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How to Remove and Prevent Mold on Your Shoes

Imagine you haven’t worn your favorite pair of shoes for a while. You go to the closet to get them out, only to find some nasty mold growing on them!

It’s not only upsetting to see that your shoes look ruined, but it can also make you worry about spending more money on shoes.

But the good news is that there are ways to remove mold from your shoes. A lot of this depends on the material, but you can definitely reclaim your shoes!

Here are our tips on removing and preventing mold on your shoes.

What Causes Mold on Shoes?

Mold is a type of microscopic fungi found almost everywhere. It thrives in moist, humid, and dark conditions.

And your shoes happen to fit these conditions…

That’s because as you go about your day, your feet sweat. Other times, you could get caught in a light shower or walk through a puddle.

Moisture gets absorbed by your shoes, which creates additional dampness in the shoe that doesn’t have a chance to evaporate.

Your shoes become the perfect environment for one mold spore to thrive and start a colony.

If you put your wet shoes in your closet or leave them in a poorly ventilated room and high air humidity, mold will grow.

Mold thrives on organic matter. Whether it’s leather, canvas, or even paper, there’s a chance for mold as long as there’s moisture!

It only takes 24 to 48 hours for one mold spore to grow and start a colony on a damp surface. It often has a thick, fuzzy appearance, most often green in color, but it can also be black or white.

Unfortunately, mold multiplies, and before you see it, you may notice a musty, stale, or earthy odor.

Is Shoe Mold Dangerous?

While black mold is the most toxic, even white mold can present a health risk and should be removed quickly.

Although some people may not have an allergic reaction, some people are more sensitive and can have a reaction to mold spores.

When mold reproduces, spores are released, and they almost always land near the source. But sometimes, these spores are carried away by air currents, allowing them to land on other items where they will grow.

By inhaling or touching these spores, you can have an allergic reaction, including a skin rash, sneezing, red eyes, and a runny nose.

With that said, if you have asthma or allergies, you may be a little more sensitive to mold, and in some cases it can cause a severe allergic reaction.

A severe reaction can include symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, or even trigger an asthma attack.

You can also develop a toenail fungal infection if you wear shoes where mold has grown on the inside or on the shoe’s insole.

How to Remove Mold From Shoes

If you’ve discovered mold on your shoes, you may be tempted to throw them away and get a new pair.

Fortunately, there are different methods of removing mold from your shoes depending on the material they’re made from. This means that you won’t have to get rid of your shoes.

When you clean your shoes, wear a mask and clean them outside. This will help prevent an allergic reaction to spores and prevent the spores from spreading indoors.

Once you’ve cleaned your shoes, you’ll also need to clean the closet—or storage area—where your shoes were stored, to remove all mold spores.

This will prevent the mold from reproducing and spreading, which could grow on your shoes again as well as other types of clothing.

1. How to Remove Mold From Suede and Nubuck Shoes

To remove mold from your suede and nubuck shoes, you’re going to need the following:

  • A suede brush
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Soft cloth or sponge
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Water

Start by gently brushing your shoe until most of the affected spots look clean.

As you brush, you’ll see spores fall off the shoe. This is an indication that you’re applying the right amount of pressure.

Then identify any mold spots on your shoes and rub a thin layer of petroleum jelly over them. Leave your shoes for 10 to 15 minutes to give the petroleum jelly time to work.

Petroleum jelly can help penetrate the mold while protecting the suede fibers from the next step, where you’ll apply rubbing alcohol.

You’ll need about two tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and water, which should be diluted in equal parts.

Dip the soft cloth or sponge into this mixture and apply it to the mold by rubbing just the moldy spots in circular motions.

Let the water and rubbing alcohol sit on the shoe for about 3 to 5 minutes. Then take a clean microfiber cloth and wipe away the solution.

You should see that this is getting rid of both the smaller and the more stubborn mold pieces.

Leave your shoes to dry in the sun for 10 to 15 minutes, then brush them with the suede brush again.

Make sure to brush in the direction of the suede fibers, as this will eliminate any mold that may be remaining on the surface of the shoe. This will also help to restore the smooth texture of the suede.

It’s essential to make sure that you don’t substitute the rubbing alcohol with vinegar, as vinegar can change the color of suede.

2. How to Remove Mold From Leather Shoes

To remove mold from your leather shoes, you’re going to need the following:

  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Bucket or container
  • Saddle soap or mild detergent
  • Leather conditioner
  • Clean cloths or sponges
  • Rubbing alcohol

Begin by brushing your shoe with the soft-bristled brush. Then, clear as much of the visible mold off the shoes as possible. If you don’t have a brush, you can use a microfiber cloth.

