One fine day, you clean your house and accidentally find your favorite expensive but long-lost leather cowboy boots in the corner behind your closet.
But, they are covered with white, green and grey roundish spots on the entire surface, the bottom part, the internal area, and even the insoles. These spots are quite hairy and have an unpleasant musty smell.
Now you gotta know you’ve made these gorgeous boots become a pair of truly “moldy” and useless kinds of stuff!
But don’t be so quick just to throw away this beautiful expensive footwear. We’ve always got a way out for you!
Mold and mildew are both disagreeable and unforgiving, especially when they move their home to stay on the leather surface of your beloved cowboy boots.
They look ugly with patchy pattern growth similar to a spill or interwoven roundish shapes all over your leather things.
Their smell is literally nerve-racking that even makes you want to throw up.
However, it doesn’t just stop at the appearance of the boots.
Mold and mildew are both fungi and they are completely harmful to health if you don’t treat them thoroughly.
In this article, we’ve gathered some good ways to clean and prevent mold and mildew growth on your cowboy boots.
- How to remove mold from cowboy boots?
- How to get mildew off the cowboy boots?
- How to prevent mold and mildew from leather cowboy boots
- Final thoughts
How to remove mold from cowboy boots?
Some of us may get confused about the differences between mold and mildew since they are both types of fungi.
But they are actually so dissimilar that there are different ways to treat either properly and thoroughly.
If you look all around in every corner of your cowboy boots from the inside out, you find the patchy, fuzzy spots that possess interwoven small and big roundish patterns, these spots are called molds.
As a fungus, mold forms and grows on moist, slightly wet surfaces or in general, any location with long-term high humidity that lacks sunlight such as long-lost damp leather boots behind the closet, sweaty or moist insoles, or even highly moisture rubber/wooden/leather outsoles.
Mold can rise everywhere on every type of surface.
It is not only located above the surface, mold can also take root deep into fabric fibers and need to take more time and effort to remove it completely.
Leather is not a sleek surface like cement or brick. This material consists of many strands interwoven underneath.
Since leather strands get involved in mold, the chances to clean and remove mold and its spores thoroughly become harder.
No worry, here are some good ways to clean mold from cowboy boots properly at home.
Step 1: Clean away moldy spots on the outside
The first step to completely removing mold is to clean the moldy surface first.
There are many ways to do this including:
- Using a leather cleaner to remove mold from cowboy boots is the most basic way.
Just apply leather cleaner on a wet horsehair brush and scrub every nook and cranny of cowboy boots. Done!
- A mixture of warm water + vinegar acid with a neutral PH 1:1 ratio without discoloring the skin.
Vinegar is a mild acid that can help wipe out the mold effectively while also preventing the growth of spores.
- A mixture of warm water + a few drops of tea tree oil:
Many studies show that tea tree oil can prevent the formation of bacteria and fungi.
However, this is a fairly expensive method but it does not require rinsing with water.
- A mixture of water + 70% medical alcohol with a moderate 2:1 ratio:
Medical alcohol is also a good antiseptic solution. They work to reduce the formation and growth of fungal spores.
However, a large amount with a strong concentration can cause stains on the leather surface or discoloration on suede or nubuck.
- A mixture of warm water + hand-washing soap with a reasonable 1:1 ratio:
Like when working on human skin, hand washing soap also has the effect of killing and repelling mold stains on the surface as well as a number of spores.
However, when using this method, you have to wash the leather with water to completely clean it. If your leather material can withstand soaking in water well, this is a pretty effective method.
- A mixture of warm water + baking soda with a proper ½ cup of baking soda and 1 cup of water ratio.
Baking soda is a perfect DIY remedy to kill bacteria and fungi without any damage or discoloration on leather surfaces. This substance can also clear the musty smell very well.
When you get your wiping liquid available, you need to use a piece of tough cloth to wipe away moldy, fuzzy spots.
