How To Remove Mold On A Leather Bag In 3 Simple Steps

Leather bags and purses can be elegant, sophisticated, and entirely practical accessories for everyday use.

So, what happens when you open your closet to take out your favorite bag only to find it covered in mold?

Why has your bag become moldy in the first place? Can you remove the mold and mildew yourself? Is it dangerous and how can you prevent this from happening again?

In this article, we will be answering all these questions and more, so if you want to know everything about mold and mildew growing on leather bags of all kinds, keep reading.

To remove mold from a leather bag, create a thick paste from water and baking soda. Spread over the affected area and leave to dry until the outer edges begin to lift from the surface of the bag. The baking soda dissolves the mold and will lift stains without damaging the leather underneath.

mold on purse

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Why do leather bags go moldy?

Mold can affect items such as bags and purses just like it can any other item made from leather. Leather has a PH of around 4.5 to 5.5, making it slightly acidic, but placing it in the comfort zone for many strains of mold to live on.

There is also the possibility that you are unintentionally providing the perfect circumstances for the mold to grow in the way that you treat and store your leather bag by giving mold exactly what it needs to live.

Mold only needs a few things to thrive on a leather surface, and those things are:

  • A source of moisture
  • A source of nutrients
  • An ambient temperature between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit

Let’s dive into how you could unintentionally provide all these elements.

Moisture – High moisture levels can come about for a number of reasons. You may have spilled a drink in your bag and not dried it properly before putting it away. You may be storing it in a closet with a humidity level greater than 55%, or you may have quickly put it away after being caught out in the rain.

These are all highly plausible reasons that moisture could find its way onto the leather your bag is made from.

Nutrients – Mold can find food in the most unlikely of places, including what may be situated on the outside of your leather bag. For example, a little spilled drink or food smeared onto the bag during a quick lunch break can become a quick meal for mold, as can dust particles and other organic materials that simply fall onto your bag during storage, mold really isn’t fussy as to what it eats.

Ambient temperatures – Most American homes have their thermostats set between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit during the cooler months of the year. Unfortunately, this is the ideal temperature for mold to comfortably grow. In temperatures either higher or lower than this, mold tends to go into a state of hibernation, but between 60-80 degrees is the sweet spot it likes to spread its spores and expand its colonies in.

What kind of mold grows on a leather bag?

Due to its moderate acidity levels with a ph of between 4.5 to 5.5, many strains of mold can grow on a leather bag. The most commonly found strains of mold found are:

  • Aspergillus niger
  • Aspergillus flavus
  • Cladosporium herbarum
  • Fusarium

Despite there being commonly found strains, there are hundreds if not thousands of other strains that could be growing on your favorite purse. With that in mind, it is important to have any mold tested so you can be absolutely certain of which strain you are dealing with before you begin trying to tackle the situation yourself.

What does the mold that grows on a leather bag look like?

The strains listed above have the ability to appear in various color varieties and textures.

The most commonly seen colors of molds are:

  • Black
  • White
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Off-white

In terms of textures, molds such as those listed above are often described as being soft, powdery, velvety, or even slimy if the mold has been allowed to develop over a very long period.

Is the mold that grows on a leather bag dangerous?

Unfortunately, the mold that can be found growing on leather bags does have the ability to be hazardous to your health and the health of pets.

For people with severe allergies, inhaling even a small amount of mold spores can cause allergic asthma attacks. For others, inhaling or ingesting the spores of mold over long periods of time or in large quantities can cause several conditions, including:

  • Breathlessness
  • Coughing
  • Nausea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Skin irritation
  • Runny nose

This is why you should clean the mold off your leather bag quickly after it is first spotted, and whilst wearing the correct safety equipment.

Can you save a moldy leather bag?

Moldy leather bags can be saved if they are found and treated quickly before the mold has had the chance to become fully established and cause any stains or damage to the material.

Should you find mold developing on your leather bag within one week, it is highly likely that the bag can be saved without any further issues, however, any longer than this runs the risk of the mold deteriorating the leather, causing staining, dryness, and cracks.