Mix equal parts cool water and rubbing alcohol in a bucket—or container—dip a clean cloth into the mixture, and wipe down the leather.

If you have any difficult creases to reach, you can use a cotton swab dipped in the solution to clean them.

Once the entire shoe has been wiped, leave the shoe to air dry for 10 to 15 minutes.

Mix either mild detergent or leather saddle soap with warm water in a different clean container.

You’ll use a different clean cloth or sponge dipped in the new solution and wipe your shoes again.

Leave your shoes to air dry, but make sure that they’re out of direct sunlight or heat as that could change the color of the leather.

Once your shoes are dry, use a leather conditioner to help restore the supple nature of the leather.

3. How to Remove Mold From Canvas or Fabric Shoes

To remove mold from your canvas shoes, you’re going to need the following:

  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Vacuum
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Soft cloth or sponge
  • Water

Start by brushing the loose layers of mold away from the surface. Then gently use the vacuum cleaner to remove the remaining buildup from the fabric.

Make sure that you vacuum every inch of your shoe, including the inside of the shoe.

Then, mix two tablespoons of rubbing alcohol with two tablespoons of water. Dip the cloth into the mixture and wipe down the shoe.

Let the shoes thoroughly air dry in the sun once you’ve eliminated all the signs of mold.

Ways to Prevent Mold in Your Closet

Fitted closets and wardrobes can provide the ideal environment for mold to flourish since they can trap moisture.

If there’s already mold in your closets, clean it with a solution of equal parts water and rubbing alcohol. If you don’t have rubbing alcohol, then you can use vinegar.

Wipe the surfaces down and leave them to dry. Then wipe it down again with water, leaving it to dry completely.

To prevent mold from affecting your cleaned shoes, you’ll want to ensure that you prevent mold and mold spores from finding their way into your closet again.

The following steps are quick and easy ways to prevent mold in your closet.

Keep Everything as Dry as Possible

Every once in a while, open your closets to allow air to circulate. This will help to dry any moisture.

If you stay in an area where the humidity is high, then use acid-free lining paper on the shelves, which will help control humidity.

Make sure that everything you put in your closet is dry before storing it. This includes making sure that your laundry is completely dry before hanging it up.

You can also install a light bulb in your closet. The heat from the light bulb will help reduce moisture, preventing mold growth.

If you’re not comfortable with a light bulb in your closet, see if you can swap the doors for louvered shutters. This will allow for air to circulate better and reduce moisture.

Avoid Leaving Dirty Shoes in the Closet

Clean your shoes before you put them in your closet, making sure that there are no muddy particles, wet patches, or anything that could help the mold grow.

Don’t Place Your Shoes in Plastic Bags

Don’t store your shoes in plastic bags or boxes!

If your shoes have any moisture inside them, the plastic traps it, which can increase humidity on the shoe. The dampness and humidity will only encourage mold to grow.

Counter Humidity

If the humidity is high in your home or in the area you reside in, you’ll want to keep your closet doors closed as much as possible.

With that being said, you can also purchase a non-electric dehumidifier for your closet. This will help absorb excess moisture and prevent mold.

Try to Include the Closet in Your Monthly Cleaning Routine

Once every month or two, take everything out of your closet, dust the shelves, wipe the surfaces with rubbing alcohol and water, and replace your paper linings.

Air the closet out and let air circulate through the closet for a few hours.

When you pack everything into the closet, allow for a bit of space between items to help air flow better.

Leave Silica Gel Packs Inside

Aside from using a dehumidifier, you can also place silica gel packs throughout your closet.

These will help absorb moisture and reduce humidity while ensuring a dry environment. However, they may not be safe if you have pets who could get hold of them.

Don’t Ignore Musty or Moldy Smells

Don’t ignore any musty, earthy, or stale smell in your closet, as this can indicate that mold is growing behind the walls.

Instead, search until you can locate the source of the mold. If you can, clean it out. If you can’t clean it out, then bring in a certified mold remediation contractor to clean it.

If You Have Wooden Shelves, Consider Replacing Them With Wire

Wood is a food source for mold! If you have wooden shelving in your closet, then see if you can switch that out with lightweight wire shelves.

The wire shelves are more mold-resistant and allow air to circulate, promoting evaporation of any moisture.