Leather Cleaning 101: How to Keep Your Leather Looking Fresh

How to Clean Leather

Are you wondering how to clean leather goods? One of the sturdiest natural fabrics, leather is a hard wearing, durable, and naturally waterproof fabric that looks great. From biker jackets to handbags, foot rests to sofas, you probably own quite a few leather products. But how easy is it to clean leather?

As with most fabrics, your leather product should come with cleaning instructions. You should read these before doing any cleaning. Leather products can be stained, damaged, go moldy, or be discolored as easily as any other fabric, so bear this in mind.

Before using any of these leather cleaning tips it is recommended to do a spot test first. Find a part of the leather that is less visible and test the cleaning method to see if it gets discolored or damaged.

Another thing to bear in mind is that you should always try and clean in the direction of the grain to avoid damaging the leather. You should also avoid using any harsh chemicals, acidic, or alkaline solutions to clean your leather products. This means you should stay away from lemon, vinegar, and bleach.

How to Clean Leather Clothes, Accessories, and Handbags

Leather jackets, skirts, belts, and handbags all look fantastic, but as you wear them they might be subjected to all manner of dirt and grime. From food and drink spills, to hand cream, and other contaminants.

Likewise, if you’ve stored leather items in a distant wardrobe or attic for a few months (or years), and you find they have accumulated mold or dust residue, then you’ll also want to clean them before reusing them.

If you're getting ready to clean some old items, keep these tips in mind:

  • Make a cleaning solution with warm water and unscented soap (dish soap is ideal). You’ll want a ratio of around eight parts water to one part soap. Make sure the soap is well dissolved before you start cleaning.
  • Get a soft cloth (microfiber is ideal). Dip it in the water and wring it out until it's damp. You don’t want your cloth to be too wet, as standing water can damage leather goods.
  • To clean your leather, wipe the damp cloth in the direction of the grain. Make sure you pay \attention to any stains and go over them. Make sure to re-moisten the cloth regularly and to cover the entire surface of the leather item.
  • Afterwards, use fresh water to wipe down the leather. The idea is to remove all traces of soap with clean water. Once again, keep the cloth damp rather than wet as you don’t want any liquid to gather on the leather.
  • After rinsing, you can then take a clean towel and wipe down the leather to remove any remaining liquid.
  • You should then hang the leather product to dry naturally in a place away from direct sunlight or strong heat. A wardrobe or airing cabinet would be perfect.

You will also find leather cleaning products in many shops. If you decide to use these, read and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully.

How to Clean Leather Furniture

Although leather sofas and chairs look great, a busy home means that they might get spills, dirt, and general wear and tear that will affect their look in the long run. To clean leather furniture, the process is similar to cleaning leather clothing and accessories.

  • Vacuum your leather furniture using the upholstery attachment for your appliance. Do not use the normal nozzle as it might suck on the leather and leave a mark, or damage the surface.
  • Once you’ve vacuumed you should get a weak soap solution (8:1 warm water to soap), and a soft cloth (we recommend microfiber).
  • Don’t forget to spot test the soap solution on a part of the furniture that isn’t visible before starting to clean it.
  • Using a damp cloth, wipe down the entire surface. Be sure to follow the grain of the leather and avoid scrubbing too hard on stains and dirt.
  • After cleaning the leather, rinse out your cloth and get some fresh warm water. Carefully rinse the leather using the damp cloth, and be sure to remove the soap solution.
  • Having cleaned and rinsed the leather furniture, you can now rub it down gently with a clean, dry towel. Be sure to dry it completely and remove any standing liquid from the furniture.
  • Leave the leather to dry naturally for a few hours before anyone uses it.

Professional Leather Cleaning

Leather that is subject to a lot of wear and tear should be professionally cleaned on an annual basis.

If you have a leather jacket or handbag that is badly stained, perhaps with red wine or mold, take it to a professional. Of course you can give the product a wipe down as detailed above, but to avoid damaging the leather do not scrub or use harsh cleaning solutions to remove the stain. If the damage is too much for you to clean yourself, a professional should be able to help.

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