How to Remove Mold From Shoes and Why Not to Ignore It

Many of us have experienced pulling out a pair of shoes from storage, only to be greeted with a stench of mold. Our first instinct would be to throw the kicks away. However, it’s not too late to save them. Today, we’re answering the question: how to remove mold from shoes.

Whether you live in a humid climate or left your winter boots in storage for too long, mold is almost inevitable. We’ve gathered a few tips for getting rid of harmful spores and restoring your shoes.

Here’s how to remove mold from shoes:

  • Brush off visible spores.
  • Disinfect with rubbing alcohol.
  • Wipe down with mild detergent.
  • Let air dry.
  • Treat with leather conditioner.


What Causes Mold on Shoes?

Mold is a rough fungus, capable of spreading and growing on almost anything, including shoes and clothes. Wherever there’s excessive moisture, such as leaks, damp corners or wet insoles, mold can accumulate.

Shoes are especially susceptible to mold growth. The dark, warm, moist environment of footwear creates the perfect lair for fungus to thrive. The insoles, for example, are prone to dampness from perspiration, whereas the outer materials remain exposed to outside elements. If you don’t dry your shoes properly, this eventually leads to moldy smells.

Another risk factor is if you’ve been in contact with spores and bring them home with you. Mold particles in the air can spread and attach to your clothes and shoes. You could also step on a moldy surface and carry it home that way.

If there is any moisture left on your shoes, the spores will continue to grow.


How to Prevent Mold on Shoes in Closet?

Mold is prone to grow in closets, which can affect anything that you store inside, including shoes and bags. It generally develops due to high humidity or leaky plumbing—it can even migrate through the ceiling from the attic.

Here are a few ways to prevent mold in your closet:

  • Keep everything as dry as possible. If you’re coming from a rainy walk, let your shoes dry completely before storing them. The same goes for your laundry—avoid hanging anything that’s still wet—the spores can easily spread to your shoes.
  • Avoid leaving dirty clothes or shoes in the closet. Make sure that everything is clean before putting it away. Mold loves to feed on dirt or food debris, and if one piece gets infested, it can quickly spread.
  • Take out all the plastic, including dry-cleaning bags. Don’t place your shoes in plastic bags, thinking it will protect them—the material traps humidity, which encourages mold growth.
  • Don’t leave items on the closet floor. Instead, move what you can to shelves in case of leaks that could lead to excessive moisture and eventually mold.
  • If the humidity is high in your home, keep the closet doors closed as much as possible. This will prevent damp air from entering, which, in turn, prevents mold.
  • Try to include the closet in your monthly cleaning routine. Once a month, or every two months, take the items out, dust off everything, vacuum the floor and walls and let some fresh air run through.
  • Don’t ignore musty or moldy smells. Follow the reek to the source and, if you can, clean it out. If the smell comes from behind the wall, contact a certified contractor.
  • Consider leaving the lights on inside the closet as often as possible. Because mold requires moisture to survive, the warmth from a light bulb could help keep the atmosphere dry.
  • If you have wooden shelves, consider replacing them with wire. These allow air to circulate and are much more mold-resistant than wood.


Pro Tips

  • If you don’t have issues with high humidity in your home, consider changing your closet doors to louvered doors. These let fresh air enter, keeping the atmosphere inside much less mold-friendly.
  • If high humidity is an issue, consider a dehumidifier, like the SEAVON New Electric 2020 Mini. Such options are compact and can easily be placed in the corner. It will draw out excess moisture from the air, preventing wet walls and mold.
  • Install energy-efficient light bulbs that won’t take a toll on your energy bill if you’re going to leave them on. Also, to avoid a fire hazard, don’t place them too close to clothing and fabrics.
  • Hanging dehumidifier bags in the closet is another way to keep moisture at bay, especially if you live in a humid climate. One example is the Vacplus Moisture Absorber Packets, which allows you to see just how much moisture it absorbs.
  • Silica gel packets, like these from Dry & Dry, are another option for small to medium closets. Such small containers are easy to place between clothing items and inside shoes that you’re storing.


How to Remove Mold From Shoes

How to Remove Mold From Shoes

Below we’ve included two guides on how to remove mold from leather and suede shoes.

How to Remove Mold From Leather Shoes

This is what you need:

  • Soft-bristled brush.
  • Detergent.
  • Bucket or container.
  • Cloths and sponges.
  • Rubbing alcohol.
  • Water.

