Debunking Myths: Frequently recommended leather remedies that ruin leather

Have a problem with your leather and are not sure how to fix it?  Getting different pieces of advice everywhere you turn?  Here are a handful of so-called “leather remedies” that will do you more harm than good.  There is a lot of misinformation out there. Keep these tips in mind and you won’t turn a minor problem into a major one!

Good Rule of Thumb

The best way to remember what you can and can’t use on your leather is to keep this in mind: The two most commonly used chemicals that will cause severe damage to your leather are alcohol and acetone. Stay away from products that contain these substances at all costs, regardless of what you read online.

Common “Remedies” that ruin leather:

1. Fingernail polish remover – Do not attempt to use fingernail polish remover to get a stain or mark off your leather.  Fingernail polish contains acetone, which removes all color from leather, creating a large bleached-looking spot around the area where it is applied.

2. Window cleaner – Many people group Windex and other window cleaners in the “harmless cleaner” category.  While these cleaners are often mild, they still contain alcohol that ruins the topcoat on leather furniture.

Brown Marker

Brown Marker

3. Markers – Using a similar colored marker in an attempt to conceal a problem in your leather is likely to make the problem area worse and even more noticeable.  It is darn near impossible to find a marker that will match your leather dye well, and the ink itself can be damaging. Many types of leather have what is called a sauvage, or marbled-looking, finish that you will never be able to recreate with a marker.

4. Shoe polish – Remember this, the leather on your shoes is tanned differently from the leather on your furniture.  Furniture leather will not accept or soak up shoe polish in same the way that shoe leather does because it is made differently.  Shoe polish will just make a gunky mess on your furniture and on the pants of everyone who sits there.

Cleaner with alcohol

Cleaner with alcohol

5. Hair Spray – Some sources swear by hair spray to remove stains and marks on your leather. This is definitely a bad idea. There are a couple of major problems with hair spray.  First, most hair spray contains alcohol that damages leather (see #2). Second, hair spray is not very effective for removing marks, and its sticky residue collects more dirt and dust, causing further problems and discoloration in many cases.

6. Disposable cleaning supplies such as disinfectant wipes or pre-wet sponges.  The vast majority of these contain alcohol and are a bad idea. We don’t recommend that you use these items, but if you decide to do it, make sure you read the label and are absolutely certain there is no alcohol in the product.

So, what should I use?

The best substance to use on leather is a cleaner made specifically for that purpose.  For more information, check out our post on cleaning leather.

More questions?

If you have questions about any other remedies, leave them in the comments section and we’ll get you the answers!


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