Leather car seats are a luxurious addition to your vehicle, however, they can be prone to mold growth under the correct circumstances, which of course is anything BUT luxurious.
So, why did your leather car seats become moldy in the first place, is the mold dangerous, how can you remove it, and importantly, how can you prevent it from happening again?
In this article, we will be answering all these questions and more, so if you want to know all about mold growth on leather car seats, keep reading.
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Why have your leather car seats become moldy?
It may surprise you to hear that leather is acidic, with a ph of around 4.5 to 5.5, which puts it right within the comfortable range for several strains of mold to grow.
There are things other than the correct ph level that mold needs to grow comfortably, and unfortunately, the environment within your vehicle may be providing all of them.
Firstly, mold needs moisture, specifically, it needs a humidity level greater than 55%. This can come about easily in a vehicle that is often used, from the moisture exhaled by drivers and passengers, spilled drinks and liquids, or rain entering the car through leaks or from wet clothes being left in the trunk.
Secondly, it needs food, food which can come in a variety of forms, such as spilled passenger or driver snacks, dust particles made up of dead skin cells from the occupants of the car, and other tiny organic materials. Mold can use all of these as a source of nutrients to feed on.
Thirdly, it requires an ambient temperature of between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures either warmer or colder than this are simply not ideal for mold growth, and it will tend to hibernate in these ranges, but between 60-80 degrees is the perfect temperature for it to thrive. Often, cars are left in garages where the temperature range can easily reach this level for several hours each day.
So, as you can see, even though many of these aspects were unintentional, you may have been setting the leather seats in your vehicle up as the perfect place for mold to grow.
What types of mold grow on leather car seats?
Due to the leather being acidic as a result of its ph being around 5, there are several strains of mold that can comfortably grow on its surface, these include:
- Aspergillus niger
- Aspergillus flavus
- Cladosporium herbarum
- Rhizopus stolonifer
Whilst these are some of the more common strains found living on leather, there are potentially hundreds if not thousands of others. This is why it is important that if you are unsure of which type of mold you have found growing on your leather car seats, you should have the mold tested, as some of these strains have the potential to be toxic and could harm the health of the driver and passengers if not treated correctly.
Are the molds that grow, dangerous?
Yes, some strains of mold can be hazardous to humans and animals, this is due to the toxicity of the mycotoxins they produce as a defense mechanism.
One of the most common strains to produce such mycotoxins is the aspergillus niger strain, commonly referred to as black mold.
Despite this being more commonly toxic, many of the strains listed above also have the ability to produce toxins, so simply because the mold you see has different coloration to the black mold, does not mean it is necessarily safe.
What does mold on a leather car seat look like?
The above-mentioned strains of mold can appear in various forms and color variations. The most common colors these strains are found in are:
The textures of the above-mentioned strains are often described as being: velvety, powdery, or slimy.
What products not to use on leather car seats
Before we begin explaining how to remove mold from a leather car seat, it is important that we explain that certain products or chemicals should not be used to clean leather, as they could corrode and damage the leather, leaving you with a problem worse than the original mold issue.
The main chemicals to avoid when cleaning mold off a leather car seat are:
- Hydrogen peroxide
Whilst these may be excellent mold removal products, they are not suited to treat the leather interior of a car.
How to remove mold on a leather car seat
To maximize your safety whilst cleaning mold from any location, it is recommended that you wear the following safety equipment:
- Rubber gloves
- Eye protection
- Breathing mask
To safely and effectively remove mold from a leather car seat, use the following steps:
Step 1. Vacuum the visible mold
Before you begin to tackle the mold with any products, use a vacuum to gently pick up the larger pieces of visible mold. This will prevent any spores from being spread throughout the vehicle when you begin to apply any products.
Step 2. Create a baking soda paste
Mix one tablespoon of baking soda with a few drops of water until it creates a thick paste. It should be slightly thicker than toothpaste, then spread the baking soda paste all over the affected area.
Step 3. Work the paste into the stain
If the mold is established and has left a stain, gently work the paste into the affected area with a soft-bristled brush, such as a toothbrush.
Step 4. Wait
Allow the paste to completely dry. The baking soda will rapidly oxidize and will dissolve the mold, and begin to lift any stains as it dries. You will know when it is ready to be removed, as the edges of what was the paste will begin to come away from the leather.
Step 5. Remove
Once the paste has completely dried, you can either wipe it away with a damp cloth or break it up and use a vacuum cleaner. This will remove any mold residue along with the powder.
One of the benefits of only using baking soda paste to clean the leather seats of your car is that it is easy to clean up and uses very little water.
Remember, excess liquids in your vehicle may have been why you had mold growing in the first place, so cleaning with large quantities of liquids is likely to cause even more issues down the line.
How to prevent mold on a leather car seat
The easiest way to prevent mold from growing on your seats is to keep them as dry and clean as possible.
If you live in a particularly humid climate, you can use opened boxes of activated charcoal or baking soda to remove excess moisture in your vehicle and reduce the overall humidity levels.
Doing this coupled with ensuring the car is kept as dry as possible after any liquid spills or wet clothing is placed in it will certainly decrease the likelihood of mold growing again.
Gently cleaning your seats with a mild detergent and warm water every few months will help to remove any buildup of organic materials (such as dead skin cells) or leftover pieces of food that could also be used as a source of nutrients by mold. Just be sure to be certain the seats are entirely dry before closing the doors.
And finally, mold does not like to be disturbed, so, once a month (if possible), try to leave your doors and windows open for some time to allow fresh air to pass through the vehicle. Doing this will help to remove any mold spores that may be circulating in your vehicle. It stands to reason that you should only do this in a safe location and somewhere where you can keep an eye on your vehicle.
If this is not possible, then simply opening the windows whilst you are driving for a few minutes will allow large quantities of fresh air to circulate the vehicle.
Mold on leather car seats is a common and frustrating problem. It is usually caused by excessive moisture levels being present in the vehicle, coupled with a poor cleaning routine. In most cases, it can be removed relatively easily, although if it is left for a prolonged period of time, the mold may stain and permanently damage the leather seat.