Mould on your leather bag? Some tips on how to clean a mouldy leather bag

by Paris B on · 48 comments

in Bags,Tips

Last weekend, I pulled out one of my bags, and let out a little scream of horror. What was a beautiful red leather bag was covered in patches of mould!

mould Mould on your leather bag? Some tips on how to clean a mouldy leather bag

I don’t know if it was the recent yo-yo-ing humidity, or if it might be due to improper storage (doubt it!) but it was awful and I was sad. But I was determined that it would be salvaged! I have a soft spot for this bag. It was one of my first proper leather bags in a colour I really love.

To help solve the problem, here’s what I did.

First, you’ll need:-

  • An old soft toothbrush
  • A cotton or microfibre cloth
  • Leather cleaner and moisturizer
  • Gloves
  • Lots of sun!

Its quite important to have the last item – lots of bright hot sun – so if you have a similar problem, my suggestion would be to wait for a nice sunny day before you start.

Here’s how I salvaged the situation.

  • First, inspect the bag – is the mould (or mold if you’re American) only on the outer surface of the bag? Mine was just on the outside. The leather trim inside was not affected.
  • Take the bag out to the yard or an open space, pull on rubber gloves, and using the old toothbrush, brush away the mould, making sure you brush at the whole surface of the bag.
  • Once you’ve removed the worst of it, wet the cloth, squeeze out the water until it is only slightly damp, and then wipe down the whole bag, making sure you cover the whole surface again. Be quick. You don’t want the leather soaking up the water.

mould2 Mould on your leather bag? Some tips on how to clean a mouldy leather bag

  • Then, set the bag in a patch of sun to dry out properly. I took it back in after about half an hour, but left it in the shade, outside in an airy spot for it to be properly dry.
  • A few hours later, when the bag is nicely dry, use a soft cotton or microfibre cloth and apply leather cleaner all over the bag, rubbing it in to make sure its clean all over; then apply leather moisturizer and buff.
  • Set aside to dry and it’s as good as new!

After I’d cleaned it, the leather is practically as good as new with a nice sheen (sign of quality leather) and with no real damage.

mould3 Mould on your leather bag? Some tips on how to clean a mouldy leather bag

I am quite lucky that I caught it in time, before it could get worse, because mould can eat away at leather and damage it. I used the sun to help me dry it out and for the heat to further kill the mould, but don’t leave it out too long or your leather can dry out too much and crack/fade.

I also tossed the dust bag this bag was in, because I did not want lingering spores to cause any future problems. And finally, to avoid further problems (and to ensure my other bags did not suffer the same fate) I went out and got a new dehumidifier for my cupboard where I store my leather bags. Its basically calcium chloride which absorb moisture and you can also get some silica gel sachets to place inside your bag (which I plan to if I can find a place to buy them)

mould4 Mould on your leather bag? Some tips on how to clean a mouldy leather bag

I hope this helps someone. So other than my previous tips for caring for your leather bags or leather goods, a new tip would be to check on your bags now and again if you don’t use them very often. In our hot and humid weather, mould is a common problem but its not a problem without a solution! icon smile Mould on your leather bag? Some tips on how to clean a mouldy leather bag

If you have a tip to share on how to clean mould off a leather bag or leather item, do share! We could always learn something new icon smile Mould on your leather bag? Some tips on how to clean a mouldy leather bag

Paris B

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[ 48 comments… read them below or join the discussion ]

xin
Twitter:
May 29, 2011 at 9:09 am

Great tips, u know, I would have just wiped the mould off with a facial wipes n let it dry :p

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ParisB May 29, 2011 at 11:16 am

LOL that could work in a pinch actually. But you should then follow up with a leather cleaner to properly clean it :)

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Isabel May 29, 2011 at 9:25 am

I do the same thing for my leather stuff sans the toothbrushing bit. I must try that. Those dehumidifiers do last only a short while before I have to replace them. Where do you get silica gel sachets from?

Ah … the things we go through for our leather treasures!

