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How To Clean Leather Furniture, Accessories, and More
Modified: February 7, 2023
Leather is bound to crack or peel without proper cleaning and maintenance. Avoid leather damage with this simple guide on how to clean leather!
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Even though leather is not your style, you’ll find yourself attracted to it because it looks and feels luxurious. Leather is soft and breathable, so it is a popular choice for clothes, shoes, bags, and furniture. Not to mention, this material is highly durable. High-quality ones can even last more than a decade before they start to crack. However, despite its durability, leather is just like any other material that requires care and maintenance to last longer.
In this article, we’ll teach you tips and tricks on how to clean leather. You’ll get to know various cleaning methods and discover some of the best products to use for treating and conditioning the world-famous material.
Importance of Leather Care
Before we get into the tutorials, we have to understand the importance of leather care first. Most of you are probably confident your leather goods will last for years, so you don’t see the need to clean them often. As there are usually no signs of fading and peeling for fairly-new leather, many won’t even bother looking at the leather conditioner and cleaner in their utility closets. Don’t wait for damages to appear and take care of your leather goods as early as now to enjoy the following benefits.
Extend the Lifespan of Leather
Leather is expensive. A small full-grain leather handbag can cost more than a hundred dollars! Meanwhile, leather furniture costs between 600 USD to 8,000 USD. So, wouldn’t it be a waste of money if it starts to deteriorate after using it for only a couple of times? Remember, although the durability of high-quality leather is guaranteed, it is not completely indestructible. You have to apply oil once every three months to maintain the leather’s suppleness and shine. And if you store it properly and clean it regularly, expect the leather to last for 15 years or more! Not only will you be able to save money, but you also get to enjoy a product that feels and looks new.
Keep Leather Looking Like New
Once the leather fades, it would be difficult to bring back its natural shine and color. This can also cause the leather to peel and crack. You can ask a professional to repair it, but it won’t look the same as before; damage marks can still be seen on the leather’s surface. Thus, regular leather care is important to keep leather looking new.
However, top-grain leathers are an exception. This type of leather ages beautifully as they develop a patina or a dark, soft sheen after using them for years. This makes the leather look more beautiful and authentic.
How to Clean Leather: General Cleaning and Maintenance
Clothes, bags, and watch bands are easier to clean than leather sofas. You can either use dry clean or wash them with only a mild detergent and distilled water. Not to mention, some are machine-washable. You can’t do the same with a leather sofa, however. First, it’s too big, and second, the leather is thicker, so cleaning it will be more difficult. But not to worry. By following this step-by-step guide on how to clean leather, you can restore delicate leather sofas (and any leather goods) in no time!
Things You’ll Need:
Step 1: Make a Natural Cleaning Solution
Vinegar is a powerful cleaning agent because it contains acetic acid that helps dissolve dirt and kill bacteria. However, vinegar is too strong, so it’s best to mix it with water to avoid damaging the leather. Just make a 50/50 solution of water and vinegar, add a few drops of linseed oil, and set it aside.
Step 2: Use a Vacuum or Duster
You have to remove the dust and dirt before cleaning the leather with vinegar. Dust can leave scratches, so don’t skip this step. Pay extra attention to the creases and folds of the sofa because this is where dirt usually accumulates. Also, as much as possible, use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to make it easier to remove the small crumbs. For bags, wallets, clothes and watch bands, either use a microfiber cloth or duster.
Step 3: Dip the Microfiber Cloth into the Vinegar Solution and Start Wiping
Start wiping the and work on small sections. Just don’t forget to wring the cloth first to avoid soaking the leather. Leaving it soaked will cause the leather to lose some of its natural oils, and this could lead to cracking. After applying the vinegar solution, use a dry cloth to remove the excess moisture.
Step 4: Apply a Leather Conditioner
Once dry, apply a leather conditioner. Doing this will help the leather retain its softness and shine. But, before you start, try wiping a small section at the back first to check whether the leather conditioner won’t cause a reaction. It would also be helpful to read the label first to know if the conditioner is suitable for your leather sofa.
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How to Clean Leather Furniture: Removing Stubborn Stains
No matter how much you take care of your leather goods, they are bound to get dirty — especially leather sofas. For instance, someone might spill coffee or wine on it during a party. Fortunately, you can easily remove leather furniture stains with these simple cleaning methods:
For Coffee and Ink Stains
Things You’ll Need:
Liquid Dish Soap
Use Liquid Dish Soap
It’s easier to remove fresh coffee and ink stains on leather. The first step is to blot the stain with paper towels to get rid of the excess liquid. After that, mix a solution of equal parts of liquid dish soap and water. Dip a sponge into the solution, wring it until the sponge is damp, and dab it on the stain. Be careful not to rub on it because this can worsen the stain. Once the stain is gone, wipe the affected area with a soft, dry cloth and apply leather conditioner.
Use Rubbing Alcohol
Once these leather furniture stains set in, mild soap and lukewarm water are not enough to clean them. You have to use a more powerful cleaning agent such as rubbing alcohol. Do mind that rubbing alcohol can damage leather because it can dry out the leather’s natural oils. To avoid this, dilute rubbing alcohol with water. Next, grab a cotton ball, moisten it with the diluted rubbing alcohol, and gently rub it on the stained area. After cleaning, apply a leather conditioner.
