Removing Musty Smells From Leather?

September 30, 2013

old leather bagI have an expensive leather motorcycle jacket that has been stored for years and it smells very musty. Is there something I can do to get the smell out?


By MaryJane


March 14, 20151 found this helpful

I have two methods
If the jacket is clean (except for the smell) put the jacket in a good box and unwrap a load if Irish Spring soap bars (dozen). Lay the soap around the jacket. Box size needs some air space. Use a box the size you would use to give the jacket away as a gift). Place unwrapped bars around jacket. Add some inside the lining. Replace lid.
Put the jacket away for a month and when you remove it from the box the smell will be gone. If not completely, replace lid and wait a little longer.
You can still use the Irish Spring in the shower.

I had a vintage car that had been leaking water into the trunk. Strong smell. My brother claimed (the sports car restorer) my method would never work in the trunk of this car.. Needless to say I had to get the car into a dry garage, out of the rain (Seattle). Boy was he surprised when the Irish Spring worked beautifully.


If your jacket is soiled as well as musty I'd suggest you might try washing a dirty leather jacket from the thrift store first, using this method.
Measure the length of sleeves and perhaps length of back.

Use cold water, soap and wash jacket in washing machine. If jacket is soiled on cuffs, neck, etc, I always use Zout(laundry spot remover on soiled areas first). (I have washed dirty leathers by the dozen). I have not had to deal with mildew but by adding vinear at the end of the wash, and letting it soak over night, it will be the secret to killing the musty smell. Add vinegar if you can still smell the jacket when jacket is washed and you are ready to add the softener to the rinse..
Hold off on the softener and add vinegar first.

Have water in washing machine (pour a couple of gallons into wash with 2 cups of vinegar) if water is gone..


Swish jacket around by hand if necessary and let the jacket soak all night.
Let the vinegar water drain for the rinse cycle.
Add one to two cups of softener to rinse cycle.

I always add a load of fabric softener to the rinse. At least 1 cup, maybe two. Once the spin cycle is over following the rinse, have a strong hanger waiting. You may need a place for the jacket to drip dry. (Tub or concrete floor) Put jacket on hanger and let drip (some garments will almost run water and others not so much).

Once the jacket is finished dripping I make sure it it hanging well on the hanger. Check out the length of arms and legs with tape measure.
Drying time will take about three days. If your jacket dries stiff, do not panic.

When is it completely dry, crumple it in your hands and roll it around in towel. Wear it around the house and you will be amazed how it will restore itself.


If you do the trial run thrift garment first, select a dirty item from the thrift store and pre spot it with Zout or other pre spot removers.
I also pour on the liquid detergent onto the worst areas of garment.. You do risk a chance the item will shrink a bit. That is why you want to stretch it slightly before it dries.

Try taking measurements of the thrift store item before you place in wash. Measure length of sleeves or the leg of pants. That will giive you an ideas of how long the sleeves or legs should be before you leave it alone on the hanger to dry. Stretch it a little everywhere like you were shaping a sweater before letting it dry.

I decided to give this method a try when they came out with washable leathers. I thought, did they reinvent the cow? Not likely.

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13 More Questions

Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

July 31, 2015

I got a pair of leather pants on Amazon. Then when I opened it, they smell like fish. What do I do to take of the smell?


October 30, 20170 found this helpful

Honestly, I would have them dry cleaned before wearing them. The dry cleaners are trained in how to appropriately clean leather.


I would definitely file a complaint with the seller on amazon, you may get them to reimburse you for the cleaning bill.

January 16, 20180 found this helpful

I would have returned them.

April 24, 20190 found this helpful

I always buy through Paypal, as they will cover you as a buyer for issues like this- disputes are weighed towards the favor of the buyers who have a good track record of not abusing sellers. You are hypothetically allowed to return things not as described even months after you bought them- including odors.

January 8, 20210 found this helpful

Be careful with pay pal. They will not protect you from shady companies taken your money !!!!!!!

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December 27, 2010

I have a vintage leather jacket that has a musty smell on it. What can I do to remove the aroma?

