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How to clean leather

Looking for advice on how to clean your leather goods or furniture? Read on for tips on how to care for leather, and instructions for cleaning leather.


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how to clean leather

It might not be obvious how to clean leather, as leather goods are quite durable and hardwearing. However, sometimes they do need to be washed because of stains, grease, or just a buildup of general household germs. Because of the properties of leather, using the same cleaning methods as you do when washing clothes is going to result in damaged leather materials. Remember to always test all cleaning agents on a small, inconspicuous area first. Here are some tips on how to care for leather to keep your leather goods looking like new.

How to Clean Leather Bags or Purses?

Leather bags and purses are very susceptible to stains and spots as they’re used outdoors frequently and often placed on the floor. Many people will simply use a regular soap or detergent to tackle the stains, but this is not a good idea – soap residue left on the leather can prevent the material from breathing, causing dry patches and cracking. Instead, follow these handy tips on how to care for leather bags or purses:

  • Mix 1 part mild soap – such as a facial soap or very mild clothes detergent – with 8 parts water. It’s best to use bottled or distilled water, if possible, to avoid any particles in tap water.

  • Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spray onto a sturdy cloth or sponge, preferably a microfibre cloth. Never spray directly onto the leather as this could cause oversaturation.

  • Gently wipe the stain, going with (rather than against) the grain of the leather.

  • Once the stain has dissolved, leave the bag or purse to dry naturally, away from direct sunlight.

  • After drying, wipe with a pea-sized amount of leather moisturiser to protect the material.

clean leather

Tips on How to Care for Leather

Leather furniture, such as sofas and cushions, are popular household items, but few homeowners know how to look after their leather properly. If heavy-duty household cleaners are used, the leather could become worn or bobbled, so choose a soap that’s much gentler, and follow these useful guidelines:

  • With the soft brush attachment, vacuum the furniture to remove dust and particles before cleaning.

  • Using a cloth, wipe a small amount of a very mild detergent onto the furniture. Possible detergents might include those designed for washing delicate clothes, or a saddle soap that contains oils and waxes that will help maintain the leather’s shine.

  • Ideally, use a microfibre cloth that will not fray; never use paper towels, which can disintegrate and become embedded in the leather.

  • With a separate cloth, wipe again with cool, clean water, taking care not to oversaturate the fabric.

  • Repeat until all soap residue has been removed.

  • Leave to dry naturally, closing curtains or blinds if the furniture is in direct sunlight.

  • Remember – always spot test the cleaning product on a small area before cleaning the whole sofa! You don’t want to damage your leather furniture by mistake!

Is There an Easy Way to Clean Leather Car Upholstery?

Car upholstery can be treated in much the same way as leather furniture, but the main concern is access. The best way to make cleaning car upholstery easy is to transfer a soap solution (diluted with clean water) into a transportable spray bottle to take down to the car. Take a separate spray bottle filled with clean water for rinsing.

How to Clean Leather Using Steam?

You can steam clean leather without risking damage to the material – but keep in mind that while this is a good way to remove germs and surface dirt, you’ll probably still need to spot treat specific stains and marks, as steam cleaning doesn’t penetrate the leather. However, it’s well worth giving leather sofas, which are prone to accumulating germs, a good steam clean on a regular basis to maintain a hygienic home.

Originally published