Leather jackets certainly aren’t something you want to be wearing in the middle of summer. So, what happens when autumn begins, you look in your closet, only to find over the summer period, your favorite jacket has grown a fine covering of mold?
Is the leather damaged? Can it be saved? How are you supposed to clean leather and how can you stop this from happening again? In this article, I will be answering all these questions and more, so, for everything you need to know about saving your leather jacket from a moldy fate, keep reading.
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Why is mold growing on your leather jacket?
Luckily, the answer to this question is fairly simple. The most likely cause of your leather jacket growing mold is because it was stored either wet or in conditions where there was a high enough humidity level for mold to grow.
Mold only requires a few things in order to thrive, moisture, nutrients, and an ambient temperature between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s very common for people to hang a leather jacket in a closet over the summer period when they won’t be needed, but if the humidity within the room it is being stored in is not being controlled, it can easily reach higher than 55%. Couple this with the fact that most American homes set their thermostats between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and you can see how we are already very close to giving mold everything it needs to survive on leather.
Keeping an eye on the overall humidity of your home in each room can be tricky, but the easiest way is to place a hygrometer in each room (or at least a few), to get an idea of the ambient moisture levels. This will help you decide if you need to open windows and doors to increase airflow, or if further measures will need to be taken.
To make life a little easier, I’ve added a few links below to highly rated and very affordable hygrometers that you can pick up from the Amazon store.
The final factor is nutrients, you may be wondering what mold could possibly use as a source of nutrients on your leather jacket, because you, (of course) hung it away after cleaning it, so what’s there to eat?
The answer is a little grim I’m afraid, but in many cases, mold survives off of any organic matter it can find, which in many homes translates to eating dust, dust made of dead skin cells, and other small organic particles.
Is mold growing on a leather jacket dangerous?
Yes, mold growing anywhere (including leather) has the potential to be hazardous to your health.
There are thousands of strains of mold, and many of them are entirely harmless to humans, however, some strains have the ability to produce mycotoxins as a form of defense if they feel threatened. These mycotoxins are often inhaled via the mold’s spores or accidentally injected.
In small quantities, you may not suffer from any symptoms after exposure to mycotoxins, however, people with weakened immune systems or allergies can be affected by breathlessness, nausea, headaches, and so on.
People exposed to higher levels of mycotoxins or over a longer period May suffer from any of the following symptoms:
- Fatigue (In rare cases)
- Muscle weakness
- Gastrointestinal distress
This is why it is extremely important to remove any mold you have found on your leather jacket as quickly as possible. You do not want any of its spores traveling through your property and creating new colonies, so remove it asap.
Will mold damage a leather jacket?
If caught early, most molds can be simply wiped away from leather without any obvious signs of damage. However, the longer mold is left on an item, the higher the chance there is that the integrity of the fabric it is on will deteriorate, and staining will occur.
Mold stains an item, as the chemicals it produces from digesting the dust and other organic matter it uses for food, eat away at the surface it is on. Mold stains can be difficult to remove from leather, so again, removing the mold as soon as it is discovered is your best bet at preventing your leather jacket from being ruined.
What types of mold grow on leather jackets?
As stated, there are thousands of varieties of mold, but there are several strains that you are more likely to see growing on leather jackets, these are:
- Aspergillus niger
- Aspergillus flavus
Alternaria is often seen with darker colorings, such as black, grey, or brown, and is light in texture, often being described as “velvety”. This strain can cause inflammation of the airways in some people, leading to chronic rhinitis and aggravating asthma symptoms in sufferers.
Aspergillus niger is commonly known as being toxic to humans if exposure is continuous or occurs at high enough levels. Symptoms include sneezing, breathlessness, rashes, and in those very sensitive, potential liver damage and certain forms of cancer.
Aspergillus flavus, is commonly found growing on crops such as wheat and rye, but it can also grow within a property. It commonly produces spores with a yellow to green coloration, with a red to gold colored underside. It is known for causing several types of infection, including aspergillosis.
Can a moldy leather jacket be saved?
Luckily, a moldy leather jacket can indeed be saved. As long as the mold is removed as quickly as possible, the likelihood of permanent staining or damage is lessened. However, with each day that mold lives on a leather jacket, comes more potential for damage, as every time the fungus digests food, chemicals are released that could cause the material to break down.
If the jacket has been left in a closet for several months and is practically covered with mold, then the most likely scenario is that the leather is probably ruined and should be thrown away.
