Asked on Nov 5, 2019

How can I clean or cover the moldy buttons on these chairs?

EFKathy Gunter LawRobyn Garner
+14

Answered

A friend gave me two of these Crate & Barrel chairs, which have been sitting in his basement for years. The buttons are speckled with what looks like mold. The stains don't seem to be going anywhere; hand soap diluted in water had no effect. Does anyone have any ideas? Is there an easy way to re-cover the buttons while they are on the chair? Any other advice? I have no experience with this sort of craft, but I'm willing to learn!

close-up of the buttons.

8 answers
  • Mogie
    on Nov 5, 2019

    Sorry but I don't see any buttons in the picture.

  • Xena
    on Nov 5, 2019

    Get some craft paint and paint them

    • EF
      on Nov 5, 2019

      Never imagined paint could work. I'll pick some up! Thanks for taking the time to reply, Xena!


  • Reenaroc
    on Nov 5, 2019

    Hi, I would try making a paste of white vinegar, baking soda and salt. Put plastic bags (or whatever) around the buttons, seat etc. so as not to drip on the rest of the chair. Use an old toothbrush and scrub with the paste. Vinegar kills mold (bleach doesn't). I'm guessing that the buttons are metal under the fabric & that is why they were affected by the dampness of the basement. Use a hair dryer to dry. Not all of the staining will come out so next decide how to cover the rest up. I would either paint them or use fabric glue and cover with a contrasting fabric or the same color (as close as you can find). Cut a circle of fabric big enough to be able to tuck all around under the buttons. I dip a small paint brush in the glue for tedious work like this. You cannot take the buttons off without reupholstering the whole chair. There are wonderful videos on how to paint fabric that may be helpful. I would vacuum the whole chair then wipe it down with straight white vinegar. It will keep future mildew away and vinegar smell will soon dissipate. Those chairs are really cool and worth the time and effort. They have a Mid-century look, which is so popular again. But they could go in any decor and even hold a print nicely, a floral would look great in a bedroom etc. It probable wouldn't be too costly to have them reupholstered some day or you could probably even do it yourself with the help of videos or a class. Good luck & hope this helped.

    • EF
      on Nov 5, 2019

      Oh my goodness. Thank you for this incredibly comprehensive reply! I will follow each of your steps. I feel armed now to move forward with this project!

  • Marcia whitney
    on Nov 5, 2019

    I don't think it is mold, I think the metal button forms under the fabric have corroded. The only thing you might do is pull off the button covers from their bases, remove the fabric, scrub the tarnish off with steel wool and paint/seal, then re-cover with a different fabric and then re-attach the covers to the button base (possibly with glue). Or just remove the buttons entirely, although there might be marks left behind from the (corroded) backs.

  • Robyn Garner
    on Nov 5, 2019

    I have a few ideas! First, try different cleaning solutions to see if any work. You've got nothing to lose if you still need to recover them or do something. I would try OxyClean and a toothbrush but be gentle because my next idea needs the fabric intact.


    You could paint the fabric that's already on the buttons. Easiest is to purchase a dedicated fabric paint. I would cut some poster board into maybe 4" squares. Cut a slice from one edge to the center of the board. Make a hole in the center to allow for the thread holding the buttons. Carefully slide the poster board behind each button so you can safely paint without getting paint on the rest of the upholstery.


    To recover or replace them, you'll need to get the back of the chair off. There should be screws somewhere holding the padded section to the frame. Once that's off, you'd need to get to the backside of the fabric where the buttons are sewn on. Snip them off and replace with new buttons (or the same if they pull apart alright) covered with your choice of fabric.

  • Kathy Gunter Law
    on Nov 5, 2019

    White cleaning vinegar will kill the mold. Then use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (brand matters on this).

  • EF
    on Nov 5, 2019

    Oh! That's very interesting. I haven't found a tutorial online on how to remove button covers. Do you happen to know of one?

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