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How to Clean Leather Furniture

Your leather couch is an expensive investment, and you need to treat it right if you want it to last.

Think about it like preventative maintenance on your car—you change your oil to keep your car running smoothly. Well, to keep your leather sofa in good shape, you need to protect it and clean it regularly.

Did you know that a leather couch will last 3 times as long if you clean and protect it regularly? Read on!

a woman pleasantly shocked at how effective our leather cleaning methods have been

How often should I clean my leather furniture?

We recommend that you clean and condition your leather furniture twice a year.  Give a deep cleaning to the parts you use the most—the head and armrest of your favorite spot, for example—3 to 4 times a year.

Leather is very porous, so it soaks up the dirt and oils from our skin very easily.  Even before you can see the effects of this damage, the leather is collecting the dirt and oil it soaks up on the back side of the leather.  Once there is enough on the back side, it will eventually seep into the front and form dark spots.

That’s why regular cleaning is a necessity, especially for your high-quality items.

What do I use to clean leather?

Use a soft cleaner made specifically for leather care.  Of course, we sell them online and you can purchase a kit from any Fibrenew franchisee. Just remember to avoid harsh chemicals like rubbing alcohol or shoe polish at all costs—even on tough stains.

Cleaning leather upholstery requires special care to maintain its natural beauty and durability. Whether you’re cleaning leather furniture, clothing, accessories, or car seats, follow these steps to ensure proper cleaning without damaging the material:

Materials you’ll need

  • Mild leather cleaning products or saddle soap
  • Soft, clean cloths, microfiber cloths, or sponges
  • Distilled water
  • Leather conditioner
  • Soft-bristle brush or toothbrush (optional)
  • White vinegar (for stains, if needed)
  • Leather protectant (optional)

How do I clean my leather furniture?

The basic DIY approach: squeeze some cleaning solution onto a clean lint-free cloth and use a circular motion to clean dirt and oils off your couch.  Then, use a cotton towel to dry it off. Use the same circular motion and a soft cotton cloth to protect your couch.

Follow along with this video:

And here’s a more detailed guide to follow along with, if needed:

Step-by-step leather cleaning guide

  1. Read the care label: Before you begin any cleaning method for your leather item(s), check for any specific care instructions or warnings provided by the manufacturer.
  2. Prepare the area: Choose a well-ventilated and clean area to work in. Lay down a drop cloth or old towels to protect the surrounding surfaces.
  3. Dust removal: Use a soft cloth or a soft-bristle brush to gently remove dust, dirt, and debris from the leather’s surface. Be gentle to avoid scratching the leather.
  4. Test a small area: Before applying any cleaning product, test it on a small, inconspicuous area of the leather to ensure it doesn’t cause any discoloration or damage. Wait for a few minutes to see how the leather reacts.
  5. Clean the leather:
    • If your leather is heavily soiled, use a leather cleaner or saddle soap. Apply a small amount to a clean, damp cloth or sponge.
    • Gently rub the cloth or sponge in a circular motion over the leather, focusing on the soiled areas. Avoid using excessive water, as it can damage the leather.
    • For stubborn stains, you can mix equal parts water and white vinegar and lightly dab the stain. Test this mixture in an inconspicuous spot first.
  6. Rinse: Dampen another clean cloth or sponge with distilled water and wipe down the leather to remove any remaining soap or cleaner residue.
  7. Dry: Allow the leather to air dry naturally. Avoid using heat sources like hairdryers or direct sunlight, as they can cause the leather to become brittle and crack.
  8. Condition: Once the leather is dry, apply a leather conditioner to keep it supple and prevent it from drying out or cracking. Follow the product’s instructions for application and drying time.
  9. Protect (optional): To further protect your leather item from stains and moisture, consider applying a leather protectant or water repellent. Make sure it’s compatible with your specific type of leather.
  10. Buff: After conditioning and protecting, use a clean, dry cloth to buff the leather gently. This helps bring out its natural shine.

What if my couch is already damaged by oil?

If you are already seeing the effects of oil damage, usually in the form of dark spots like in the photo to the left, you can try to work on it yourself with a soft leather cleaner. 

If you’re not seeing the results you want or if the spots are coming back quickly, the oil may have permeated deeper into the leather than you can clean yourself, and you need to call a professional.

Additional Cleaning Tips

  • Avoid using harsh chemicals, abrasive materials, or household cleaners, as they can damage the leather’s finish.
  • Store leather items away from direct sunlight and heat sources to prevent fading and drying.
  • Rotate and switch accessories like leather bags or wallets to prevent excessive wear on one area.
  • For leather shoes, use a shoe tree to help them retain their shape and absorb moisture.
  • Regularly clean and condition your leather items to maintain their quality and appearance.

Remember that different types of leather may have specific care requirements, so always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when available. With proper care, your leather items can remain in excellent condition for years to come.



How to Clean Leather FAQ

How often should I clean my leather items?

The frequency of cleaning leather items depends on their use and exposure to dirt and stains. In general, it’s a good practice to clean and condition leather every 2-3 months to maintain its quality and appearance. However, high-use items like leather shoes or bags may need more frequent cleaning.

Can I use regular household cleaners to clean leather?

It’s not recommended to use regular household cleaners on leather, as they can contain harsh chemicals that may damage the leather’s finish. Stick to specially formulated leather cleaners or mild solutions like saddle soap.

How can I remove stains from leather?

Stains on leather can often be removed by gently dabbing the affected area with a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar. Always test in an inconspicuous spot first. For stubborn stains, consult a professional leather cleaner.

Can I clean leather with water?

While you can use clean, warm water to clean leather, it’s essential to be cautious. Excessive water can damage leather, so always dampen a cloth or sponge and avoid soaking the leather. After cleaning, be sure to dry the leather naturally, away from direct heat sources.

What should I do if my leather item gets wet?

If your leather item gets wet, gently pat it dry with a clean, absorbent cloth and let it air dry at room temperature. Avoid using heat sources like hairdryers, which can cause leather to crack.

Is there a specific way to clean different types of leather, like suede or patent leather?

Yes, different types of leather require specific care. For suede, use a suede brush or eraser to remove stains and dirt. For patent leather, use a damp cloth followed by a patent leather-specific cleaner to maintain its shine.

Can I use leather conditioner on all types of leather?

Leather conditioners are typically suitable for most types of leather, but it’s essential to check the product’s label to ensure compatibility with your specific leather type. Some exotic leathers may require specialized conditioners.

How do I prevent leather from cracking or drying out?

To prevent leather from cracking or drying out, regularly clean and condition it using a leather conditioner. Store leather items away from direct sunlight and heat sources, and avoid prolonged exposure to harsh weather conditions.

Can I clean leather car seats with the same methods used for other leather items?

Yes, you can clean leather car seats using the same methods described in this guide. However, you may want to consider using a leather cleaner specifically designed for automotive use, as it can provide additional protection against UV rays and wear.

How do I remove odors from leather items?

To remove odors from leather, place the item in a well-ventilated area and let it air out. You can also use baking soda or activated charcoal in a pouch inside the leather item to absorb odors. Avoid using strong fragrances or perfumes on leather, as they can stain or damage it.

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Meet the author

Paul Gingras

Support Director

I’m thrilled to lead an enthusiastic support team that works hard every day to ensure our franchise partners experience success and satisfaction while growing their business.

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