How to Clean Mold off Shoes

Mold can develop on almost anything, and that makes it pesky. Mildew and mold are common growths in places where the temperature and humidity levels are higher. Mold and mildew can grow easily but be very difficult to remove. When you notice them grow on your footwear, it’s crucial to clean off the mold on shoes as soon as possible.

How to Prevent Mold on Shoes in Closet?

In this first section, we are going to learn preventative measures to keep mold and mildew away from your shoes once and for all. Mold can often develop in closets, so using our tactics can also prevent fungus and mildew from getting on other articles of clothing and attaching themselves to your walls.

Keep It Cool and Dry

The first and most important factor is to regulate the temperature and humidity. Closets are usually cool unless you have windows with direct sunlight beaming in. The temperature can be maintained through the heating system. Keep the heaters at a lower Celsius in your closet. If you don’t have a walk-in closet with heaters, just make sure to keep the sunlight out.

Keep It Cool and Dry

The next aspect is the humidity. Thanks to innovative inventions such as the dehumidifier, the moisture content in the air in that small space is also well within your control. Turn on the dehumidifier regularly in your closet while keeping the door closed. Heaters will also help with dehumidifying.

1. Keep Things off the Floor

The floor is where mold starts to stick, so if you keep things elevated, it can ward off potential fungus growth and keep your belongs more aerated when you have the fan, heater or dehumidifier turned on. Keeping your items off the floor will also make them easier to clean

2. Close the Door

We briefly mentioned this, but you should always keep the closet door closed. Sectioning off your closet will keep it separate from the temperature and moisture environmental factors that impact the rest of your house. Doing so can also give you more control over the small space.

3. Clean it Out

A dirty environment will aid mold growth. We suggest regularly cleaning your closet and giving the surfaces a good wipe. Keeping the environment clean will also help to reduce mildew and fungus. Mold will often announce its arrival through musty smells. If you notice the odor of your closet seems off, then it’s time to clean and look around for hidden spores.

It’s more than just dusting and wiping with a dry cloth. We would suggest going in with a cleaning spray of vinegar and baking soda on all surfaces. You do not have to wipe down your shoes, but just keep the flat surfaces clean. Not only will a mixture of vinegar and baking soda help to kill spores, but they can also prevent them as well.

4. Leave Silica Gel Packs Inside

A great way to routinely maintain the dryness inside your closet aside from utilizing a dehumidifier by leaving silica gel packs in your closet permanently. We would suggest switching them out around twice a month depending on where you live. They will help regulate the environment inside your closet.

Conversely, if you do not switch out the silica gel packs regularly, all the trapped moisture in these little packets can speed up mold development. The mold can start growing on these packs and then spread from there. Be sure to always monitor the environment in your closet, especially in tropical climates.

How to Store Items to Prevent Mold

It can be tough to clean off mold from leather shoes regularly, and it can sometimes be tough to maintain the ideal environment in your closet. However, there is one more thing you can do to minimize the chance of mold growth, and that is to store them properly.

How to Store Items to Prevent Mold

Air circulation is important, but you can also make sure to maintain adequate airflow between your items. For example, we wouldn’t recommend overstuffing your closet. Do not pile your shoes on top of one another. Instead, we would recommend purchasing shoe racks and organizing them well with sufficient space between each pair.

Not only will space out the storage ensure better airflow, but will also give mildew and fungus less of a chance to develop, and your shoes will maintain their appearance for longer. The same goes for clothes. Do not pile them, but instead hang them on hangers evenly spaced apart.
If shoes come with dust bags, it’s a good idea to keep them inside. For different leathers, there are different pieces of advice to follow. In general, keep your shoes separated and dry.

How to Remove Mold from Shoes

Now that we know what steps to take to prevent mold, we will go into detail on how to clean mold off shoes, just in case the fungus has already reared its ugly head.

Removing Mold from Suede and Nubuck Shoes

Suede and nubuck leather are just softer more textured leather material than glossy or full-grained options. Surprisingly, to clean softer and more textured leather requires the use of petroleum jelly. You may think it will leave stains, but we can teach you how to clean moldy shoes the right way to prevent this.

Removing Mold from Suede and Nubuck Shoes

Vaseline is a common example of petroleum jelly that’s easily accessible. Also, you should prepare some rubbing alcohol, a rag, towel or cloth, sponges, and of course, water.

  1. Identify the moldy areas and coat a thin layer of petroleum jelly over the top.
  2. If you notice the moldy situation to be more severe, you can mix alcohol and water together and cover the area using the sponge or cloth you prepared.
  3. Once everything is covered, use a warm damp cloth to gently rub at the moldy spots. Be gentle on the surface of suede and nubuck because you could damage the texture.
  4. When you are satisfied, leave your shoes out to dry. Do not apply heat as you can warp the material but make sure to leave them in a cool and dry place.
  5. When they have completely dried, you can use a suede brush to gently brush over the surface to remove residue and restore the appearance.

How to Remove Mold from Leather Shoes

The process of removing mold growth from leather shoes is a bit more complicated. You can still find most of the products needed in your home, much of them being the same as what we used for nubuck and suede shoes.

Look around for a soft brush or a toothbrush, detergent, a large enough receptacle for your shoes, clothes, sponges, rubbing alcohol, and water.