Here’s how to remove the mold:

  1. If possible, start by taking everything outside. Being in an indoor space puts you at a higher risk of inhaling spores.
  2. Take your soft-bristled brush and clear away visible spores on the shoes. If you don’t have a brush, a dry, clean cloth will do.
  3. Grab the bucket or container and combine equal parts of rubbing alcohol with plain, cold water—for example, one cup of each.
  4. Saturate a clean cloth with the mixture and wipe down the surfaces on each shoe. You may have to use a cotton swab for crevices.
  5. Next, grab a new clean cloth and wipe down the leather with some plain water.
  6. Leave the shoes to air dry in a shaded area. If you’re cleaning boots, place some paper inside to preserve their shape.
  7. While the shoes are drying, create a solution of mild detergent and warm water. If your footwear allows for it, you can use leather saddle soap, but consult the care instructions before.
  8. Take a clean cloth or sponge to wipe down the surfaces with the solution.
  9. Remove excess soap residue using a cloth and plain water.
  10. Let your shoes air dry again.
  11. Once they’re dry, you can use a leather conditioner to restore the supple nature of the material. However, consult the care instructions on your shoes as well as the brand of conditioner.

Here’s a helpful video on how to remove mold using saddle soap.



  • If the mold sits inside the shoe, follow the same steps, but use a smaller brush to reach the interior corners. If possible, remove the insoles and clean them thoroughly.


Removing Mold From Suede and Nubuck Shoes

Suede is a form of leather that has a more fuzzy texture and a napped finish. It’s common for use in shoes and clothing. Nubuck, however, is top-grain leather that’s been sanded or buffed down on the grain side. It has a velvety texture, and although it’s different from suede, you can easily use the same method.

This is what you’ll need:

  • Petroleum jelly, like Vaseline.
  • Rubbing alcohol.
  • Cloths and sponges.
  • Water.

Here are the steps:

  1. Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the light moldy areas.
  2. If the mold growth is more significant, mix equal parts of water and rubbing alcohol. Then apply to the areas using a cloth or sponge.
  3. Next, moisten a soft sponge or cloth and proceed to rub the petroleum jelly or rubbing alcohol on the shoe’s surface. Work in gentle circular motions.
  4. Allow the shoes to air dry. Place them away from direct sunlight and heat.
  5. Lastly, brush them gently with a suede or nubuck brush, like this one from Shacke, to restore their smooth texture.


Pro Tips

  • For nubuck and suede shoes, always do a test before applying anything. Nubuck, for instance, can change color. If you want more in-depth info we’ve written an article on how to clean nubuck shoes and boots.
  • For some suede shoes, you can use a special suede cleaner. However, ensure that it removes mold and mildew. Our review of the best shoe cleaners has a number of top options.

If you want more tips on how to maintain your suede shoes, you can watch this video.


How to Get Rid of Fungus in Shoes

Fungus in shoes can lead to bad odors and even a foot fungus infection. Here are some ways to keep it at bay:

  • Change socks and shoes frequently during your day to let them air out, preventing excess moisture.
  • Try a disinfectant shoe spray to kill any traces of fungi.
  • You can also create a spray solution of vinegar and baking soda to spray the insoles with.
  • Lastly, you can try leaving your shoes out in the sun. The UV light fights against the spores—for better results, combine it with a disinfectant spray. However, be careful with materials like leather, so it doesn’t get damaged.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can Vinegar Kill Mold?

Because vinegar is a mild acid, it’s capable of killing roughly 82 percent of mold species. It’s a safe, natural way of getting rid of mold since it’s non-toxic and doesn’t produce harmful fumes.

For the best results, when using vinegar, avoid watering it down. Apply it to a spray bottle and spray directly on the mold.


Is Shoe Mold Dangerous?

Mold is a harmful element, and even moldy shoes can cause trouble. Besides the musty smell, it’s the spores you’ll need to watch out for. When inhaled, these can aggravate your sinuses and trigger allergies as well as asthma attacks. It can even result in a toenail fungus infection—so, make sure you clean your shoes.

Remove Mold From Shoes for men


What Would a Musty Smell Indicate?

Musty smells are general indicators of mold and mildew. It’s a very distinct odor that you’ll quickly notice if you open a closet with moldy shoes and clothing inside.

However, musty smells can also indicate mold-eating mites. So, if you can’t get rid of the odor by cleaning, we recommend consulting a professional.


Moldy Shoes, No More

How to remove mold from shoes? It’s simple, and there are various techniques you can apply depending on your footwear. For types of leather, it’s best to use mild products such as cleaning detergents and vinegar. But always consult the care label of your brand.

You must treat shoes infected with mold or mildew as it can harm your feet and if inhaled, your respiratory system. When storing them, keep moisture at bay by running a dehumidifier and clean frequently to remove spores.

We hope you found our guide helpful. If so, please let us know in the section below and give it a like and share.


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