I received a new pair of shoes from a friend, but noticed what looks like black mould on them.

I sprayed cleaning vinegar liberally onto them but it didn't seem to do much. I'm wondering what, if anything, I can do to completely rid of the black mould. I don't want to risk getting a toe fungal infection so leaning towards throwing them out.enter image description here enter image description here

  • IMO Spraying won't do much. I have cleaned my simond climbing shoes using the white vinegar by rubbing it off using a sponge. Worked for me.
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Apr 2 at 9:27
  • You mentioned that the shoes are "new" and that they "came from a friend". What was the history of the shoes? Were they previously worn? That's a significant amount of mold inside. If they weren't previously worn, the shoes were likely shipped/stored in a very moldy and damp environment. IMO, sadly, those shoes are garbage. Commented Apr 5 at 9:55

2 Answers 2


The fungi (Trichophyton, Epidermophyton and Microsporum) that cause infection on our feet are not black - they are white/cream with brown sporophytes typically.

This will be one of the "black molds". These do not cause infection in us other than sporadically in the lungs if you are very unlucky. They are common in damp environments like bathrooms

Vinegar does nothing to actually kill any molds that I am aware of, but it may slow the growth. Most molds require stronger substances to kill - you could try a quaternary ammonium compound containing cleaner to actually kill them, though even these don't work against many fungi. Bleach/hypochlorite is a sure way to kill fungi, but very harsh on materials. Using a zinc oxide powder and/or zinc undecylate based shoe powder should do the job too. You can often find these at a pharmacy or shoe shop.

The good news is that simply storing the shoes in a dry environment and making sure that they dry between uses is enough to prevent further growth.

  • Using bleach to kill mold is, unfortunately, an entrenched & persistent urban legend. It just removes what you can see on the surface. This is why the mold grows back so quickly after being treated with bleach. Commented Apr 5 at 9:44
  • 1
    @EndAnti-SemiticHate Bleach will absolutely kill fungi and fungal spores along with many much more resistant organisms if it can access them and is used at the right concentrations. Usually in the range of 500 - 2500 ppm is enough; see here. I'm a virologist and work closely with many microbiologists; I'm 100% sure on this. The reason it is seen as a legend is that in many cases the fungus is embedded deeply in a substrate where the bleach can't penetrate (drywall for instance), so only kills the stuff on the surface, which soon grows back.
    – bob1
    Commented Apr 5 at 10:05
  • I should have added that bleach solutions will penetrate most materials in shoes fairly well. Just have to be careful that the organic load (i,e skin debris etc build up) in the shoe isn't too high ans this will inactivate the bleach too.\
    – bob1
    Commented Apr 5 at 10:07
  • Thanks for the update. That's a good point about the bleach possibly penetrating at least some the materials of the shoes (likely the infected parts). Efficacy will depend on the materials, of course, and if the materials are treated/coated with anything. Commented Apr 5 at 10:18
  • Oh, and thank you so much for the link to that publication. I just quickly skimmed it, and I'm looking forward to reading it in depth. If you happen to find a similar report regarding borax, I'm interested. Commented Apr 5 at 10:27

the battle of the moldy climbing shoes! Here’s the secret sauce: brush off visible spores, then disinfect with rubbing alcohol. Next, give 'em a gentle wipe-down with mild detergent. Let those babies air dry away from direct sunlight. And hey, if you’re feeling extra fancy, a little leather conditioner won’t hurt.

  • 1
    Unfortunately, rubbing alcohol does not remove the roots of mold, which is why it grows right back when treated with alcohol. You need to kill the roots and spores, not just the surface mold. Commented Apr 5 at 9:41

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