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AT May 29, 2011 at 10:35 am

Do you have a Daiso where you are? There’s a lot of different sizes available. I’ve installed a dehumidier rod in the store-room now.

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ParisB May 29, 2011 at 11:18 am

Thanks for the Daiso tip AT! I’ll have to stop by and take a look!

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Isabel May 29, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Ah yes, there is a Daiso nearby. Thanks for the tip AT!

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ParisB May 29, 2011 at 11:18 am

Yup I usually have these dehumidifers around in my cupboards but I tend to forget to change them when they get full of water. I have to be more diligent! I still can’t find the gel sachets. I sometimes use those you get from food packs or anywhere I can find them. I’m still looking to find them on sale. And yes, our leather treasures are our preciousssss!!!

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Isabel May 29, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Hahaha me too! I always get them off Japanese food products. And I use those from my Vit C bottles for my accessories box.

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Hanny
Twitter:
May 29, 2011 at 10:38 am

Wow… Didn’t know that bags would also “seh kor” (get moldy).

Thanks for the lovely advice, PB! ^.^

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ParisB May 29, 2011 at 11:19 am

Yup leather does especially. Shoes, bags, belts. Happens less to fabrics and you’re welcome!

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Rainy Days & Lattes May 29, 2011 at 10:50 am

This has never happened to my bags because I live in a relatively dry area but those dehumifiers really do work wonders! Your bag looks brand new again!!!
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ParisB May 29, 2011 at 11:20 am

Thanks! I was quite pleased with my handiwork if I don’t say so myself hehe… I’ve been using the bag for about a week now and its none the worse for wear so the moral of the story is not to store your bags too long or this could very well happen!

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giddy tigress
Twitter:
May 29, 2011 at 11:37 am

That’s an awesome tip and might I say, excellent tutorial on how to salvage a bag! Could you share a picture of where and how you actually store all your bags? I’m running out of space in the cupboard and I’m trying to plead my case to get a proper storage space for my bags :)

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ParisB May 29, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Thanks GT! I can’t share a pic now – personal reasons ;) – but I will tell you that for my good and structured bags, I keep mine in a tall Ikea Billy bookshelf with glass doors. I use a bookshelf because it isn’t so deep as a cupboard, so it is just nice for a bag to sit on the shelf :) Bags that have no structure are kept in their dustbags in a basket in my closet :)

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giddy tigress
Twitter:
May 31, 2011 at 9:42 am

I was also contemplating the Billy bookcase for my bags. But I figured it could be a tad too extravagant! hehe…plus, I don’t have enough space in my home now for that. So my bags are all in the basket in my closet.

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ParisB May 31, 2011 at 9:58 am

The benefits of living alone is that I have loads of space haha… ok not loads. I’m starting to fill up the nooks and crannies! If I move, I”ll get something built in for the bags, but until then, Billy does it. It fits quite a lot surprisingly. I can get about 3-4 bags on one shelf (tall Billy) depending on size.

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Ginger May 29, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I had the same problem with some of my leather shoes. We have an inbuilt shoe cabinet just outside our entrance walkway, so of course especially during the rainy days it does succumbed to dampness. I read that tea tree oil is a natural mould deterrent and I just happen to have a bottle of tea tree oil which is actually meant for wood (but seems to be safe for leather too) so I used this to wipe the shoes after cleaning the mould more or less the way you’ve described. It also works as a lizard deterrent too I think, (the smell is quite strong but not unpleasant) because it’s been a week and I haven’t seen a single lizard’s poop :) Just to be sure I wiped the cabinet shelves with the tea tree oil too and also added a few dehumidifiers (its a floor to ceiling cabinet).

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ParisB May 29, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Thanks for the Tea Tree Oil tip! I didn’t know it helps repell lizards but its always a good thing to bear in mind :D

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Daphne November 13, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Can the Body Shop Tea Tree Oil do the same wonders?

