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How do I get a musty smell out of leather? Answered

I picked up an old deer hide off of craigslist today.  It's in great condition, but it's been in storage for about 30 years and has developed a bit of a musty smell.  Any ideas on how to get rid of that smell?  It's not too bad, just enough that it kind of bugs me.  I don't want to clean it with anything too harsh, as I want it to stay supple and soft, if that's possible.


Vinegar is one of the best odor removers. You can safely clean leather with one part vinegar and two parts linseed oil. The other option is to put a dish of vinegar near the hide and let it work on absorbing the odors. (The vinegar will remove any odors in the room as well).

With the vinegar/linseed mix, is it a matter of wiping it down or soaking it?

Vinegar & Linseed Oil is used to wipe clean leather that otherwise can't be washed or dry cleaned (like leather seats, sofa, shoes, handbags). What I would do is cut a small piece from the hide and test the method. In your photo, on the top left is a small enough piece that you could remove (without really changing the hide). Try the mixture and allow it to dry and then compare it to the full hide before proceeding with a full cleaning. That way you can be confident with the method. However, just exposing the hide to vinegar (like the "fabreeze" suggestion), will remove the odors. I've even used a small dish of vinegar in the kitchen (after cooking things with strong odors), and it cleans up the air. If you put the hide into a container along with a small dish of vinegar and close it, you'll be able to remove much of the odor without "washing" it.

Okay, I think I'll give that (in a container w/ vinegar) a try, and report back. I've got a nice big plastic tub that should work well. How long do you recommend I leave it in there?

It's hard to say... I guess it depends how "musty" a smell there is, but in a closed container a couple hours should make a big improvement. Then just let the hide air out for a bit (because you'll get a big wafting smell of vinegar as soon as you open the container).

Hey hi, did you ever find a solution that worked?

I ended up leaving it in the tub with the vinegar for a couple of days, then let it hang in the shop for a while. Smells fine now!


6 years ago

You could try just hanging it outside in the sun for a day or two. Sunlight has natural disinfectant abilities and any excess moisture would evaporate. (Its how the deer do it, and that part is a joke) They often stretch hides on a frame outside to cure.

Outside in the sun!?  This is what outside has been for the last couple of months where I live:


As much as I love Eugene, the rain really is pretty ridiculous.  I had thought about doing that once the weather clears up (June-ish, if we're lucky), but won't the UV break down the leather and make it stiffen up?  

A few days of UV exposure will not hurt the leather. A few weeks might. But the UV will work to sanitize it which is why it might help.

Another option would be to expose it to ozone for a short time. They make special ozone machines for killing the smoke smell and other bad smells in houses that have had fire and smoke damage. A local cleaning company probably has one.


6 years ago

Spray some Febreze onto a towel and place the towel and the leather together in a closed container for a couple of days.

I may try that eventually, but I'm gonna try and avoid it. I've come to associate the smell of febreeze with things that are gross.