How to Clean Mildew off Leather Jacket? – Effective Home Remedies

There’s nothing quite like a classic leather jacket. It’s timeless, effortlessly cool, and instantly upgrades any outfit.

The worst is when you pull it out of your cupboard, only to find it covered in those vague patches and a faint mildewed odor.

Yep, mildew. It’s enough to make anyone cringe.

Speaking from experience, I once had a favorite leather purse that fell victim to a mildew attack. Let me tell you, it wasn’t a fun time. The good news is, that mildew isn’t as scary as it seems.

In this blog post, I’m sharing the secrets to cleaning mildew and rescuing your favorite jacket. We’ll cover simple tricks anyone can follow, even if you’re new to cleaning.

How to Clean Mildew off Leather Jacket Infographic

Signs of Mildew on Leather Jacket?

Mildew is a type of fungus that thrives in damp, humid conditions. It loves to settle into porous materials like leather, where it can spread rapidly if left unchecked.

Here’s how to identify if mildew has made its appearance on your jacket:

Fuzzy Patches: Mildew often appears as fuzzy, gray, or black patches on the surface of the leather. These spots can vary in size and may spread if not addressed promptly.

Discoloration: You might notice areas where the leather has changed color, usually darker or stained-looking due to the mildew growth.

Musty Odor: If you detect an unpleasant odor from your jacket, especially when it’s damp or humid, mildew could be the culprit.

Softened Areas: In more severe cases, mildew can weaken the leather fibers, causing affected areas to feel softer than the rest of the jacket.

I once left my leather jacket in a closet for too long without proper ventilation, and I was devastated to find mildew spots all over it.

Once, after a rainy season, I noticed a musty smell from my leather jacket. Upon closer inspection, I found small vague spots near the collar and cuffs.

Preparing for Cleaning

Before we start cleaning, there are a few tasks to ensure effective and safe mildew removal.

1. Gather Necessary Supplies

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Soft Cloths
  2. Mild Soap or Leather Cleaner
  3. White Vinegar
  4. Leather Conditioner
  5. Soft-Bristled Brush

2. Set Up Your Workspace

Create a clean and well-ventilated workspace:  Natural light helps you see all the affected spots clearly and ensures thorough cleaning.

3. Test in a Small Area

Before applying any cleaning solution to the entire jacket, test it on a small, inconspicuous area to ensure it doesn’t cause discoloration or damage.

4. Avoid Harsh Chemicals

Use mild, leather-safe cleaning products to avoid stripping the natural oils and color from the leather.

5. Wear Protective Gear

When handling stronger cleaning agents such as rubbing alcohol or vinegar, it’s wise to protect your skin. I always wear gloves when cleaning my leather jackets, just to be safe.

Step-by-Step Cleaning Process

Here’s a step-by-step cleaning process for removing mildew from your leather jacket:

1. Brush Off Excess Mildew

Take a soft-bristled brush or a clean cloth and brush off any mildew on the leather surface. Be careful not to scrub too hard to avoid damaging the leather.

2. Create a Mild Cleaning Solution

Mix a small amount of mild soap or leather cleaner with warm water. Avoid harsh chemicals or bleach as they can further damage the leather.

3. Clean the Leather

Dampen a soft cloth with the cleaning solution and gently wipe down the affected areas of the leather jacket. Work in small sections and avoid saturating the leather with excessive moisture.

4. Vinegar Solution

If the gentle approach didn’t quite do the trick, let’s bring in the vinegar.

Create a vinegar solution by mixing equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Lightly mist the affected areas of the leather jacket with the solution.

5. Baking Soda

Sprinkle baking soda directly onto the mildew-affected areas of the leather jacket. Gently scrub the baking soda into the leather using a soft brush.

Allow the baking soda to sit for a few hours to absorb moisture and odors. Wipe off the baking soda with a clean, damp cloth and let the leather dry completely.

6. Rubbing Alcohol

This is for extreme mildew situations only. Use rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or soft cloth to tackle stubborn mildew stains.

Dab gently and avoid excessive rubbing to prevent damage to the leather

7. Commercial Leather Conditioner

Once the leather jacket is completely dry, apply a leather conditioner to restore moisture and flexibility to the leather.

This will also help protect your jacket from future mildew growth.

8. Dry the Jacket

After cleaning, use a dry, clean cloth to wipe off any excess moisture from the leather jacket. Allow the jacket to air dry in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight or heat sources.

Source: Marci Lach YT Channel

Common Things to Avoid When Cleaning Mildew Off Leather Jacket

When cleaning mildew off your  jacket, avoiding these common mistakes can make all the difference:

1. Harsh Cleaning Products

Avoid harsh chemicals or cleaners not specifically designed for leather. These can strip away natural oils, dry out the leather, and potentially cause discoloration or damage. 

2. Excessive Water

Leather doesn’t like to get soaked. Avoid excessive water or submerging your jacket in water during cleaning.

3. Rough Scrubbing

Leather is durable but also delicate. Avoid rough scrubbing or aggressive rubbing when cleaning.

4. Ignoring Drying Techniques

Proper drying is crucial after cleaning. Avoid drying your jacket near direct heat sources like radiators or using a hairdryer, as high heat can damage the leather.

5. Overlooking Conditioning

After cleaning, always follow up with a leather conditioner. I make conditioning part of my routine after every clean. It not only keeps the leather looking great but also protects it from future mildew growth.

How to Prevent Future Mildew Growth?

Now that your jacket is looking fresh and mildew-free, let’s talk about keeping it that way. Here are some tips to keep your leather jacket mildew-free and looking fantastic:

One of the best ways to prevent mildew is proper storage. Make sure your leather jacket is stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and humidity.

Speaking of moisture, avoid getting your leather jacket soaked. I give my jacket a quick wipe down after wearing it in damp or rainy weather. It helps remove any surface moisture and keeps mildew at bay.

Clean your jacket periodically. After cleaning, always follow up with a leather conditioner to nourish the leather and maintain its protective barrier.

Periodically inspect your jacket for any signs of mildew or moisture buildup, especially in hidden areas like under collars or along seams.

Place silica gel packs or moisture absorbers in the storage area or garment bag with your jacket. These packs help absorb excess moisture and maintain a drier environment, which discourages mildew growth.

I keep a few silica gel packs in my jacket’s storage bag, and I swap them out every few months. It’s a simple trick that goes a long way in preventing mildew and maintaining the leather’s condition.

Source: Leatherings YT Channel


In conclusion, cleaning mildew off a leather jacket requires attention to detail and the right approach to ensure the leather remains unharmed.

By using methods such as vinegar solution, rubbing alcohol, baking soda, or hydrogen peroxide, you can effectively remove mildew stains from your leather jacket.

Remember to test any cleaning method on a small, inconspicuous area of the jacket first and always follow up with leather conditioning to maintain the material’s quality. 

Remember, patience and gentle care are key when it comes to cleaning mildew off the leather jacket

Resources Consulted

James Chiles

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