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Denise
Twitter:
May 29, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Thanks for the tips Paris! Our local Daiso’s have them too. Actually, any Daiso-like stores here have them. But I have the ones in food packs instead of throwing them out, to save on costs and the environment. :)
Denise recently blogged…Manic Monday at the Post OfficeMy Profile

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ParisB May 30, 2011 at 11:36 am

Thanks for letting me know about Daiso! :D I don’t live near one so I do tend to forget it exists LOL! But like you, I save and use the ones in food packs… because i want to save money :P

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Jamilla Camel May 29, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Two really good products bag cleaning are (1) Wheelers Traditional Leather Balm (British product) and Collonil Classic Leather Gel (German). Collonil is recommended by Mulberry and is sold on their website.

I swear by that dehumidifier stuff – it’s everywhere in our house in Muscat!

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ParisB May 30, 2011 at 11:36 am

Jamilla! Hiya!! Thanks for the recs for leather cleaners! I think I’ve seen Collonil here in some shoe stores. I’ll take a look at them for my better bags :D

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Monstro May 29, 2011 at 11:35 pm

Thanks for this Paris, really really helpful. I actually recently threw out a leather bag covered in mould. I mean it was SOooooo covered in it, I was afraid to touch it! Gross! Good thing it wasn’t a very expensive bag :-b Do you know if your tip works for other types of leather finishes? I’m guessing it wouldn’t work on suede? I find that suede is the worst when it comes to attracting mould. Or maybe calf leather that has a velvety finish? Would be good if you could post on those-hehe!

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ParisB May 30, 2011 at 11:38 am

You’re welcome Monstro. If I found a terribly mouldy bag, I’d toss it too :P Too gross to consider salvaging and I hope you used gloves :P I don’t know about suede to be honest. I don’t have a lot of suede stuff because I find suede horrible to maintain. You need to buy special cleaners and that suede brush to keep the nap looking fresh and everything so I’m sorry but no tips for upkeeping suede because I stay away from it LOL!

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Stacey
Twitter:
May 30, 2011 at 8:47 am

wow the bag looks as good as new! :)

any recommendations for a good leather cleaner?
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ParisB May 30, 2011 at 11:40 am

I use either the Amway leather cleaner or the Coach leather cleaner. You can read about it here :)

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Nette May 30, 2011 at 5:21 pm

You can always replace the dehumidifiers with charcoal, it’s cheap and absorb moisture and smell too… I put a few bags of it here and there in the wardrobe…..

What I heard was, after some time, this charcoal need to be placed in the sun to rid the moisture and it is as good as new to absorb moisture.. I wonder how true it is.. anyone any ideas??

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ParisB May 30, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Thanks for the charcoal tip! Cheaper I reckon and I would think it makes sense to have to dry them out after a while. If they have been absorbing moisture, drying them out will prep them so their moisture abrorbency is better :)

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jung jing June 3, 2012 at 5:08 am

WATER ABSORBING AN DESORPTION IS A REVERSABLE PROCESS. So put these charcoal, dehumidifier, under the sun. it will do the job. however, if there are no burn-able material such as gel, calcium carbonate, you might put them in your oven under the lowest temperature. the moisture will be out over night.

However, the easiest way to save your moisture absorbant is to put your bag and the moisture absorbant (dehumidifyer) in side a plastic bag. seal the plastic bag. Your dehumidifyer will last a long time.
The condition for mold to grow: 1. Food, your leather is the food for mold. 2. High temperature. 3. Moisture, or humidity.

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Issa May 31, 2011 at 6:43 am

great tips PB! thanks! This is the reason why I store my bags in an open cabinet so that they are exposed! I have bags before that was not saved from molds and because the weather is hot down here, I have bags that dried up… :(

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ParisB May 31, 2011 at 9:53 am

Oh yeah, leather bags drying out is another problem. Hence the necessity to moisturize them off and on. An open cabinet isn’t quite a solution either (wind, heat, dust etc) but I think in our hot tropical weather, we are just fighting a losing battle with mould :P

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Cheryl November 2, 2011 at 5:14 am

I made the mistake of storing my favourite leather handbags in plastic bags. Don’t do this ! It accelerates the mould growth and my bags are now ruined…

