How to Clean Leather Furniture

Living room with a leather sofa and two leather chairs
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The best way to clean leather furniture is to do it gently. The gentler your cleaning method the better. Leather is a very forgiving material, and just a small amount of regular care goes a long way.

Stains happen, and so does dust and dirt. However, using harsh cleansers on leather can leave stubborn stains that are hard to remove. This is especially true for aniline leather which can become stained easily as it does not have a protective layer on top.

How Often to Clean Leather

Clean any stains immediately so they do not have a chance to set. Older stains that have had time to dry and set may be harder to remove, and these gentler methods of cleaning may not work so well.

It is best to clean your leather furniture regularly to prevent dirt buildup. Save your furniture manufacturer's instructions, and follow them for the care and cleaning of your leather furniture. Those instructions are targeted towards the specific type of leather that was used in your furniture.

If the instructions have gotten lost, just send for them. Ask your furniture retailer, or contact the manufacturer. It is very helpful to have them when there are difficult stains on your upholstery.

What You Need

Supplies

  • Mild soap (Dove, Ivory)
  • Microfiber cloth

When there are no instructions, the single best and simplest way to clean leather is with a very small amount of very mild soap, such as Dove or Ivory. Always remember to test first in an inconspicuous spot and allow to dry. This works on most stains as well as for general cleaning and upkeep.

Use Microfiber Cloth

Before you clean it with soap and water, go over it with a dry microfiber cloth. It will get most of the dirt.

Moisten Cloth Slightly

Once you are done with that, moisten a cloth very slightly; wipe it across a bar of mild soap. If you are using liquid soap, use a very slight amount. Now, clean the surface of your furniture with this damp cloth.

Do Not Rinse

Simply buff with a dry cloth. Never let the leather get overly wet, and remember to not rinse after cleaning with the soap. Simply buffing with a soft cloth is all you need. The moisture from the soap will condition the leather as it cleans. Polish if you need to, but just using this method by itself is enough.

Stain Removal

When treating a stain, your best bet is to try a gentle method first. Most stains respond well to gentle treatment. A tougher stain may need a more heavy duty approach.

  1. Use a clean, soft, absorbent cloth. Have several rags on hand as you will need some for wet wiping and some for drying it later.
  2. If the stain comes from a liquid, blot up as much as you can. Do not wipe it, as that can make the stain bigger and more difficult to manage.
  3. Dampen the cloth with water. Do not over wet the cloth, because doing that can leave water stains on your leather furniture. The cloth just needs to be damp. Sometimes spraying water onto the rag with a spray bottle is enough, otherwise, wring out the excess before using.
  4. Apply a small amount of soap to the damp cloth and work it into a lather. Simply wiping it across a bar of soap may be all that is required.
  5. Using the cloth, work the cleaner into the leather very gently. Gentle circular motions work well.
  6. You do not need to rinse. Simply absorb any excess moisture with a clean, dry cloth.