Here’s How To Clean Leather Furniture The Right Way

cleaning leather

When it comes to furniture upholstery, leather is something of an enigma. While cleaning and caring for a natural material like leather takes a bit more effort than other types of upholstery, it’s also one of the few types that can actually improve in look and feel over time. (There are few things that feel as luxurious as properly worn-in leather!)

For those brave souls who have chosen to embrace the pros and cons of owning leather furniture (myself included), the question of how to clean it will certainly come up at some point! So I thought I’d do some research and put together a guide to how to clean leather furniture, for my own benefit and hopefully yours too! :-)

By the end of this post, you’ll not only know how to clean leather furniture, but how to remove certain types of stains, protect your leather over time, and when you may need to get some professional help!

cleaning leather

Important Things To Know Beforehand

The majority of modern leather furniture is finished with a protective coating that makes it easier to clean on your own. If your not sure if your leather furniture is finished (or if you suspect the finish has worn off over time), there’s a simple way to find out—just lightly scratch the leather with your fingernail in an inconspicuous area.

If your fingernail leaves a mark on the leather, your furniture may not have a protective coating or it may have worn off, and you’ll probably be better off recruiting a cleaning professional with experience in cleaning and treating leather furniture. If your fingernail doesn’t leave a mark, go ahead and use the method below to clean it!

If you’ve never attempted to clean your leather furniture before, it’s smart to do a spot test in a hidden area first so you can see how it affects the material. And finally, never use harsh chemicals, strong detergents, or abrasive cleaners to clean any leather item, as they can all lead to irreparable damage. (And don’t worry, the method below doesn’t involve any of those things!) :-)

How To Clean Leather Furniture

cleaning leather

1. Vacuum Up Dirt

First, use your vacuum with a soft brush attachment to remove any crumbs, dirt, and debris from your leather couch. If there aren’t many visible crumbs around, use a duster or microfiber cloth to “dust” the leather surface.

cleaning leather

2. Treat Any Spots Or Stains

The next step is to treat any spots or stains, but the best method to use will depend largely on the size and type of stain you’re treating. I’ve provided different instructions for the most common types of stains you might get on your leather furniture below:

Cleaning Small Spills

For minor spills and splatters, wipe up any excess liquid immediately with a clean absorbent cloth. If the spill or splatter is still visible, lightly moisten a soft cloth with warm water and use it to clean the entire area around the spill.

Cleaning Bigger Spills Or Stains

To tackle trickier stains, you’ll need a bit of gentle hand soap, or better yet, a saddle soap formulated for leather to get the job done. Add a small amount of soap and water to a clean, damp cloth, then rub the cloth between your hands to distribute the soap.

Use the slightly soapy washcloth to wipe away the stain on your leather. Once the stain is gone, wipe the area again with a clean damp cloth to remove any remaining soap residue.

Removing Ink Stains

While normally you would want to avoid using alcohol on leather because it’s so drying, but it is one of the few things that can tackle an ink stain effectively! Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol directly to the ink stain using a cotton swab, then blot with a clean soft cloth to remove it. (Make sure to apply the rubbing alcohol directly to the ink stain, not the area around it, to prevent the ink from spreading.)

Treating Grease Stains

If the stain on your leather is greasy or oily, start by blotting up as much of the grease as you can with a dry, soft cloth. Then sprinkle talcum powder, chalk, or cornstarch over the area and allow it to sit there for 15 minutes to draw out any remaining grease.

Use a soft bristled brush to remove the powder and inspect the stain. If it’s not completely gone, repeat the process once more to take care of the rest of it.

cleaning leather

3. Allow It To Dry Overnight

Regardless of which of the cleaning methods above you end up using, it’s important to dry any dampened areas thoroughly with a clean, dry cloth afterward. If you can, leave it alone overnight to ensure it dries completely, which will help prevent mildew and other moisture-related issues.

cleaning leather

4. Moisturize With Leather Conditioner

Once the leather is completely dry, the last step is to re-moisturize the leather. (This is especially important if you’ve used soap or alcohol, as they can be dry out leather and lead to increased wear or cracking.)

Apply a leather conditioner or cream with a soft, clean cloth and allow it to sink in for a minute or two. Buff the area to remove any excess conditioner, and you’re done!

In addition to keeping your leather furniture stain- and spot-free, there are other steps you can take to keep it looking great for years to come. Here are a few extra tips to help protect and care for whatever leather-upholstered furniture you may have:

cleaning leather

3 Bonus Care Tips For Leather Furniture

Put It In The Right Place

The placement of your leather furniture can have a surprisingly significant impact on how well it ages over time, so it’s worth the time and effort to find the best place to put it. Avoid putting it next to air vents, radiators, and fireplaces, as these can dry out leather.

And if possible, don’t place leather furniture where it will be exposed to direct sunlight during the day. Not only can sunlight also dry out leather, but the light can have a bleaching effect of the color of the leather too.

Make It A Pet-Free Zone

We love our furry friends, but realistically, they don’t know how expensive your nice leather sofa was, so they probably won’t treat it with extra care like you do! Claws and nails will mark up a leather surface in no time, so unless you want to keep your leather furniture covered up to protect it, it’s a good idea to teach them to stay off it altogether.

Cuts Or Tears? Call A Professional

If the surface of your leather furniture gets cut or torn somehow, contact a leather professional for help. Cleaning leather can be a DIY job, but repairing leather is another matter entirely! For help with fixing large areas of damage or wear, search online for leather repair or restoration professionals in your area.

Do you know any other useful tips about leather furniture?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


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  • I have a brand new leather handbag that was very expensive. My worst nightmare happened. I got a large ink stain on the front of it from an ink pen that fell on it. I knew that you would know how to remove that stain! I found the answer on how to clean your leather furniture. It worked in seconds! Thank you! I find answers to my questions almost every single day on this site.

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