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Eradicating mold in my AEs: Efficacy of ultraviolet light and zinc oxide powder products

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hello friends,

I bought my first AEs--black Park Aves.--about a year ago, and I have since invested in two more pair, walnut Carlyles and brown City. I have been EXTREMELY anal in caring for these damn things because I LOVE them and am never one to spend that kind of money on such things (ask my wife... she can attest to both my love for the shoes and my frugality, in general.) Over the course of the year, I have done lots of research and invested in lots of care products, which I use religiously. Of course, I bought AE shoe trees for each pair, and they live in my shoes anytime I'm not wearing them. I always rotate the order in which I wear them, i.e., 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3.

Anyway, I recently noticed a slight musty smell coming from two pair, which was concerning, but not alarming because I was confident that I was caring for them as I should. However, just today I noticed that there was a bit of grayish-white mold blooming in my Parks, near the heel cup, right where the foot bed meets the inner layer of upper! I did some poking around on the online and discovered that my probable downfall was religiously popping the shoe trees into them IMMEDIATELY after taking them off. I know that I read somewhere that it's a "best practice" to do this, but today I'm now reading that was NOT a good practice at all; apparently the shoes should be given several hours to air-dry before popping in the trees (this makes me wonder 'then why use cedar trees at all?' I thought their main purpose was to wick out moisture and keep them dry/prevent mold, but I digress). Good grief! ... by the way, my feet hardly sweat.

So now I have mold in my less than 1 year-old shoes--probably all three pair to a greater or lesser extent--on which I spent a total of ~$1000. Arg!

I have no idea how serious any one pair is as far as the mold goes, but here's a pic of the inside heel of my Parks:

I did notice a bit of the whiteness before, but for whatever reason it never registered that it was mold.

I see that there are a few products out there that are supposed to address shoe fungus, but I have no idea how well (or even if) any of them will solve my problem. There are ultra violet light devices that get placed inside the shoe for X amount of time, and they are supposed to sanitize/kill fungus. There are also zinc oxide-based products (and straight up zinc oxide itself), which is supposed to do the same, I think??

What do ya'll think is my best route (assuming I'm not already kinda screwed)? Specifically:

1. With regard to my specific problem, which I assume involves mold growing under my footbeds, am I screwed, or can I fix it?

2. What do I need to buy in order to fix the problem?

Man, if these shoes are permanently jacked up it will totally ruin my year..
post #2 of 19
You don't have mold problem! It's caused by fats in the leather coming to the surface. I believe it's called "blooming." It happens all the time with my collection of holsters. An application of A-E's Cleaner & Conditioner, Leather Lotion or any similar product and a little elbow grease should render your shoes as good as new.

Inserting the shoe trees immediately after wear does not cause any problems. I always do it when I'm not feeling lazy.

Actual mold would be light green. That too can be easily cleaned off and the shoes restored to serviceability, as I know from experience.
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the reply!  That certainly is encouraging, and I very much hope that what you describe is what I'm experiencing (not that I doubt).  I spoke with a representative at AE and she said that she's only ever heard of mold in shoes like 3 times in her 17 year career, which is also encouraging, but she also said that putting shoe trees in the shoes immediately is a definite no-no (who knew!... most everyone besides me, I suppose).  She referred me to the people in the AE reconditioning department, so yesterday I sent them an email pretty much identical to my above post, except I also included a pic of the substance that I scraped out from where the heel footbed meets the inner upper.  Haven't heard anything back yet, but I very much hope they corroborate what you said re it being normal.  I will update thread after I hear back.  Thanks again!

post #4 of 19
^When I posted my previous reply, I hadn't looked at the photo you posted. The greenish stuff at the edge of the heel cup does look like mold. Still no big deal. It's easily removed with one of the cleaning products I mentioned earlier and a bit of rough cloth. I once discovered a pair of shoes at the back of my closet that I hadn't worn for quite a while. They were completely covered with a thick coat of green mold. However, a bit of vigorous cleaning restored their looks and they gave me good service for a couple more years.

As to the business about when to insert shoe trees, I've heard it both ways: let the shoes air out for awhile or insert them immediately. I've gone both ways and never noticed any difference. The absorbency of cedar shoe trees is very overrated. Their principal virtues are that the wood is soft, making them easier to manufacture, and they smell good when new. Europeans customarily use hardwoods like birch or beech. Plastic shoe trees are shunned because they are cheap and flimsy. Were they solid and well-made, they would probably serve as well as any wooden trees. In any event, I fail to see how the presence of trees immediately after wearing would cause mold to accumulate where it did.
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by JLibourel View Post

In any event, I fail to see how the presence of trees immediately after wearing would cause mold to accumulate where it did.

Yeah how about it--me neither. Mold stories ive found always involve shoes being in rain for a week and then shoved in a closet or shoes being in an uncles musty basement for 30 years--never wearin em for less tah a year, 1,2,3,1,2,3 and using shoe trees the 'wrong way.' My feet dont even sweat. I bathe. I never rewear dirty socks. I wear overshoes if it's raining and even if the ground is just wet from recent rain. I treat these shoes like beloved pets, for God's sake!

And yes, my Carlyles are just as moldy as my parks. My City dont look as bad, but it might just because they are my newest, ~9 months old.

AE recraft duder finally pinged me back but didnt answer any of my Qs. Was just a boiler plate email reply that said send em in--we will clean em--if they are defective we will take care of you; if not we'll send you a cleaning bill...

