How to clean mold, mildew or leaf stains from leather or vinyl?

Mildew, mold and leaf stains on vinyl or leather upholstery often cannot be completely cleaned, but they can be concealed with a new finish like Rub ‘n Restore®. Mold and mildew are fungus and must be killed as as not to grow through the new finish.

Learn how to kill mold on leather.

Learn how to treat mold or pinking on vinyl.

Kill Mold on Leather

Use denatured or rubbing alcohol to kill mold on leather upholstery. Alcohol is better than undiluted distilled white vinegar due to its less acidic pH. It also leaves less odor. Allow the alcohol to sit for 30 minutes to several hours and then gently scrub the surface.

Never use abrasive cleaners like borax or baking soda on leather.

If the mold is present on the interior stuffing, if you’re concerned about mycotoxins,  or if the mold returns after treating the leather, the items should be placed in a sealed ozone chamber for several days. This will deprive the fungus of oxygen and kill it. Fire or flood restoration companies usually have an ozone chamber. Otherwise, the piece will require reupholstery or total replacement.

Kill Mold on Vinyl

We’ve had many years’ success with bleach, but EPA and OSHA (and certified mold inspectors) have retracted bleach as an effective mold remediation. Bleach is no more effective than alcohol or distilled white vinegar but is more toxic. It does, however, work faster (let it sit only a few minutes and wipe dry). It also lightens the remaining stains most effectively. Some customers have also reported success with Marine 31® Mildew Remover.

Pinking, a phenomenon of pink stains on boat upholstery, is caused by a different species of fungus. Folks report luck using Pinkaway Solution.

Never use abrasive cleaners like borax, baking soda, or Soft Scrub® on vinyl.

If the mold is present on the interior stuffing, if it returns after treating the vinyl, or if you’re concerned about mycotoxins, the items should be placed in a sealed ozone chamber. Contact a local fire or flood restoration company. Otherwise, the piece will require reupholstery or replacement.



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Reader Interactions


  1. Christine Bedner says

    What products do you recommend.
    No Mold but cracked and pealing balusters/ back rests as well. All cracked on top from sun damage.
    Can not wait to use your products.
    Marine White & Red.
    Bayliner boat…19 ft. I want enough product to do all of the interior.

  2. T Harris says

    Bleach doesn’t kill mold..only removes appearance of.
    Vinegar kills mold and is in no way as damaging as bleach.

    • lesandre says

      Thank you; you inspired me to research this further with a certified mold inspector and update the article. Vinegar only kills 82% of mold species, but yes, less toxic than bleach. We still prefer alcohol to vinegar on leather, which has a more neutral pH.

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