How to Clean Leather Furniture to Keep It Looking Its Best

Leather furnishings can last a lifetime with these care and cleaning tricks.

When it comes to purchasing new furniture, you might experience some last-minute doubts about what material is best for you and your home. With so many upholstery fabric options on the market, it can be difficult to determine which material will meet your needs regarding durability, aesthetics, and ease of cleaning. If you're considering leather furniture, there are many reasons why this material makes an excellent choice for upholstered pieces. However, it takes some specific know-how to keep leather looking its best, so it's important to recognize how leather care instructions differ from other fabrics.

Use our guide to learn how to clean and care for leather furniture so you can make your next purchase in complete confidence. We'll also show you how to clean other leather items, including leather jackets and shoes, so you can effectively tackle any dirt or stains and keep the material looking great for years to come.

white living room brown sofas
Kritsada Panichgul

Benefits of Leather Furniture

There are many benefits of leather that make it a popular choice for furniture, clothing, and footwear. The natural material has a luxurious feel that wears well over time. Here are some of the characteristics that make leather a good choice for your home and your closet:

  1. Longlasting: Leather furniture is often something you buy for a lifetime. Since leather is a natural product, aging brings out its natural patina, making it even more beautiful over time. And since leather furniture is something you can enjoy for years to come, this is a purchase that makes a sound investment. You'll find that leather lasts much longer than fabric and can be a better value.
  2. Easy Care: Leather is easy to care for. To clean leather, just use a conditioner every 6-12 months and wipe up spills as they occur with a clean cloth. Avoid using normal cleaning supplies, such as soaps, detergents, solvents, etc.
  3. Durability: Unless your dog thinks your new leather couch is a chew toy or your cat uses it as a scratching post, your leather furniture is as safe as any other furniture in the house. For more peace of mind, select a protected leather for your furniture, which has an extra finish applied to it. This helps protect the leather so pets and kids can sit on the couch with none of the usual worries.
  4. Steady Temperature: Leather seats in a car get hot in summer and cold in winter. But for leather furniture indoors, you'll find that it warms to your body heat in the winter. In the summer, since it's natural and can breathe, leather stays pleasantly cool. Just keep it out of the sun (which is hard on the color, too).
great room kitchen area with leather chairs
Adam Albright

General Leather Cleaning Tips

Most leather furniture and apparel today are protected, which makes them pretty simple to clean yourself. If you're not sure whether the leather is finished, lightly scratch the material with your fingernail in an inconspicuous area. If it leaves a mark, consider hiring a leather-cleaning expert to take care of it. If there's no mark, feel free to clean the surface using these tips.

  1. Always try any cleaning method in a hidden area first to determine how it will affect the material.
  2. For minor spots and spills, wipe up any excess liquid immediately with a clean absorbent cloth or sponge. If necessary, use a lightly moistened soft cloth with clean lukewarm water, and let it air dry naturally. If water is used, clean the entire area where the spot occurred.
  3. Do not use cleaning solvents, furniture polish, oils, varnish, abrasive cleaners, or ammonia water.
  4. For butter, oil, or grease stains, wipe off excess with a clean dry cloth, then leave it alone. The spot should dissipate into the leather after a short period of time. You can also try sprinkling it with baking soda or corn starch. Let it sit overnight, then wipe or vacuum off. If this doesn't work, try rubbing alcohol. Apply a leather cleaner-conditioner ($6, The Home Depot) after removing the spot.
  5. If the stain persists, it is recommended that a professional leather specialist clean the leather to avoid any potential damage to the leather itself.
  6. For minor or slight scratches on the surface, use a chamois cloth or clean fingers to gently buff the scratch. If needed, moisten lightly with distilled water to work scratches out.
Porch two leather chairs flowers
Tria Giovan

How to Clean Leather Items

The leather cleaning tips outlined above apply to most leather furnishings and apparel, but certain types of items sometimes require special cleaning techniques. The steps for cleaning a leather sofa, for example, will differ from the best technique for cleaning leather boots. Use these item-specific instructions to learn how to clean leather furniture and accessories.

How to Clean a Leather Sofa or Chair

Under normal usage/conditions, regular dusting and vacuuming in crevices or along the bottom are all that is necessary to clean leather furniture. Dust your leather couch or chair with a microfiber cloth that's just barely dampened with water. Vacuum the cushions with a stiff-bristle upholstery brush, and break out the crevice tool for corners and other hard-to-reach areas. The use of a good leather conditioner is recommended every 6-12 months to prevent cracking and keep it looking good for longer. (Always check with the leather furniture manufacturer before applying any product.). To keep up the look of your leather sofa, protect your furniture from sun and direct light. Like any upholstery material, leather can fade to some degree if exposed to the sun.

How to Clean a Leather Jacket

Before cleaning a leather jacket, check the label and follow the recommended wash instructions. If there are none, follow these steps. Add two teaspoons of dish soap to a bucket of warm water. Mix the solution and dip a clean cloth into the water. Wring out the excess and carefully wipe the jacket, spot-cleaning any spills or stains. Quickly after you apply the soapy mixture, wipe the leather jacket dry with a second clean cloth.

How to Clean Leather Shoes

Black leather boots are a fashion staple. Here's how to keep them looking like the day you bought them. Like all leather products, spot-clean leather boots immediately if you spill any liquid on your shoes. For regular cleaning, use the same soap and water solution as described in the leather jacket description above. Another great way to clean leather boots: baby wipes. They're gentle on leather shoes and you can keep a portable pack in your purse or suitcase for travel.

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