Ask the Boot Guy

How can I clean mildew off of my shoes?

Posted by Gregg Boyer on November 20, 2012

How can I clean mildew off of my shoes? At Boyer's BootnShoe, we get asked this question a lot. The most common reason shoes mildew is Shoe Mildewbecause they have been improperly stored in sealed plastic containers or bags. Leather needs to breathe so store your shoes in a an open container. The original shoe box is the best container to use. Toss in one or two desiccate packs, those little bags that come with new shoes that say, "Do not eat." These help absorb moisture.


Cleaning off mildew is really pretty simple. Wipe the shoes down inside and out with a solution of half white vinegar and half water. A sponge works very well for this. Always test a spot first to make sure the leather will not discolor. It may take a couple washings to kill all the mildew. Once there is no visible mildew left, then rinse thoroughly. After rinsing and once they are completely dry, the the shoes need a finish treatment. On smooth leather shoes use Lexol or a cream polish. This will bring back the original shine and feed the leather, making it soft and supple again.

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Mildew on Sued or Nu-Buck Leather

Suede or Nu-Buck leathers require a little more effort and care. 90% of the time the vinegar and water method works without a problem. Ariat Premium Water and Stain RepellentAlways test an inconspicuous area first before removing mildew. Mildew has more of a chance to leave discoloration on suede and Nu-buck. Two tricks to working with suede and Nu-buck.

  • 1.) Always wet the surface evenly. Spot cleaning will leave a spot or ring.
  • 2.) Never force dry with heat. Let the leather dry naturally. Heat will cause discoloration.
After the suede has dried, then brush the surface with a stiff bristle brush to bring back the color and softness. Next, use a suede conditioning water repellant, like Ariat Premium Water and Stain Repellent.

If there is still a mildew odor, you may need to repeat the cleaning process. Also putting the shoe in the sun for a day or two or using Fabreeze may help eliminate stubborn odors.

All, Answers, Shoe Care