For Oil and Grease Stains
Things You’ll Need:
Talcum, Baby Powder
Some people prefer having their meals on the sofa because they can watch TV while eating. If you are one and you’re not careful, you will most likely leave oil and grease stains on your sofa. Although they aren’t as noticeable as coffee and ink stains, their eventual results are gnarly. Stains like these will darken eventually, and it’ll be difficult to get rid of them once this happens. Here’s a simple guide on how to remove such stains on leather:
Step 1: Sprinkle with Baking Soda or Talcum Powder
Baking soda absorbs oil and grease stains and helps eliminate odors. Plus, it’s safe to use on leather goods because it’s not too acidic. Alternatively, you may use talcum powder because it can also suck up the oil in leather.
Cleaning with baking soda or talcum powder is simple; just sprinkle a bit on the stained area, and let it sit in for half an hour. For old, stubborn grease stains, we recommend leaving the baking soda overnight.
Step 2: Wipe the Powder with a Soft, Clean Cloth
The last step is to wipe the baking soda or powder away with a soft, dry cloth. Again, it is recommended to use a microfiber cloth to avoid scratching the leather. You might also want to use a vacuum cleaner to make sure there’s no powder residue left behind.
Powerful Leather Care Products
Sometimes, natural leather cleaning methods are not enough to completely get rid of the stain. The leather could appear clean from a distance, but looking closely would prove otherwise. If you’ve tried everything and nothing still works, try using the following leather care products instead.
You might be hesitant to use commercial cleaners with strong, pungent smells because of allergies or lung problems. Fortunately, you can now buy natural, odorless cleaners like this Leather Care Kit from Leather Honey. This brand uses a natural, non-toxic formula to clean and restore leather so there are no harsh chemicals that can potentially damage your leather goods.
Even though these leather care products are packed only in small 8-ounce bottles, they can last long. One thing you can do to ensure this is to dilute the solution in water when using it. Don’t worry because their effectiveness won’t be affected even after dilution.
- Complete leather care kit
- Non-toxic, gentle leather cleaner
- Bottle size is 8-ounce
- Package includes 1 leather conditioner and 1 leather cleaner
- Works for cleaning and conditioning exotic leathers
- No need to mix the cleaner or conditioner before use
- Money-back guarantee
- Has a dull finish
If cleaning with baking soda is too messy for you, you can use this Leather Cleaner and Conditioner Kit instead. Just like baking soda, this product is pH balanced so it is not too acidic to cause damage to the leather. This is also a powerful leather cleaner because it penetrates deep within to remove dirt and stains.
Unlike most household cleaners, this product doesn’t leave a soapy, streaky residue. It’s colorless and dries fast, so leather cracking is prevented. This cleaner also contains Vitamin E that keeps the leather supple and durable.
- Gentle cleaner
- Nourishing leather care kit
- pH-balanced leather cleaner and conditioner
- Bottle size is 473 mL or 16 fl. oz.
- Package includes 1 leather conditioner and 1 leather cleaner
- Mild leather scent
- Protects leather from harmful UV rays
- Cleans deep within the leather’s fibers
- Brushes and sponges are sold separately
If you place your leather sofa near the window, chances are it will fade fast. Exposing it to UV rays could render the leather dry. Once it loses its natural oils, the rich, dark color of leather will fade. Restore leather with this Natural Leather Cream from Skidmore’s. It contains beeswax to bring back the leather’s dark hue and natural oils to make leather waterproof.
Application is simple: directly apply it on leather using only a clean, soft rug, or horse hairbrush. Let it sit in for about half an hour, then use a microfiber cloth to remove the excess cream.
- Compact size
- 100% natural
- Lifetime guarantee
- 6-ounce jar
- Ingredients are beeswax and natural oils
- No harmful chemicals
- Restores old, worn-out leather
- Protects leather from UV damage
- Not available in bundle packs
If you tried using rubbing alcohol to remove ink stains, but it didn’t work, you may want to use this Magic Eraser instead. It contains melamine foam which is effective in getting rid of stubborn stains. To use this, just dip the tip of the magic eraser into a bowl of lukewarm water, and rub gently on the stained area. Make sure to apply a leather conditioner right after to retain the leather’s natural oils.
- Multipurpose cleaner
- Thick magic sponge erasers
- Package includes 100 magic sponge erasers
- Sponge size is 2.36 inches x 3.93 inches x 0.79 inches
- Comes in a bundle pack
- Also great for cleaning kitchen and bathroom sinks
- Money-back guarantee
- Should be used with a leather conditioner to prevent the leather from drying
Make leather cleaning easy with this Leather Cleaner and Conditioner from KevianClean! It’s an all-in-one leather care lotion with an organic, pH-balanced formula. Plus, it doesn’t have an awful chemical smell.
The best part is that it can be used on all types of leather! Whether you have high-quality top-grain leather or an inexpensive, synthetic PU leather, this leather care lotion can make them look brand-new again!
- Natural, organic cleaner
- Versatile leather cleaner
- 3-in-1: cleans, conditions & protects leather
- 8-ounce bottle
- Also available in a 16-ounce bottle
- Smooth application
- Great for cleaning colored leathers
- High price tag
When dealing with leather stains, the number rule is to clean them right away. But if you didn’t notice the stains right away and they left a permanent mark, just go back and review our “how to clean leather” guides. Never ignore stains because they will eventually weaken the leather fibers, and this can lead to peeling and cracking. You can call for a professional to fix it, but this option is expensive and not always a guarantee. So, if you want to save money, start taking extra care of your leather sofas, ottomans, and other leather items now.