You can pour small amounts of the solution evenly on the surface of the skin for a few seconds to allow the solution to penetrate deep down. Then, quickly take the cloth to rub the mold off the surface.
Remember to wear a mask to avoid breathing in airborne mold filaments that are harmful to health.
Repeat wiping twice or three times until you don’t see any colorful spots on the leather surface anymore.
We suggest rubbing the liquid on the entire leather cowboy boots even when no fungus occurs. This can help prevent the chances that potential spores and fungi can be exposed to favorable conditions in the future.
Suede and nubuck are easy to get watermarks when dropping the liquid on. Therefore, you should soak the liquid on a cloth and then rub the surface of the skin to remove molds.
Step 2: Clean away molds on the inside
Removing molds inside cowboy boots is not easy. You can’t turn the boots inside out to wash them thoroughly, especially if cowboy boots have a laceless system.
But the good news is that the top of the boots opens quite wide and so you can still see the moldy spots inside.
You will need to prepare:
- A vacuum cleaner
- Foam pads
- A spray bottle of solution
- A soft cloth
- A hairdryer
Because the inside of cowboy boots will likely feel like fabric lining, they will absorb liquid more quickly.
Therefore, first, you need a foam pad. Quickly rub the entire inside surface of the boots to let the mold fall out.
Rub more than once in the deep nooks and crannies to make sure the mold is taken off completely.
Next, use a vacuum cleaner to clean up the mold filaments and some of its spores in the 30s – 1 minute.
Now, use a spray bottle containing one of the solutions in Step 1. Spray the entire interior space, then quickly rub the area with a soft cloth.
Repeat 2-3 times to clear out as many fungal spores as possible.
Finally, use a hairdryer on a cold to hot setting to dry the inside out. You should freeze for 1 minute, then heat for 30 seconds.
Repeat until the skin inside is fairly dry. Be careful not to blow for too long on the hot setting because the inner layer will get dried out or even burn.
Step 3: Remove molds from the insole
Mold growing on the insole doubles the difficulty of the process. If your cowboy boots possess removable insoles, take them out and choose one of the 2 options below.
The first one is to throw away the moldy insole. This is easy, just replace it with a new one and you’re done.
It also helps to completely remove spores and mold above and underneath the insole surface.
The second choice is if your insole is quite expensive or has special functions and you don’t want to replace it.
Or the insole doesn’t have too many mold stains and is still reusable after removing the molds. Then we have a way to clean it up for you.
You need to prepare:
- An amount of hand-washing soap
- A fine brush
- Clean water
First, use a brush to clean the mycelium and shake the insoles off to let mold and spores out.
Next, absorb water into the insole and wash it directly with soap by hand. Do not wash the moldy insole in the washing machine because the spores can stay inside and stick to clothes in the next wash.
Wash 2-3 times with water until foam and mold are removed as much as possible. In some cases, stains may still be left on light-colored fabrics that are hard to erase.
Finally, hang the insole under direct sunlight until it is completely dry.
Read more: How To Clean The Inside of Cowboy Boots?
Step 4: Dry with natural sunlight
The most important factors that make your cowboy boots moldy are moisture, light, and temperature. Mold usually thrives in places with high humidity, low light, and moderate temperatures.
Therefore, after cleaning up the mold inside and out, you should hang your cowboy boots in a place where direct sunlight shines on the shoes from the inside out.
This will help reduce the potential risk of spores and mold remaining inside. In most cases, sunlight is a perfect killer to mold and its spores.
Note that cowboy boots must be stored in a dry area when the sun goes down.
Because at this time, the high humidity in the air plus the night dew will be able to penetrate the boots and stimulate the growth of mold and spores again.
We recommend that you dry your cowboy boots in direct sunlight for 3-4 hours at least twice. This will completely eliminate the risk of growing mold in the future.
Remember that mold can still be returned even after it has already drained out if you do not take good care and keep the boots dry from the inside out properly.
