‘Tiz the season for mold! If you've been battling mold in your tack room, I’ve got bad news: mold spores are everywhere. They are floating in the air, embedded in the fibers of our leather tack, and they are on our clothes, in carpets and in walls. It is almost impossible to keep mold spores out. But there is good news! Even though you may not be able to eliminate mold spores, you can control mold growth.

Mold requires MOISTURE, WARMTH, and FOOD in order to grow and reproduce. If all three are present, mold grows rapidly. In a tack room, the best way to inhibit their growth is by controlling the environment. You have probably heard the saying “control the moisture and you control the mold.” That’s the truth, but the last thing you want is dried-out, cracked leather. So how do you control mold? Luckily there are a few simple ways to inhibit mold without harming your expensive tack.

Outside the tack room:

  • Fix any plumbing leaks and other water problems around the barn as soon as possible, drying areas and items completely.
  • Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water. Dry completely.
  • Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces. Clean up the mold and dry the surfaces before painting. Paint applied over moldy surfaces is likely to peel.
  • Clean and repair roof gutters regularly to be sure they are draining properly.
  • Make sure the ground slopes away from the barn foundation, so water does not enter or collect around the foundation.

Inside the tack room:

  • After each ride, wipe off dirt or sweat from your tack. Not only will this help keep your tack clean, it will reduce the moisture that mold loves.
  • Wipe off mold as soon as you spot it--but do this outside the tack room to avoid spreading mold spores. When you rub a patch of mold you send billions of spores into the air. Do this in your tack room and you risk infecting all your other tack.
  • Increase light and air circulation if your tack room is dark and damp. Sometimes just leaving on a light in your tack room will decrease the moisture enough to inhibit mold growth. But if the increased light doesn’t do the job, you may want to place bags of desiccant crystals in your tack room to absorb excess moisture. The most commonly used desiccant is silica dioxide, a naturally occurring mineral found in quartz. (You often find small packets of silica gel in shipments of new electronics, leather goods, pharmaceuticals, etc.) The porous, granular form of silica has the capacity to absorb 40% of its weight in moisture.
  • Good ventilation, such as a ceiling fan, will further improve the situation. 
  • More expensive options include installing a fire safe low-wattage heater, a dehumidifier, or an ultraviolet air treatment system. Ultraviolet light effectively reduces airborne contaminants, including mold. Installing a window that allows light (and air circulation) into the tack room will also help.
  • If mold has infected your saddle pads and blankets, clean them with hot soapy water and allow them to dry completely in the sun before putting them away.
  • Disinfect any problem areas with a 10% bleach solution.
  • Install saddle racks and tack hangers to promote air circulation (and improve tack room efficiency!)

Since it is nearly impossible to keep mold spores out of your tack room, be proactive by keeping your tack clean, conditioned and stored properly. Decreasing the moisture in your tack room is a great strategy for keeping mold at bay. But if all your best efforts are failing, it may be best to relocate your tack to a drier and better-ventilated area, at least for the winter months.