This is also true for large patches of black mold found growing on leather, if you find this growing in any significant amount, the garment should be thrown away, as it has the potential to be hazardous to your health and in most cases, cannot be saved.
How to remove mold from a leather jacket
Before we begin to remove mold from your leather jacket, you will need a few items, they include:
- Distilled white vinegar
- Baking soda
- A toothbrush
- A dry cloth
- Rubber gloves
- Breathing mask
To remove mold on a leather jacket both effectively and safely, use the following steps.
Step 1. Vacuum the jacket
Using a vacuum, gently suck up the majority of the mold you can see. This will prevent the spores from being released from the leather and moving around your home. If at all possible, try to complete this step outside, as this will further decrease the chances of spores flying around and settling. Make sure you are wearing your breathing mask and rubber gloves whilst doing this to prevent any contact with the mold or its spores.
Step 2. Make a vinegar solution
In a bowl, make a solution of one part distilled vinegar to two cups of tap water for the newly found mold. For more established mold that can be harder to remove, you can use undiluted vinegar. White vinegar isn’t always the easiest to find, so I have added a few links to the Amazon store below to make life a little easier. The good thing is that vinegar is a cheap, effective, and environmentally friendly method to kill vinegar, and it can be used to clean kitchens and bathrooms too. Clicking the links below will take you directly to the Amazon store.
Step 3. Apply the solution
Dip the cloth into the vinegar solution, or undiluted vinegar, and gently dab it onto the affected leather. Make sure there is plenty of vinegar on the patch. Leave the vinegar on the affected areas for at least ten minutes to kill the mold.
Step 4. Wash off the mold and vinegar
Using a small amount of warm water and washing detergent, gently wipe over the areas you applied the vinegar. This will remove the mold, and some of the vinegar with it, reducing the amount of time that a vinegar scent will remain on the leather.
Step 5. Leave to dry
The number one cause of mold growth is down to high levels of moisture, so, ensure that your leather jacket is 100% dry before placing it back in the closet.
If possible, hang the jacket in the sunlight, as this will not only speed up the drying process, but any contact with UV rays from the sun will immediately kill mold and its spores.
Mold that has been growing on a leather jacket for a longer period of time may be harder to remove and lift stains from.
One option is to use a baking soda paste to both kill and remove the deeper ingrained mold.
To use baking powder to kill and remove mold on a leather jacket, use the following steps:
Step 1. Create a baking soda paste
Mix baking powder with a few drops of water to create a thick paste, it should be thick enough to stick to the leather, so slowly add drops of water to get it to the correct consistency.
Step 2. Apply the paste to the affected areas
Spread a thick layer of the paste all over the affected leather and leave it to fully dry. Depending on the temperature, this can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to several hours.
Step 3. Remove the powder
Once the paste has fully dried, the mold should be dead and any stains should be easily lifted.
Using a dry cloth, gently wipe the dried paste off the leather. This should take both the mold and baking powder residue with it. If required, you can wipe down the area with a damp cloth if there is any leftover powder.
What about mold on a suede leather jacket?
Whilst suede has a different texture from standard leather, the same method for removing mold on suede leather jackets can be used as previously mentioned.
As the texture allows for mold to penetrate deeper into the leather, you may find that simply wiping the mold off is not an option. You may also find it is more likely that you will need to use the backing powder method also mentioned. This may be a better option than white vinegar, as it’s best to keep suede leather as dry as possible to avoid it being damaged.
Because of the texture of suede, it may also be easier to vacuum off the dried powder rather than trying to wipe it off once it had dried.
How to prevent mold from growing on a leather jacket
The best way to prevent mold from growing on a leather jacket is to keep it as dry as possible and store it in low-humidity areas.
Should your leather jacket become wet after getting caught out in the rain, ensure it is completely dried before storing it away.
Should your closet be in a warm and moist area, place open boxes of baking soda or activated charcoal within it. This will not only absorb excess moisture but will absorb any odors from leather, keeping your jacket dry and fresh.
There are also options to use antimicrobials such as tea tree oil or cedarwood to prevent mold from growing on your leather jackets and other items.
Leather jackets can be tough to clean, they can be even tougher to remove mold from.
Keeping your jacket as dry as possible is the easiest way to prevent mold from growing in the first place, but should mold still grow, removing it as quickly as possible is advised to prevent damage or staining from occurring.