Moldy Shoes Treatment and Prevention

Moldy Shoes | How to treat and Prevent Mold on Leather Shoes, Bags, and Accessories

Advice The Basics

Living in a high humidity location requires constant monitoring to prevent and treat mold. This weekend I had the unpleasant surprise of finding a few pairs of leather shoes that are starting to turn moldy. Fortunately, I caught them early enough for treatment.

While I had several pairs of shoes that received mold treatment, the black and red shoes made the best photographs.



  1. Three clean rags
  2. Dish washing detergent
  3. Rubbing Alcohol
  4. Shoe Polish or leather conditioner (as needed)

Choose a clean, well ventilated area to treat the shoes. As tempting as it may be to use the laundry room or enclosed space, an outside patio is an ideal location. You do not want to breath the moldy spores or risk contaminating another area of the house.

Step 1: With a clean rag, wipe any trace of mold off the leather inside and out.

Be sure to wipe around any buckles or adornment. Wipe down the entire inside of the shoe. Finally wipe off the bottom sole of the shoe.

Wipe under the buckles and extra care to stitching on the seams

The rag will look greenish-gray from the mold. Do not use this towel again during the treatment process.

Moldy Red shoes BEFORE treatment

Step 2: Wipe with soapy rag

Dish detergent
Dish detergent

Add a couple drops of dish washing detergent (dawn or other antibacterial detergent) to a clean, damp rag.

Gently wipe the shoe inside and out. Be sure to wipe any adornments (buckles, rhinestones, straps or laces) and the surrounding areas.

Lightly scrub any moldy spots that did not easily wipe off in Step 1.

Let dry and inspect the shoe to ensure that all traces of mold are removed. For really moldy shoes, this may require 2 passes to ensure that all the mold is gone.

Step 3: Wipe with Rubbing Alcohol

The shoes only look clean and mold free at this point. The mold needs to be completely killed to stop the mold spores from spreading or growing back.

Dampen a rag with rubbing alcohol and gently wipe across all surfaces of the shoe or accessory. One teaspoon of rubbing alcohol was enough to treat the men’s black leather loafers.

Step 3: Gently wipe with rubbing alcohol

This may remove some of the leather dye and shoe polish. Start on the inside of the shoe and gently work around the outside. Be sure to wipe the bottom of the soles with rubbing alcohol, too.

Since some color may rub off the shoes, use a fresh rag for each pair of shoes.

Leather dye on the alcohol rag

Step 4: Conditioner (optional)

Once the shoes are completely dry, apply a leather conditioner or shoe polish (if needed).

For delicate leather shoes, like these red heels, I prefer the control of leather wipes over the cream & sponge application.

Moldy Red Shoes AFTER Treatment

Total Treatment Time: 30 Minutes


For best results, store leather shoes in fabric shoe bags with desiccant packets. Many designers include fabric drawstring bags with the purchase of shoes or handbags. These fabric bags protect your shoes from scuffs while in storage and provide an extra barrier to the humidity. At least once a year, wash the fabric bags and ensure they are completely dry before storage.

Fabric shoe bag and desiccant packet – NO MOLD
Fabric Shoe Bags

Many travel bags for shoes are waterproof, which are great for travel and terrible for storage in high humidity areas.


Use moisture absorber in your closet for humidity control and mold prevention. Available in hanging bags or reusable buckets, these should be easily visible so you know when they are full and need to be replaced.

Use the silica desiccant packets that come with your shoes. For high humidity areas, you may need to add a packet or 2 for your shoes. Always use 1 or more desiccant packets in your shoe bags to stay dry and mold-free.

For seasonal shoes, like winter boots, slip an extra desiccant packet into the toe of each shoe before storing for off season.

Shoe Trees

If shoes are stored with wooden shoe trees, then remove from shoes and spray with diluted bleach to kill any mold spores. Dry overnight before placing back in shoes.

Black Loafers with Shoe Trees BEFORE Treatment
Black Loafers with Shoe Trees BEFORE Treatment

Bonus Tip

Moldy Shoes Pinterest

This 3 step treatment works for any moldy leather shoes, handbags, or accessories.

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