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Treating Musty Moldy Leather. What works for you?

post #1 of 75
Thread Starter 
I inherited a fabulous pair of Florsheim Kenmoors in brown Scotchgrain from an uncle.
He wore them literally once and kept them in his basement for the last 20 years. A powerful musty smell coming out of them was so strong that I have left them outside for the time being.
I wanted to kill the mold but I am at my wits end. Here is what I have done to them thus far:
I Soaked them in 50-50 white Vinegar - water, completely submerged for 8 hours, then let them dry in the sun for 3 days.....still the hellish smell persists. There were no mold spores on the shoes and no powdery residue. These shoes seemed immaculate, but I just can't rid them of this smell....What to do?
I am prepared to give them a second vinegar bath, this time for 3 days but is there a proven and faster way?
Please discuss.
post #2 of 75
I'd put away the vinegar.Give them air and sunlight. If you want, spray some Lysol on the insides, but you know... not a whole bottle. Relax. They'll come back to life.
post #3 of 75
Thread Starter 
Thank you, I forgot to mention I did spray Lysol several times after they dried from the Vinegar.
I am suspicious that the smell is coming from under the footbed, possibly from cork between the footbed and the double sole. The shoes have already had 3 days outside and they still smell powerful strong of must.
I should also mention that after drying, I applied leather lotion and rubbed every square millimeter but to no avail.
I am willing to try anything short of pissing in them before throwing them out.
post #4 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Man Of Lint View Post

There were no mold spores on the shoes and no powdery residue. .

Unless you've done a lab test I guess you mean you can't see any mold. The air is full of mold. Odds are the shoes have a good colony of mold.

If it's just the surface rub it with alcohol.

The problem will be if it's in the shoe. Short of baking the things I doubt you'll kill everything.

Why did you soak the things? Maybe a bleach soak might have killed off the mold. While destroying the shoes. A vinegar soak can't kill off spores. Spores are hard to kill.
post #5 of 75
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicola View Post

The problem will be if it's in the shoe. Short of baking the things I doubt you'll kill everything.
Why did you soak the things? Maybe a bleach soak might have killed off the mold. While destroying the shoes. A vinegar soak can't kill off spores. Spores are hard to kill.

I read on several web sites that Vinegar would do the trick; something about the acidic content, however it has done nothing to remedy this situation. I did do a very weak bleach bath after the vinegat bath, but no results.
The leather is holding up amazingly well thus far. Once dried, the original finish remains intact.
Yes I am strongly suspecting the problem is under the footbed but what can you (anyone) suggest?
Can I pry out the footbed perhaps with a pair of pliers? Anyone familiar with the old Kenmoor construction?
Any suggestions at all will be appreciated.
post #6 of 75
You could try Leather Therapy. If the mold is way down in the footbed, you could try having the shoes totally rebuilt with new cork and new soles.
post #7 of 75
depending on how much they are worth do you, you may need to have them recrafted.

I'm amazing the vinegar bath didn't cause damage.
post #8 of 75
A wipe down with alcohol or bleach might have been a better solution than the vinegar.

Leather is acidic to begin with. Any mold that thrives on an acidic substrate will thumb its nose at vinegar (acetic acid).

And some leather actually has sugar added as part of the "tanning" process.

So all you did was moisten the mold with water and vinegar, then left it in a nice warm environment...just the thing to revive it. It's probably budding like crazy.

If you can't see any mold it may be between the insole and outsole, between the layers of any double sole, between the lining and the vamp.

I don't know what to recommend...wiping down the inside with a dilute of bleach will probably make the shoes relatively safe to wear. A baking soda solution might get rid of the smell...but used shoes can bring a lot of problems along with them.
post #9 of 75
A second opinion? Unless your uncle was dearly loved and his shoes carry great sentimental value... vintage Florsheims in scotch grain come up every day on eBay. The world is awash in them, some even unworn after decades, others lightly so, all in much better shape than the pair you describe..
post #10 of 75
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DWFII View Post

A wipe down with alcohol or bleach might have been a better solution than the vinegar.

Leather is acidic to begin with. Any mold that thrives on an acidic substrate will thumb its nose at vinegar (acetic acid).

And some leather actually has sugar added as part of the "tanning" process.

So all you did was moisten the mold with water and vinegar, then left it in a nice warm environment...just the thing to revive it. It's probably budding like crazy.

If you can't see any mold it may be between the insole and outsole, between the layers of any double sole, between the lining and the vamp.

I don't know what to recommend...wiping down the inside with a dilute of bleach will probably make the shoes relatively safe to wear. A baking soda solution might get rid of the smell...but used shoes can bring a lot of problems along with them.

Thank you. How about this? I soak some rags in a mild bleach solution, wring out the rags, then suff them into the shoes and let sit for..how long I don't know, say overmight, then see where I am tomorrow? Would overmight be enough to penetrate and kill the mold? It's just after 11pm here, so I think I will try this and give an update tomorrow.
I feel this is important, not only for myself on this pair but will benefit others in the future. I'll give updates tomorrow and again, thank you.
post #11 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicola View Post

A vinegar soak can't kill off spores. Spores are hard to kill.

+1
Spores can survive moist heat under pressure. I'm talking 15 psi 250 F steam autoclave.
Whatever kills them will jack up the leather. First thought that came to mind was ethylene oxide. Know anyone who works in a clinic? Maybe they'll let you sterilize your shoes alien.gif
Quote:
Originally Posted by well-kept View Post

A second opinion? Unless your uncle was dearly loved and his shoes carry great sentimental value... vintage Florsheims in scotch grain come up every day on eBay. The world is awash in them, some even unworn after decades, others lightly so, all in much better shape than the pair you describe..
Yup.
post #12 of 75
Rather than go with any more chemicals, why not try saddle soap and then leather conditioner. just let them dry in an area that has a flow of fresh air.
post #13 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by pocketsquareguy View Post

Rather than go with any more chemicals, why not try saddle soap and then leather conditioner. just let them dry in an area that has a flow of fresh air.

I would tend to agree with this. Saddle soap will help take of surface mold in my experience, but the best thing is sunlight and dry air. Leave the shoes in a sunny place and wipe them over with saddle soap from time to time and you might be surprised by the results.

HTH

Charlie
post #14 of 75
You can treat the symptoms but the moment the shoes get wet or even sit in a damp room for a while they'll sprout. There will be mold hiding in places you can't reach.

I wonder if you could give them a low temp baking in the oven over night.
post #15 of 75
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicola View Post

You can treat the symptoms but the moment the shoes get wet or even sit in a damp room for a while they'll sprout. There will be mold hiding in places you can't reach.

I wonder if you could give them a low temp baking in the oven over night.

lol8[1].gif I've thought about that very idea..bake 'em clean...but my SO would slap me silly for it, especially if I stunk up the place with cooking mold. I've got 2 bleach-soaked rags sitting in the shoes now about 5 hours. We'll see how that goes.
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