How to remove mold from a leather bag

Make sure you are wearing a breathing mask, goggles, and rubber gloves before attempting to remove mold yourself, or you could run the risk of inhaling the mold’s spores or having an allergic reaction to them.

In order to effectively treat and remove mold on a leather bag, use the following simple steps:

Step 1. Remove all visible mold

Using a vacuum cleaner, gently remove as much of the visible mold as possible. This will prevent any spores from being released and settling in other areas of your property and creating a new colony.

Step 2. Make and apply a baking soda paste

Mix one tablespoon to a few drops of water until you have a thick paste similar in consistency to toothpaste.

Apply the paste all over the area affected with mold patches. For mold that has been present for several weeks, work the paste into the affected area with a soft-bristled brush such as a toothbrush. This will help to get the paste to the roots of the mold, helping to kill it fully and lift any stains it has caused.

Step 3. Wait for the paste to dry

Leave the paste on the leather until it has fully dried. You will know when it is ready to remove, as the sides will begin to come away from the surface of the leather.

You can either use a damp cloth or a vacuum cleaner to remove the dried paste. The baking soda will have dissolved the mold and will lift any stains and mold residue as you remove it.

How to remove the smell of mold in a leather bag

Mold isn’t only unsightly, it also comes with a terrible, musty smell, which is something you really don’t want following you around on your shoulder all day.

Once you have cleaned any mold from the bag, the smell should dissipate within a few days, however, you can speed the process up by placing packets of activated charcoal in it. Not only will these packs absorb excess moisture which will prevent future mold growth, but will also absorb odors, leaving your bag fresh and ready to use once again.

Chemicals not to use on a leather bag

There are several chemicals that are often suggested to clean mold off of leather items, however, we do not recommend the following, as they can often dry out, stain, or cause cracks in the leather.

The following chemicals are not recommended to clean mold off of a leather bag:

  • Bleach
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Vinegar

Even vinegar has a strong enough acidity level to cause damage to leather items. This is why we suggest using baking powder to kill and remove mold from leather.

This is not only because it is less harsh and therefore less likely to cause any damage (whilst being just as effective), but also because very little water is required. Less water is used to clean mold off a surface means less chance of excessive moisture leading to further mold growth.

How do you store leather bags to prevent mold and mildew?

In order to keep your leather bags free from mold, there are several steps you can use to make it exceptionally difficult for mold to grow.

Step 1. Store the bag in a dry location

Bags stored in high-humidity areas are more likely to grow mold, therefore lowering the overall humidity levels should be one of your main priorities.

You can lower the humidity in a closet by adding boxes of open baking soda, activated charcoal, or silica packs. These will absorb both moisture and odors.

To keep a close eye on the levels of humidity in your closet (or wherever you’re storing your bag), you can place a hygrometer on one of the shelves. The units are no larger than a digital alarm clock, and will closely monitor the moisture in the air. As soon as you see that the humidity reaches greater than 55%, it’s time to open the closet door, windows, and internal doors to increase airflow to drive out the excess moisture.

Step 2. Keep the bag clean

Giving the bag a wipe-over with a mild detergent once every few weeks will remove the minuscule organic particles that mold uses as food. Just ensure that the bag is completely dry before you store it away.

Step 3. Maintain airflow

If there’s one thing that mold hates, it’s airflow. It does not need sunlight to grow, so it prefers to grow in dark places with little to no airflow to disturb it.

Wherever you are storing your bag, try to make sure it is in a well-ventilated area to provide an adequate flow of fresh air to prevent mold spores from settling on the surface of your bags.


Mold can easily damage or even destroy a leather bag if not found and treated quickly. Luckily, killing mold on a leather bag does not have to be difficult or expensive. Using the methods listed in this article, you can quickly remove it for good and keep your leather bags looking and smelling as fresh as the day you purchased them.

Chris Walker

Chris Walker has struggled for several years with mold after buying his own property. After finding the solutions to several issues around his home, he decided to create this site in order to answer as many questions about mold and mildew as possible to help others dealing with the same problems.

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