd with mildew..Should i use more rbbing alcohol then what u have on here?? Thank You!

    1. Hi Cheryl. Sounds like it has a lot of mildew on it. For extreme cases like that I would recommend taking it to a leather cleaner place. It’s hard to get it all off if there is a lot of it and it’s deep. However if you can’t find a place to take it I would use the same ratio of water to alcohol but make enough to soak the coat in a small bucket and let it sit for a few hours. Then rinse it off good and clean. But it may become discolored. 🙁

  6. What about using diluted vinegar, I live on the beach front and have to fight mildew continuously. I find the vinegar a great product. I have tried it on my leather jacket and it seems to have worked.

    1. Hi Patricia,

      Yes I suppose that would work too. I’m not sure of the long term actions of using vinegar so I’ve never tried it. But if it’s worked for you in the past then thanks for another tip. 🙂


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