Boot dryers, boot trees, or hairdryers are the most popular tools to keep cowboy boots dry.
Besides, sprinkling some household powder such as cornstarch, the baby powder also helps reduce moisture on cowboy boots
Step 5: Condition the leather
After a process of being subjected to rubbing, washing, and sun exposure, the leather has definitely lost water and oil, dries out and gets obvious wrinkles.
Now is the time to restore the surface of the leather. To do this, you can buy any leather care product on the market for different materials.
If you wear cowboy boots made of genuine leather, mink oil is a great conditioner to help replenish the oil lost during the cleaning process.
You only need a cotton pad or a soft cloth.
Take a small amount of mink oil onto a cotton pad or cloth, then gently rub the entire surface of your cowboy boots.
After curing, the patches caused by mold will also be color corrected and become more natural.
You should soak 1-2 times mink oil on the surface of the skin, each time should be 12 hours apart to let the leather rest and dry completely.
If you have a pair of suede or nubuck cowboy boots, use a conditioner specifically designed for these materials.
If other ordinary leather conditioners are used, suede and nubuck will quickly deteriorate and destroy.
Because basically suede and nubuck do not need to replenish oil and water. So an oily/liquid conditioner will damage the soft velvety fur on the surface.
How to get mildew off the cowboy boots?
Just like mold, mildew is one of the fungus types that occur on wet, damp surfaces such as leather, fabrics, or wood.
But what makes it different from mold is that mildew is easier to handle than molds when it only grows above the leather surface rather than taking root deep underneath.
So, to clean and remove mildew thoroughly, you can simply clean the top of the surface to be effective along with providing good maintenance in dry and light conditions.
Mildew and mold can be identified by just looking at their growth patterns. Molds mostly rise in interwoven small and big round shapes.
Meanwhile, mildew develops its flat, patchy patterns similar to a spill that spreads all the way. Both have come with diversified colors and variations on different materials.
To treat mildew, you can use the same way of treating molds from Step 1 to Step 5 that we have stated above. It is the best instruction to completely get rid of mold and mildew.
How to prevent mold and mildew from leather cowboy boots
From my experience, I believe what makes the most important effect on removing mold/mildew is how well you store/use your lovely cowboy boots.
So, to greatly prevent mold/mildew occurs on the boots, there are some dos and don’ts below:
- Do not wear cowboy boots without socks. Since socks can absorb sweat from your feet better. The moisture will not likely be transferred to the internal boot causing favorable conditions for fungus growth.
- Dry humid leather cowboy boots as soon as you get home. You may get caught in the rain or may step on a large puddle, causing the outer leather to get damp or wet. Dry it as soon as you get home with a hairdryer, boot dryer or sunlight.
- Hang the boots twice a week under the sunlight to dry out all moisture inside thoroughly.
- Replace worn-out and damp insoles to prevent the potential outbreak.
- Most importantly, always keep your cowboy boots in a light, dry, ventilated and low-humidity place after every time of use. Put boot trees inside cowboy boots to absorb moisture.
The journey to remove mold/mildew from cowboy boots is hard, arduous, and somewhat costly.
And if you are not careful enough, your boots can be damaged immediately without being repaired.
Some materials such as embroidery thread, stitching, or decorative fabrics on the boot shaft will suffer moldy stains forever without a cure.
Therefore, after a mold infection, your precious leather cowboy boots will never be the same as before.
For that reason, we urge you to take responsibility for the proper care and use of your boots.
Always remember that prevention is always better than cure.
Howdy y’all, and welcome to From The Guest Room, your ultimate guide to all things Western! I’m Jay Gatz, a lifelong cowboy boot enthusiast with over 5 years of experience in the Western style world. I’m excited to share my knowledge with you and help you discover the perfect cowboy boots and western gear to elevate your style. Let’s explore the rich history and timeless appeal of Western fashion together!