How to Clean Leather

Very rarely have I come across words that have moved my soul so profoundly: "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany." Thank you for inspiring us with these thought-provoking, life-changing words, Ron Burgundy. We are forever in your debt.

In all seriousness, though, as a self-proclaimed bibliophile, I'd love to have some leather-bound books. But let's be real for a minute. Cleaning them? It 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, hideous 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 simply attempting to remedy a little wear and tear — is pretty simple and 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.

 I, uh, hear that things like that can happen.

So whether it’s a grease or food stain, an ink stain, or just simply oil buildup from being touched, here are the best ways to clean your leather furniture. (Good news: this works on everything from your leather sofa and chairs to the leather upholstery in your car!)

General Stains

  1. Make sure to 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/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 with fresh cotton balls (that have more alcohol applied) as needed.
  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 sanitizing, nothing works better than the PhoneSoap or HomeSoap. If your leather items (like a wallet, keychain, or even a small purse) can fit inside, this is the best way to go.

The PhoneSoap and HomeSoap kill 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 sanitized but we can't guarantee the same kill rate. 

But if your leather item is too big to fit inside the HomeSoap (as will be the case with your leather furniture…unless you have the world’s smallest couch), it’s all good — we’ve got you covered.  

  1. Again, make sure to first 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. In a bowl, mix equal parts water and vinegar.
  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. Once you’ve finished, go back over the leather item and pat it dry with a dry, soft cloth.

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 it should only take a few minutes — and it’ll leave your purse looking so much better. Plus, unless your purse is leather on the inside (i.e. it doesn’t have any kind of 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. Using the damp cloth, wipe the purse’s exterior.
  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. Using a soft cloth or a soft-bristled brush, gently brush any dirt or debris off of your shoes. (Just make sure not to brush too vigorously or you could damage the leather.)
  3. Just like when cleaning a leather purse, 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 easy and it will keep your leather from getting dehydrated.

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


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