Best Tactics for Removing Mold on Leather Tack (Safely!)

Posted by Gabby Gufler, Tue, June 12, 2018

Summer is the PERFECT time for riding, swimming and—you guessed it—MOLD! Sometimes life gets in the way, we can’t find the time to ride for a week or two, and we come back to tack that’s nice and moldy.

Although it is tough to completely recover tack that has been neglected, where there’s a will there’s a way!

How to Clean Mold Off Leather Tack

First things first! Let’s quarantine the affected tack outside. Mold spores can easily spread and contaminate other leather items, so we want to be sure to do this away from any other tack. We are also going to want to dispose of ANY cloths or sponges used to clean off the mold, as those will be infected with the dreaded green fuzz spores. So be sure to pick out something that you are not too attached to!

Scrub the leather with a damp sponge, using plenty of water (yes, water!) and a pH-balanced leather cleaner such as Lexol® Leather Cleaner in small circular motions. Don’t be tempted to reach for the bleach, alcohol or vinegar!!! While those ingredients do have some disinfecting properties, they can severely damage your tack and may cause more damage to it than the mold itself. You may also be tempted to reach for the saddle soap—think again! Saddle soaps contain glycerin, which actually attracts and holds atmospheric moisture...aka, encourages more mold!

Discard each cloth as it becomes dirty. If you need to use a soft bristled brush, make sure that it won’t scratch the leather by testing it on a small hidden area. Next, use a dry rag to wipe away any leftover mold, cleaner and water.

Now that you have scrubbed the mold away, it’s time to let nature help you out! Place your tack in direct sunlight and let it dry completely. The ultraviolet light of the sun may not be good for your skin, but it has disinfecting properties for your tack. Once dry, look over your tack to make sure you got all the mold; if not, then it’s time to scrub again and let the tack dry once more.

Now that your tack is dry and you have worked up a nice sweat (I mean glisten!), it is time to restore your tack’s natural oils. This step is often “forgotten” by many members of the horse community, but it is a very important step! Would you shampoo your hair without applying conditioner afterward? Most likely not! Conditioners are formulated to restore the natural oils in your tack, and will actually help extend its life and prevent it from cracking. So, we are now going to apply a light layer of Leather Conditioner to your tack (we like Lexol Leather Conditioner!) and let it dry in the sun once again. After this, it is time to put your tack up! (Finally.)

So that we don’t ever have to go through that again, what is the best way to prevent this from happening?

Mold loves damp, dark places with poor ventilation. So, let’s pick a location for our tack that is light with good airflow and stays dry.

A good rule of thumb: If you don’t like the air in the space, then the chances are your leather tack won’t either! A dehumidifier is an excellent addition to your tack room (and quite inexpensive, I might add), especially if you live in a humid climate. While you’re out shopping, you may as well go to your local tack shop and buy a nice saddle cover and bridle bag. This will prevent it from getting wet from a leaky roof, and keep it dust free and safe from rodents.

Does your horse ever work up a sweat when you ride? We thought so! Before putting your tack in your new protective equipment, let it dry. If you really want to be proactive, you should give your tack a quick wipe-down after each ride prior to storing. Lexol Quick Wipes are excellent for this task!

Gabby Gufler

Gabby Gufler graduated from Truman State University in 2013 with a BS in Animal Science & Nutrition and a minor in Equine Science. Gabby currently works on Manna Pro’s marketing team, and enjoys competing regularly with her six horses.


Eva Legere 06/22/2018, 3:32:56 PM

Some really good tips.

Patti Tebow 06/23/2018, 3:33:33 PM

I need it!

Gail Mahnke 06/24/2018, 3:34:17 PM

Thx. Great info.

Pat Sherrer 06/25/2018, 3:34:53 PM

Thank you! Great info!

Charlotte Bright 09/07/2018, 3:35:37 PM

I think this is misleading. I have tack that is over 50 years old and still in good shape. When l was on the show circuit l cleaned everything before the next show. Occasionally if l hadn't ridden for awhile for whatever reason l would find mold. I always cleaned ir with saddle soap and oiled with pure neatsfoot oil using my normal sponges. Never had a problem. And l would no more dry it in the sun than any other heat source. Heat makes leather brittle. Some of my tack hasn't been cleaned in 15 years and although it is in an unheated shop there is no mold and it looks like new.

TackGal 10/06/2021, 1:38:23 PM

You *never* want to put wet leather in direct sunlight or near a heat source, as it will make it brittle and cause the top to dry before the inside, leading to cracks.

Dry the leather in a well-ventilated area outside. Put it in direct sunlight only after it is thoroughly dry (or before you clean it). Sunlight is great for dealing with mold, just not when the leather is wet.

Jo Ann 01/02/2022, 10:52:56 AM

I bought a used dressage saddle that, even tho it doesn't look it, has been saddly neglected. I cleaned up most of the mold but unfortunately it is around the tree, where you can reach. Of course apparently i did everything the wrong way, used vinegar with using baking soda to deactivate it. I did use a low heat air on it as well. The thing is you can't reach where the saddle tree is and it actually grows on the flaps by the next day. I have probablly contaminated my whole house and other two saddles. I am gonna put it in the basement next to the dehumidifier. It was a good deal for the saddle or so i thought. When i got it, someone had cut the straps for the girth in half and had to replace them and now the mold thing. Funny, had a much cheaper saddle live in my trailer for 19 years and never had a trace of mold on. Go figure.

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