How to Remove Mold from Leather Shoes

  1. The first step is to remove all the spores from the surface of the leather. Since leather is less textured than suede or nubuck, you can usually just brush the spores off. Keep in mind that clearing them away from the surface does not remove them permanently.
    We would also suggest doing the first step outside, so you aren’t brushing the spores around inside a closed room.
  2. In the container or bowl, mix water and alcohol in equal portions and dip the clean cloth you prepared into the solution.
  3. Once the entire cloth is soaked, start to clean the surface of the shoe by wiping it in gentle swipes. Make sure to get into every groove and crevice. You can look to use a brush to get into the smaller nooks.
  4. After the cleaning job, use a different clean cloth to give the surface a few good wipes to clean off the excess solution.
  5. Once the shoes are clean and free of alcohol, you can leave the shoes to air dry in a cool and dark place. Because moisture can cause the leather to warp, we would suggest stuffing your shoes during this time to maintain the shape. Do not attempt to apply heat to quicken the drying process.
  6. After your leather shoes have dried, you need to give them another good clean, but this time with soap or detergent and warm water.
  7. Mix a solution with equal parts of detergent and warm water and then dip a clean cloth into the mix.
  8. Once the shoes are dry, you can wipe down the shoes with the new solution to clean them once more. You can do this a few times but make sure to wring the cloth pretty dry, you don’t want to soak through your shoe.
  9. You can also keep a container of warm water just to help clean off the soap residue. Once you have done that, dab the shoes dry with a clean cloth as best as you can and then leave them to air dry again.
  10. Once they are completely dry is when you would go in and apply the leather conditioner if applicable.

How to Get Rid of Fungus in Shoes

Unfortunately, the fungus doesn’t discriminate and doesn’t mind being near your feet. Other than growing on the surface of the shoe, more severe cases can present spores on the inside as well.

When you remove fungus from shoes, don’t forget to check the inside. If you are noticing extra unpleasant odors and even foot infections, mold has likely made its way into the inner sole.

How to Get Rid of Fungus in Shoes

So how do you clean and prevent fungus in shoes?

1. Keep Them Dry

Similar to preventing fungus and mildew in your closet, the most important action is to keep them dry. Stay away from rain and try to only wear waterproof shoes when it’s wet out.

You should also change your socks frequently if you wear the same shoes and keep a few pairs handy so you can alternate through them.

A good way to naturally keep them dry is to leave them out in the sun once in a while. If it’s during the winter months, you can just keep them in your closet following our steps listed above to create a cool and dry environment.

2. Spray them Clean

There are a ton of products on the market that can help fight mold and fungus infestation. Disinfectant sprays can be purchased from local stores or online and are designed to kill spores. You can also create your own “green” spray with a mixture of vinegar and baking soda that can have the same efficacy


What Causes Mold on Shoes?

The biggest causes of mold on shoes are warm temperatures and a humid environment. However, mold can grow on more than just shoes and there are times the mold and mildew have just transferred over from other items. The key is to keep the shoes dry and the environment cool.

Can Vinegar Kill Mold?

Yes, vinegar can kill mold. In fact, a mixture of vinegar and baking soda can be used for many purposes. Aside from combining to become a disinfectant spray for your shoes, it can also be used to clean mold and mildew from anywhere in the bathroom and kitchen. The best part is the solution is non-toxic.

Is Shoe Mold Dangerous?

Yes, shoe mold is dangerous. In short, the spores can get into your lungs and cause or trigger respiratory issues if inhaled. If you suffer from severe allergies or asthma, then mold can be more harmful to you. Aside from breathing and lung issues, the mold, especially the spores, can also cause infection.

What would a musty smell indicate?

A musty smell indicates mold, mildew, and fungus. By the time our noses can detect the smell, there should already be a significant growth somewhere. If the musty smell is only due to mildew and mold, then airing out space, regulating the environment and a good clean should eradicate it.

If you are still noticing unpleasant smells even after a thorough cleaning job, then we would suggest enlisting the help of professionals or a cleaning service.

Extra Tips

We can’t stress this enough, but always try to clean mold off your belongings in an open area with high air circulation. This will prevent the mold spore from settling somewhere else inside the house. If you have pets or children, this will also reduce the chances of them accidentally ingesting the spores. Keeping things in plastic containers can also help with musty odors.

If you are trying to clean canvas or other materials, the vinegar smell can be more pungent and harder to remove. However, you can often just scrub these shoes clean with detergent or toss them in the wash. Do not use the vinegar and baking soda mixture on suede shoes.

Always allow the shoes to completely dry before wearing them again. The heat from your feet plus a damp shoe will encourage the mold to take hold all over again. Do not apply heat to the shoes with a hairdryer as this can deform the leather material.

If you plan to clean your leather shoes with water, it’s very important to condition them afterward. This will prevent them from cracking over time. When your leather shoes are drying, you should also stuff them with old newspapers or paper towels. Not only will doing so maintain the shape of the shoes, but they will also help them dry faster.


These preventative measures are useful not only to keep your shoes free from the mold but also to create a healthier environment where mold growth is discouraged. This can help keep a healthy home without harmful spores. Other items in your home will also be free from mold, fungus, and mildew taking hold.

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