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Mildew on Saddles

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  • Mildew on Saddles

    So, I pulled two saddles out of storage today and discovered they were covered in white mildew! I moved them to a friend's garage about five months ago (and they had no mold or mildew on them then), but apparently his garage is about 80 years old and has a damp problem. Needless to say, my saddles won't be going back in there again.

    So, now I've got a western saddle (leather with a suede seat and cordura skirt / fenders) and an english saddle that are covered in mildew (powdery white-ish mildew that puffs into the air when disturbed).

    First things first, I pulled both of them out of the garage immediately and set them outside. I washed down as much of the surface mold as possible. Attacked them with scrubbies and a toothbrush to get the small crevices. Disassembled everything I could and cleaned inside every fold. But I worry that the mildew has penetrated the leather and the cordura. It still smells mildew-y. It started raining, so I had to bring them inside to dry, but once the sun comes out I intend on putting them out in full sun to air out.

    The english saddle is a cheap no-name thing that if I can't save, I won't shed many tears over. But the western saddle goes back a long ways with me. We've covered many miles together and I'd like to be able to save it.

    Any suggestions on favorite products and / or home mixes to clean these things up with, take the smell out, and prevent another mildew-palooza?
    The Western Adventures of Loki, a Florida Swampdog in Los Angeles

  • #2
    Leather Therapy. Seriously, mold is a way of life here in Florida, and I find that after I have cleaned the mold (with a mixture of white vinegar and water with a damp cloth), and then use the Leather Therapy, the mold does not come back.

    OH, and I have western saddles.
    There are friends and faces that may be forgotten, but there are horses that never will be. - Andy Adams


    • Original Poster

      Sweet! Thanks for the recommendations! I'm gonna go hit the feed store tomorrow and see if I can find some of that.

      This is the first time I've had mildew/mold problems on my saddles (and that western one I've had since the early '90s). I was pretty shocked. But considering our climate here, I guess I ought to be shocked that I hadn't seen it before.
      The Western Adventures of Loki, a Florida Swampdog in Los Angeles


      • #4
        Originally posted by dixiedolphin View Post
        Sweet! Thanks for the recommendations! I'm gonna go hit the feed store tomorrow and see if I can find some of that.

        This is the first time I've had mildew/mold problems on my saddles (and that western one I've had since the early '90s). I was pretty shocked. But considering our climate here, I guess I ought to be shocked that I hadn't seen it before.
        Exactly! I'm surprised you have dodged it so long. Guess it shows that you took good care of your tack, since it didn't appear until you put them in storage?

        Also, the reason why my expensive show saddles stay in the house.
        There are friends and faces that may be forgotten, but there are horses that never will be. - Andy Adams


        • #5
          Don't be shy with the white vinegar. If Leather Therapy inoculates leather against future infections, so much the better. But white vinegar is my go-to thing for killing the mildew.

          I have been known to use straight white vinegar and then follow with the leather conditioner I think the leather needs-- no water rinse. Let the vinegar dry and do it's work. This is such a multi-step, PITA process that I pursue a "scorched earth" policy when killing mold. My one caveat: I think this is harder on leather that's crispy dry and stiff.

          You can probably use white vinegar generously on the cordura. If this were mine, I'd use enough white vinegar to have penetrated the material. Leave the mold nowhere to hide in the fabric or you will eventually still have a mold problem on the leather parts.
          The armchair saddler
          Politically Pro-Cat


          • Original Poster

            Thanks! Y'all rock with the suggestions!

            I've got plenty of white vinegar on hand (I use it to clean fossils, oddly enough), but never thought of it for mold before. Definitely gonna try that, too! Also, thankfully, the leather isn't very dry at all. I've been pretty meticulous about maintenance on these saddles in the past so it's all pretty well cared for (except the sudden mold).

            Definitely going to get aggressive on the cordura. I'm thinking the mildew could also be in the padding, so I'm gonna scrub the heck out of again it tomorrow.
            The Western Adventures of Loki, a Florida Swampdog in Los Angeles