Leather Furniture Care

Saddle up to learn more about caring for leather and suede furnishings.


Leather is a popular material because it is so tough. Cleaning is easy too, since it can be gently vacuumed and damp-wiped as needed. Accomplish deeper cleaning with a leather conditioner or saddle soap.

Although commercial conditioners are best for large pieces such as sofas, a homemade leather reconditioner (see recipe below) will work well for smaller pieces, such as footstools or chair seats.

Homemade Leather Reconditioner

1 teaspoon of household ammonia 4 teaspoons of white vinegar 2 cups water Mix ingredients together. Apply mixture, dry with a soft cloth, and then wipe on castor oil, using a soft cloth. Rub on leather shoe cream in the appropriate color. Buff well.

Leather Touch-ups
  • Don't sweat small scratches. They often heal over time, becoming less conspicuous. Any noticeable deep scratches in leather upholstery can be covered with a commercial leather dye.
  • Manufacturers sell touch-up kits in the same color as the furniture. (Consider buying one or two kits when you purchase the piece, in case the color is discontinued.)
  • If you have several leather pieces, label the kits to avoid confusion. If a touch-up kit isn't available or you've acquired a vintage piece, check with a shoe or leather repair shop for the closest match.

Leather Furniture Facts

Suede, the rough undersurface of leather is handsome and more durable than it appears. It should, however, be kept away from sunlight and heat. And, if you live in a dry climate, make sure your indoor air is not excessively dry, which can damage suede.

Find more care tips below.

Care Tips for Suede
  • Vacuum suede with a soft brush attachment or use a soft clothes brush.
  • Use only made-for-suede leather cleaners.
  • Freshen and restore with suede brushes and soapstones (the typed used on suede shoes).
  • Remove small spots with art gum erasers.
To Lighten Suede

To lighten pale suede that has darkened, purchase a resin bag from a sporting goods store. Pat the bag over the suede, then brush away excess resin with a suede brush followed by a clothes brush.

Quiz: Furniture IQ

Upholstery Care

Adapted from the book, Making a Home, Meredith c. 2001

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