I hesitate to send them in because they are my only work shoes. I dont want to have to buy crappy Maid in Chinas to hold me over. I doubt that they're somehow defective. Cant imagine how a defect would lead to mold infestation. And i have no idea how they plan to clean them... A toothbrush and a can of Lysol? I can do that myself.

Idk what to do.. I'll prob take your advice and then periodically spray them with Lysol and hope the problem doesnt return.
Edited by DuderMcMerican - 10/2/16 at 12:20am
post #6 of 19
Thread Starter 
I know what i will NOT continue doing:

1. Using shoe trees

2. Buying shoes that cost $300+

3. Prothlesizing the virtues of AE shoes to my two lawyer friends
post #7 of 19
I would counsel against using Lysol. As I said in my earlier posts, most any good leather-cleaning product, such as those I mentioned, a bit of terry cloth (or something similar) and a little elbow grease should clear the problem up.

It might be helpful to get a sense of where you live. In some tropical conditions, it is almost impossible to keep mold off leather, I've heard.

I wouldn't blame Allen-Edmonds or shoe trees for this. At the moment, I own 43 pairs of Allen-Edmonds shoes. I always keep shoe trees in them, and I haven't experienced this problem with any of them. For the record, I live within 150 yards of an inlet from the Pacific Ocean, so I'm not in a very dry environment
post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 
I really appreciate your tips and taking time to talk this through with me.

Gotcha re the lysol, but the mold is also deep in the toe compartments (pic attached), and i dont know how to get that deep to scrub. Toothbrush with super flexible head?

I live in humid Northern Va. Maybe that helps explain it.

Re shoe trees, i just dont know anymore... I had never used them before because i had cheap shoes and i wasnt nearly as invested in caring for them. Thing is, i had also never encountered mold before. I now clearly have the mold in 2/3 pair, so it seems very unlikely that there are problems unique to a single pair, which is what you'd expect with a defect. Also the mold is infesting parts of the shoes where it seems like the trees could have trapped moisture or whatever (theoretically, at least). For those reasons, i am assuming that shoe trees were the problem, or perhaps more accurately, my improper use of them.

I dont mean to blame AE; in fact i openly said to them that it was prob due to my shoe tree ignorance. Im an honest guy. Most i can really say is it would be nice if they put a warning or instructions or something in the shoe tree boxes. That and be more attentive to answering specific customer Q emails re mold or put some prevention/cleaning tips online.

Im certainly not trying to crusade against AE--they are a great company and make beautiful shoes. But my entire justification for buyin them (and trying to sell my friends on them) was longterm investment. I anticipated never having to buy more work/dress shoes again and thats what sold me. But from what i have recently read, mold that creeps under footbeds drastically limits shoe life and once its under the footbed, there aint a damn thing to be done about it without the high liklihood of ruining the shoes in the process. So my investment may well not pan out, which is disappointing to say the least. I was not able to comfortably afford them the 1st time around, and i wont be in better financial shape any time soon. Thats why i said i would not buy $300+ shoes in the future--nothing specific to AEs.[IMG][IMG][IMG]
post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 
Oops... wrong pic. ^ That's the mold I scraped out of the heel of my Parks. Here's the one I referenced in the last post:
post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 
One last note, I don't mean to be contrary or insistent that it's because of the shoe trees--you clearly know WAY more about these things than I do--but that's the only thing I have found that could explain it. I mean, I literally ALWAYS popped them in the shoes immediately after taking them off, and there are a few sites on the Google that say that mold can form because of it. I would love for it to be some other thing causing this (preferably something that's not my fault... haha). Can you think of any defect that might actually lead to mold?
post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 

By way of update, I cleaned my Parks according to JLibourel's advice.  I used my AE leather conditioner/cleaner and the results are pretty decent, I suppose (before and after pics attached... well they uploaded in the order, after and before).  


I read online that popping the shoes in big freezer bags and then tossing them into the freezer overnight should kill the mold--even if it's under the footbeds.  What do y'all think about that?  I'm hesitant to try it without input from others.


If that's no good, then I will probably go ahead and pop on one of those newfangled ultraviolet light doodads and hope for the best.


I'm not super-comfortable tossing powdery stuff in there all the time.  I imagine that would eventually make a mess of the shoes.






post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 

Say, come to think about it, does anyone have any idea what those white strips are that adjoin the footbeds and uppers (see pics above)?  At first, I thought it was simply more mold, but after poking around at them it's clear that they are plastic-y pieces manufactured into the shoes.  I only see them in my Parks.  My other two pair have no such white strips.  Any ideas?



post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 
So i sent the shoes to AE and they said they dont think it's mold at all, but lint build-up! Haha. They were very accomodating, as usual, and are cleaning the shoes anyway just to be safe. I'd be interested to know if others have similar build up. Just put your phone inside a shoe and snap a pic..
post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 

Oh, and they said the random strips of white plastic-y stuff is just cobbler's glue (or some such thing)--not usual for that stuff to be used but not altogether unheard of.  I'm not thrilled about it because I assume the shoes were not build quite up to spec (otherwise, why glue?), but I take their word that it's okay.  Just FYI for anyone who might have the same question..

post #15 of 19
^Just about all shoes use glue in their construction. Where it is bad is when the welt and sole are simply glued to the upper. This is not the case with Goodyear welted shoes like your A-Es.
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