By Christopher from Stuart, FL


December 27, 20102 found this helpful

Whatever it is with a musty smell put it in a garbage bag with lots of crumpled newspaper. Leave it in the bag for a few days. If the smell is still there when you open the bag leave it there for another couple of days, replacing the newspaper.Use a twist tie on the bag to be certain it is securely closed.

November 30, 20180 found this helpful

Oh I Most certainly am grateful for this! I received a new, unused wallet and it's musty smelling. Trying to salvage it.


I'm pretty sure storage was the issue. Newspaper is amazing for cleaning windows too! Thank you!, L.

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September 8, 2009

I was sent a package and everything in it smells of mildew. Some things cannot be washed. How do I get rid of the mildew smell? The items that need treatment include a leather pocketbook and three small blankets.

Thank you.


Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 107 Feedbacks
September 8, 20091 found this helpful

The blankets: wash repeatedly in hot water with detergent, borax or baking soda, dry in air outside where wind can blow them a little. May take 3-4 times.

You have two problems: odor, and mildew, which is causing the odor. Mildew likes dampness, so dry the items if they are damp to stop the process. Prop open with crumpled newspaper (wallet).

Other things like wallet, put in a non staining container which has plain charcoal lumps, wrapped in lots of crumpled newspaper so the charcoal won't touch the item. Put in box and close it for a month, in the garage. See how bad it is after that. If the leather is wipeable before you put them away, wipe with a paper towel or cotton ball you've wet with alcohol. You could also put baking soda in bottom of box. Perhaps lightly wrap items in newspaper sheets. I've read that newspaper itself deodorizes. White vinegar also deodorizes. Anything that can be wiped could be wiped with that, if it's not acid sensitive.

September 9, 20161 found this helpful

Chances are that the mustiness is only as deep as the lining. I've got a few leather jackets that have started to go musty and I tried (70% surgical) spritzing, fabreeze and spot cleaning with a sponge soaked in detergent...none of those worked. What did work, was getting a cheap handheld $100 steamer, turning the jacket inside out and blasting the jacket lining with steam. And go hardcore on areas like the underarms and the back of the neck. It works a treat.

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November 7, 2005

I have a pair of suede boots that smell like mildew. Does anyone know a way to get rid of this smell. Thank you for your help.

Lisa from TN


By Anna from Maine (Guest Post)
November 7, 20050 found this helpful

Try putting the boots in a plastic garbage bag with a couple sheets of Bounce fabric softener for a few days, if this does not work then put a scoop full of coffee grounds (right from the can) in a paper envelope and put in the plastic bag with the boots and leave for a few days.

By teatimelady (Guest Post)
November 7, 20050 found this helpful

Try stuffing your boots with wadded up newspapers...should work in 2-3 days time.

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September 12, 2013

How can I get the mildew smell out of a leather purse?

By jesscuz


October 11, 20190 found this helpful

i bought a pair of stunning used Italian made cowboy boots on ebay, and they have a moldy perfumed smell that also makes me itch all over. I have tried almost everything I have read for weeks. Guess what? Nothing worked, it's a total waste of time. I have been tempted to just throw them out but because they are so beautiful I feel that I may get the smell out. I guess I just have to accept them as they are. Don't waste your time all of these methods and others are all hit and miss.

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October 23, 2013

I want to keep my musty, mildewing smelly leather gloves and jacket. How I do I get the smell out of them?

By patsymargaret-stephens from Sydney, Nova Scotia

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September 22, 2013

This is a page about removing musty smell from leather furniture. Mold and mildew can leave your leather furniture smelling musty.

Must Leather Couch


ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

June 10, 2010

I am looking for tips for the removal of the musty smell on leather motorcycle trousers. I have tried leaving them out overnight in the cold and also sprayed them with a fine mist of watered down disinfectant, but to no avail. Can anybody help?


December 27, 2010

Does anyone have any idea on how to get the musty smell out of a leather handbag?


November 6, 2010

How does one clean terrible mildew/mold odor from a leather handbag? I do not take well to any chemical scents. Are there any safe products out there for this problem?


August 26, 2010

How do I remove the moldy smell from leather handbags?


August 24, 2008

How to remove a musty smell from the inside of a leather handbag?


August 28, 2006

Getting My leather jackets have a musty smell. How do i get it out?

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