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How to clean faux leather

Find out how to clean faux leather with our comprehensive guide covering all types of synthetic leather.


By Cleanipedia Team

Cleaning spray bottle on a leather sofa

Faux leather is the name given to a variety of synthetic products that mimic leather, such as polyurethane and vinyl. But just because it looks like leather doesn’t mean you can treat it in the same way. Our guide on how to clean faux leather will show you clever ways to remove all types of stains and get your faux fabric looking fabulous again.

(Want to know how to clean actual leather? Check out the best leather cleaning methods here.)

How to clean faux leather: general tips

  • Check the care label. This is especially important with faux leather clothing to see how to safely wash the item. To understand the care label, check out our in-depth guide to washing symbols.

  • Do a patch test. It’s a good idea to first test any new cleaning method on a small, inconspicuous area so as to check for any adverse reaction or damage to the material.

  • Attend to spills quickly. There’s more chance of a stain damaging the material the longer you leave it.

How to clean a faux leather sofa and other items

How concerned are you about disinfecting while cleaning?

This method also works for cleaning other faux-leather items, such as bags, belts and shoes.

  1. For general maintenance, give your sofa a regular wipe down using a cloth dipped in warm water.

  2. Use a dry cloth to remove any leftover liquid.

  3. To remove any minor marks or stains, add a small amount of mild washing-up liquid to warm water.

  4. Dip in a non-abrasive cloth and wring out the excess water.

  5. Use the cloth to gently wipe over the stain until it disappears.

  6. Rinse the cloth in fresh water to remove the soap solution.

  7. Rub the sofa with the cloth to wipe away any remaining residue.

  8. Finish by drying your couch with a soft microfiber cloth.

Remember, never use abrasive cloths or harsh chemicals, such as bleach, on your faux leather items.

If you’re battling some tricky spills, check out our tips on how to clean a sofa and remove stains. Got a pair of nubuck shoes in need of some TLC? Read our guide on how to clean nubuck leather.

How to clean a faux leather jacket

While cleaning a real leather jacket may require the assistance of a professional, the good news is that it’s actually straightforward to clean faux-leather clothing, as most pieces can be machine-washed. The care label will let you know if you can pop it in the machine.

If you’re good to go, here’s how to clean faux leather clothing:

  1. Turn your faux-leather clothing inside out.

  2. Place the item in a delicates/mesh washing bag.

  3. On your washing machine, select a delicates programme with a cold cycle, low-spin setting.

  4. Use a gentle detergent (a harsh one can make the material stiffen up and damage it).

  5. Lay the item flat or hang it up to air dry, rather than using the tumble dryer.

  6. If ironing, never directly use the iron on the faux leather – steam out the wrinkles instead.

How to remove stubborn stains from faux leather

If you have stains that have set or are proving hard to shift, then you’ll need to switch up your cleaning strategy by using distilled white vinegar.

(Remember to do a patch test first!)

  1. Make a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar.

  2. Take a clean cloth and blot the stain with the vinegar solution.

  3. Repeat (turning to a clean part of the cloth as you do) until the stain has gone.

How to clean different types of faux leather

The texture and make up of faux leather differs depending on the exact type of material, and each one requires a slightly different cleaning approach.

Cleaning polyurethane leather

Polyurethane (PU) leather is a coating often used on furniture and bags. It’s relatively easy to clean and care for:

  • For general cleaning, use a damp cloth to wipe down the PU.

  • To remove stains, use an (unscented) soap – simply rub some into the stain, and wipe off with a damp cloth.

  • To dry, wipe down with a dry cloth.

Cleaning vinyl leather

Vinyl, or PVC, leather has a smooth, sleek feel and is often used to upholster seating.

  • Use a damp cloth for general purpose cleaning.

  • To tackle stains, sprinkle baking soda onto a rag and rub into the PVC. Rinse off with a clean, damp cloth.

  • Use a vinyl protector to help maintain the surface (you can find these in supermarkets and online).

Cleaning microsuede

Microsuede (once known as ultrasuede) is a hardy material that is often used for couches, chairs and beanbags. Though water resistant and stain resistant, it isn’t immune to becoming soiled.

Do not use any bleach, carpet cleaners, or chlorine-based solutions.

  • Vacuum the microsuede to remove crumbs, dirt and any pet hairs.

  • If you need to remove wax or chewing gum from your microsuede, then put a few ice cubes in a bag and apply to the soiled area. Once the gum or wax hardens it should be easy to remove.

Before proceeding with further cleaning, it’s important to check the label so you understand which cleaning method to use. Microsuede has its own set of cleaning codes:

  • W: use only water-based cleaning solutions

  • S: Use only solvent-based solutions

  • S-W: Use either type of cleaning solution

  • X: Vacuum only (though dry cleaning maybe allowed)

To clean ‘W or ‘S-W’ microsuede

  • You may be able to machine wash removable covers (check the manufacturer’s label).

  • For light marking, blot the area with a little warm water and then use a sponge to absorb the moisture, repeating as necessary.

  • To remove larger or more difficult stains, dab at the spillage. Then fill a bucket of water and add a few drops of washing-up liquid. Use a cloth to blot the stain with the soap solution. (If necessary, dampen further and use gentle circular motions on the stain.)

  • Blot dry with a clean cloth.

For ‘S’ or ‘S-W’ microsuede

  • Use a commercial cleaner specifically designed for microsuede and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Alternatively, dab a cloth with rubbing alcohol and blot the stained area. Pat dry with a cloth or paper towels.

  • You can also try using distilled vinegar – the method is the same as vinegar: begin by blotting the stain, repeating as needed until the mark has gone. Then rub with a cloth dampened with water to remove the vinegar smell. Dry using a cloth or paper towels.

Answers to your top questions on how to clean faux leather

Can you use leather cleaner on faux leather?

Faux leather is an artificial material that is designed to look like leather. While the finish may appear the same, it doesn’t share the characteristics of leather – for one it is not as strong and is prone to cracking.

Most leather conditioners work by penetrating the surface where they act to moisturise the leather, whereas imitation leather is non-porous. It’s always better to use products tailor-made for faux leather, or try one of the methods listed above.

Can you wash faux leather?

Yes, but check the manufacturer’s care labels or instructions first. Removable covers may be suitable for machine washing (use a cold, gentle cycle as described above).

Is faux leather easy to clean?

Generally, imitation leather is straightforward to clean – a damp cloth will do the trick much of the time. For larger stains or more complicated cleaning, check the methods detailed above.

Originally published