How to prevent and remove oil damage to leather furniture

One of the worst things to eat on leather couches is buttered popcorn – yes, the all-time favorite movie snack. What a bummer.


Unfortunately, folks, leather is extremely porous by nature, and it will soak up any oils you put on it – and that includes popcorn grease, lotion and the natural body oils that we all have on our skin.   You won’t notice any damage at first, but oils can cause some real trouble down the road.

Oil spots

The nitty gritty

When oil gets on your furniture, it is soaked into the back side of the leather – the part you can’t see.  Then, eventually it ends up saturating broader areas as it naturally fills up from back to front over time.  Once oil saturates the leather, you end up with ugly oil spots on the surface, like in this photo.  It isn’t pretty, that’s for sure.

Prevent oil spots on leather

There are two key things you can do to prevent oil spots on leather.

1. Clean and protect leather 3 to 4 times a year.

Half-cleaned couch

Half-cleaned couch

You get rid of the dirt and oil still sitting on the surface of your furniture when you clean it, preventing it from eventually soaking in.  A good protection cream will fill in the gaps and spaces in the original top coat of your leather as it gets worn down.  By filing those gaps with protection cream, you remove the possibility that they can be filled with dirt and oil later – sort of like putting out the fire before it starts. For a quick tutorial on cleaning and protecting leather, check out this blog post.

2. Avoid exposure to excessive amounts of dirt, grease and body oil. The fact of the matter is that if you use your leather furniture at all, it is going to be exposed to some body oil and some dirt.  You’re probably even going to eat on it every now and again – it comes with the territory.  But, you can limit the damage of normal wear and tear. You should avoid sleeping on your leather furniture regularly or sitting down if you come in sweaty and dirty from outside. Also, if you are wearing sunscreen or have greasy popcorn hands, use the less expensive seats in the house.  It’s a good idea to try to cover your leather in areas that see a lot of dirt and oil if you can. Try tossing a blanket over the headrest of a leather recliner you know you are going to rest your head on frequently or for extended periods of time.

Chair, damaged by oil saturation, refurbished professionally

Chair, damaged by oil saturation, refurbished professionally

Prevent oil spots on leather

If you want to get rid of oil spots yourself, you can try rubbing them off with a soft leather cleaner.  You may be able to remove the spot from view as a temporary fix.  But, since the real problem reaches far below the surface, there’s not much you can do to permanently remove the problem yourself.  You’ll probably see the spots re-surface.

A professional can use their equipment to give your leather a deep cleaning.  Sometimes they can remove the problem completely, and sometimes they can only get out some of the oil – it depends on the extent of the problem.

A word of warning

We have seen lots of advice on the internet suggesting that people treat their leather with olive oil to prevent drying.  In case you haven’t gotten it from the rest of this post, let me be clear: this is NOT a good idea.

You couch will soak up olive oil just like it will soak up popcorn oil and will get saturated.

Additional Questions?

We’d be happy to answer any additional questions you have.  Please ask in the comments below!  If you want to show us a photo of a specific piece of leather, either post it on our Facebook page or contact your local franchisee.

Meet the author


I’m Sir Fibrenew, the Fibrenew mascot! The content on my blog comes from several members of the wonderful Fibrenew team. We’re here to provide helpful information on leather and plastics and to answer your questions.

If there’s ever anything you want me to address on the blog, the best way to reach me is through the post comments! You can also e-mail me at or contact Fibrenew at:

Tel: +001 (403) 278-7818
Fax: +001 (403) 278-1434

Site 16 Comp 33
RR 8
Calgary, Alberta
T2J 2T9 Canada

See other posts by Fibrenew


Request Franchise Information

    Full Name*
    Zip/Postal Code *
    Email *
    Mobile # *
    How did you learn about Fibrenew? *

    Would you like to attend the next live webinar? There's no cost to attend and it won't suck: )
    Any questions at this time?

    By providing your email address and phone number, requesting the report, and pressing the Send Me Info button, you agree and acknowledge that Fibrenew may contact you by phone, email, and/or text message about your inquiry, which may be automated. You can revoke consent at any time by replying "STOP". Message and data rates may apply. Message frequency varies. You also agree to Fibrenew's Privacy Policy.