There’s nothing quite like the frustration and aggravation of discovering your tack or boots have gotten moldy. Oh the horror of finding white, green, brown, gray, black gunk coating your beautiful leather. Kinda makes you want to put on a Hazmat suit and chuck it all in the trash. Well, don’t be quite so hasty about tossing out your stuff. In this article you will learn all of the mold busting how-to you need in order to keep the green fuzzies at bay, plus ways to salvage your tack if the fuzz has already come calling.
Why Mold Mucks It Up
Simply put, mold just trashes your leather. Those spores are literally eating your leather alive, weakening and destroying the leather itself. Cheery thought! Plus, mold is a frightful health hazard. Easily transported and readily made airborne, mold and mildew can potentially cause respiratory distress and other illness in you, your horse, and any other people or animals that are exposed.
There’s a lot in the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and the same holds true for protecting your equipment from mold. Mold loves a moist environment and feeds on dead organic material, aka your leather…and dirty or over-conditioned or oiled leather is an even stronger mold attractant.
Much of mold prevention is similar to what you read about in our Humidity Headache article, and this combined with a solid leather care routine gets you some serious defenses in place to prevent mold.
Your Mold Prevention Routine:
Condition your leather on an as needed basis only using the lightest amount of conditioner possible.
Store your tack in a well ventilated space with plenty of fresh air.
Consider putting a fan or dehumidifier in your tack room during high humidity months.
Clean your tack and equipment regularly, ideally after every use. This limits the amount of dirt, sweat, oils, and grime on your leather that mold is just dying to find and feast on.
Clean your leather thoroughly and with special care before putting it away in storage. You can also find more specialized storage tips in our article Utlimate Top 8 Tips for How to Store Your Leather Tack.
Clean and condition your leather using products specifically designed to help prevent and kill mold. For example, Sterling Essentials’ leather care products utilize certain key essential oils clinically shown to naturally prevent mold and mildew.
Finding a moldy bridle really makes you think twice next time you consider putting it away without giving it a good ol’ cleaning. Alas, it happens to everyone at one time or another, so no need to feel so bad. The good news is that in many cases your leather can be salvaged. Yay!
However, one of the biggest mistake most riders make when dealing with moldy tack is thinking that using vinegar is the best way to get your tack mold free and healthy. And I get it. Riders for decades, and now all over social media, are touting vinegar as the mold cure-all. So it’s easy to fall into that trap.
But does everyone who uses vinegar have beautiful, healthy, mold free tack? No. In fact, by the time you use enough vinegar to maybe kill all that mold you could end up with dry, damaged, unhealthy tack.
Vinegar has a pH of about 2.5, compared to modern leather’s pH of around 5. Acidity is measured on a logarithmic scale, so that means vinegar is almost 1000 times more acidic than your leather. Wow! And as you already know, using things with a dissimilar pH from your leather is extremely harmful to your tack (you can learn more all about this by reading The Little Known Leather Care Fact You Need to Know Now).
So what do you do? You use gentle scientific solutions that support the health and pH balance of your tack. Solutions that work with the nature of your leather, not against it.
We've put together a short video for you with our best tips on how to give mold the one-two punch using natural ingredients and methods. No harsh chemicals, harmful vinegar, or bleach needed!
As you watch, keep in mind the three major tips:
1. Clean, clean, clean = dry it out to restore it’s natural moisture balance!
3. Essential Oils
Check it out!
Truth be told, mold is really everywhere, just itching for the chance to find its next meal. Fortunately, it is actually easy to prevent and deter mold from making a home on your leather tack and equipment if you stick to your guns about regularly cleaning your tack and following a simple care and prevention routine.
What path will you take? You can continue using vinegar or other harsh chemicals and damaging your tack. In fact, that is exactly what many riders do. Or you can become an empowered equestrian and do things that actually work with the nature of your tack so you not only get healthy mold free tack, but also prevent the mold you dread in the first place.
If you’re struggling with mold, we invite you to take a peak at your routine and compare it to our tips. Are there areas in your current regimen that you may want to tweak? Give it a go, tweak more along the way if you need it, and leave the green fuzzies in the rearview mirror once and for all!