How to Clean Leather

Who wouldn't love to own a few leather-bound books. But let's be real for a minute. Cleaning them would be awful. 

Or maybe not. 

Kind of like cleaning suede, the idea of cleaning leather seems terrifying. Whether it's a purse, a pair of boots, or yes, a leather-bound book, you don't want to end up with a spotty mess that looks even worse than it did when you started.

Good news, though. If you use the right method, cleaning leather, whether that's fixing a stain or attempting to remedy a little wear and tear, is pretty straightforward. 

And we're going to teach you how to do it.

How to clean leather furniture

A large leather couch

Question: Is there anything more gorgeous than a brand-new leather couch? Answer: That’s a hard no, obviously.

But after a while, that leather starts to look a little, well, rough. Maybe your four-year-old has jumped on the couch one too many times with shoes on. Or maybe you’ve stayed up until 2 a.m. binge-watching This is Us while downing an entire carton of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream and accidentally spilled a mixture of three parts tears and one part ice cream on the sofa.

 Trust us, things like that can happen.

Whether it’s a grease, food, or ink stain or simply oil buildup from being touched, here are the best ways to clean your leather furniture. This works on everything from your leather sofa and chairs to the leather upholstery in your car.

General stains

  1. Remove any debris from your leather furniture. You can do this easily by using the brush attachment on your vacuum.
  2. Dip a clean washcloth in warm, soapy water and wring it out so it’s damp rather than sopping wet.
  3. Gently wipe away the stain.
  4. Use a soft, dry cloth to pat the area dry. (This step may not seem important, but don’t skip it. If untended, wet leather can mildew, which may cause permanent damage. 

Grease and oil stains

  1. Pour a small amount of baking soda over the stain.
  2. Let it sit for a couple of hours or until the oil has absorbed.
  3. Using a soft cloth (microfiber cloths are always your friend when it comes to cleaning leather), wipe away any residue. A damp cloth (not wet) will work best for this.

Ink stains

  1. Grab a cotton ball or cotton swab and apply rubbing alcohol.
  2. Warning: Don’t rub the ink stain or it could smear. Instead, gently dab it with the cotton ball until it begins to disappear. Repeat as needed with fresh cotton balls that have more alcohol applied.
  3. Using a soft cloth, pat the area dry.

How to disinfect leather

The best ways to clean leather

Removing stains from your leather is one thing, but disinfecting it is another beast entirely. Of course, when it comes to disinfecting, nothing works better than the PhoneSoap or HomeSoap. If leather items like wallets, keychains, or small handbags can fit inside, this is the best way to go.

The PhoneSoap Pro and HomeSoap kill 99.99% of germs* effectively and easily. All you have to do is push a button. Our devices can guarantee a 99.99% disinfection* on metal, plastic, and glass. Materials like leather will still be disinfected, but we can't guarantee the same kill rate. 

But if your leather item is too big to fit inside the HomeSoap, it’s all good. We’ve got you covered.  

  1. Remove any loose particles from the surface of your leather by wiping it down with a microfiber towel, the brush attachment of your vacuum, or even a lint roller.
  2. Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a bowl.
  3. Dip a cloth into the vinegar mixture and wring it out until it’s just damp.
  4. Wipe down your leather item, paying special attention to any particularly dirty spots.
  5. Go back over the leather item and pat it dry with a dry, soft cloth once your finished.

How to clean a leather purse

Leather jacket

With all its nooks and crannies, cleaning a purse can seem like a daunting and time-consuming task. But truthfully, it’s not complicated and should take only a few minutes, and it’ll leave your handbag looking so much better. Plus, unless your purse is leather on the inside (i.e., it doesn’t have any fabric stitched in), you shouldn’t even need to empty it.

  1. Fill a bowl with warm water and a drop or two of dish soap.
  2. Dip a cloth into the soapy water and wring it out so it’s not dripping wet.
  3. Wipe the purse’s exterior using the damp cloth.
  4. Wipe it dry with a clean, dry cloth. 

How to clean leather shoes

How to Clean Leather Shoes

Keeping your leather shoes looking spick and span may seem like hard work, but it’s actually pretty simple with some leather cleaner. Here are our tips:

  1. Remove the shoelaces.
  2. Gently brush any dirt or debris off of your shoes using a soft cloth or a soft-bristled brush. Make sure not to brush too vigorously or you could damage the leather.
  3. Mix a drop of dish soap into a bowl of warm, soapy water.
  4. Dip a soft rag into the soap mixture and wring it out so it’s just damp.
  5. Wipe down the exterior of your leather shoes.
  6. Dab the shoes dry with a soft, clean cloth.

Why you should condition your leather 

Fun fact: Conditioning your leather is just as important as cleaning it. Seriously.

Since it’s an animal byproduct, leather needs to breathe. And if it gets dehydrated, it’s going to dry up, which leaves it susceptible to cracks and breakage.  

Because you don’t want your leather to dry up, you’re going to want to condition it somewhere around every six months (once a year minimum) and only after cleaning it. (If you don’t clean it first, conditioning your leather will seal in all the dirt and grime that it’s accumulated.)  If you’re in an especially dry area, you may even consider cleaning and conditioning your leather three or four times a year.

Luckily, conditioning your leather is super easy. Just grab some lemon essential oil and a soft, clean cloth. Apply around 10–15 drops of the oil to the cloth and gently rub down your leather item. So simple, and it will keep your leather from getting dehydrated.

Do you have any foolproof leather-cleaning tips? We’d love to hear them. Drop them in the comments below. 

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*Testing was conducted in a laboratory setting on actual phones, Apple watch, headphones, credit cards, and keys with a variety of pathogens, including Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and Coronavirus 229E. Real-world results may vary depending on size, shape, and material of phone or phone case. For more information, click here.

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