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Kacie November 26, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I’ve been battling with moulds on my leather bags for quite some time and it’s really a hassle, terrible headache and great heartache. Somehow they will always come back esp with this damn humid climate of ours. I won’t suggest those humidifiers actually. I read somewhere that if you are not dligent in changing those soon enough when they all turn to liquid, it will release the moisture back to the environment making it worse. So best is to use those charcoal packs. I like those from Japan Home – cheap and I like them packed in white, and I’ll buy them by the dozens each time! I will leave them in my wardrobe as well as throw 1 each into my bag(dustbag). And yes you’ll have to sun the charcoal packs every 3-4 mths to remove the moisture and you can reuse. Save the earth! :) I also use newspapers as stuffing inside the bag. Anything to minimise the mould growth! Argh! This is all from hard-learnt experiences. :)

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Kacie November 26, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I meant, *DEhumidifier* :)

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Red January 4, 2012 at 1:59 am

I believe y’all are thinking of the desiccant bags that you find in new clothes you buy. You can purchase those little bags through a company called McMaster-Carr (www.mcmaster.com), and they come in different sizes. I’ve ordered them before from McMaster. Just be sure to search “Desiccant Bags” to find them on their website.

Hope that helps out!

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Julie February 11, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Thanks for the tips – hopefully I can rescue my (also red) handbag. A suggestion though – I live in an apartment (so no garden etc) and had to toothbrush my bag in my indoor laundry – I was worried about spores while I was doing it. Then I decided (almost too late) to use my vacuum cleaner with the long thin nozzle on the bag. That way the spores are removed safely and with a fair amount of suction applied. My bag is now outside in the sun ‘drying’

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jane March 30, 2012 at 4:19 pm

thanks for the tip – i need to get some of that dehumidifier!

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sue radmore January 30, 2013 at 7:19 am

Hi
Can anyone help me? I used a de humidifier with calcium carbonate crystals in it. They did their job and collected the water then….disaster ! I tipped the box over and the liquid splashed on clothes ( washed out no problem) but did not notice splashes on lovely leather handbag (not smooth finish) and now has brown mars on it. Does anyone know how these marks can be removed? I would be very grateful.

Sue Radmore

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TA April 27, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Hi gal, thanks for the tips. May I know which brand of the leather cleaner and leather conditioner u would recommend?

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Paris B
Twitter:
May 3, 2013 at 4:39 pm

I use the ones from Coach which are pretty good, or the Amway leather cleaner works well, if you can get hold of that.

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Bag Lover May 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Hi, can i know where can i get the leather bag cleaner and moisturiser you mentioned?

Thanks

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Paris B
Twitter:
May 20, 2013 at 11:13 pm

I use an Amway leather cleaner and a Coach leather moisturizer. Coach also does leather cleaners.

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cutiephinphin June 3, 2013 at 10:42 pm

I had a situation with my leather bags getting moldy and I’m glad to find this post. May I know where I can get tea tree oil? I need to keep lizards away. Unfortunately by the time I get home the sun is down so sunning my bags is out. Hopefully the dehumidifier works. I usually have stuffings in my bags to keep the shape too.

It’ll be awesome if anyone can share ideas on storing our bags in confined spaces.

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Paris B
Twitter:
June 4, 2013 at 12:51 pm

You can get tea tree oil at any pharmacy :)

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Isilda Antonio October 1, 2013 at 1:49 am

Hi there I have a patient leather bag how or wat is thd best way to treat it??
Thanks
Isilda

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mzfxit December 21, 2013 at 1:16 am

Wonderful tip, I just purchased a nice leather portfolio to replace my leather attaché which is in storage 3 states away. It, along with a lightweight jean jacket with corduroy color & cuffs, were on the side section of a Salvation Army thrift and I smelled the mustiness so I knew there would be mold/mold dust — it was on both.

You touched on but did not mention how to remove/clean mold from the inside. Any ideas?

TIA

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Paris B
Twitter:
December 24, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Afraid I’ve no idea about cleaning mold from the inside. I imagine it would be done the same way, except you’d have to be more careful to brush and clean out the corners and crevices. Sorry I’m not much help.

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