How to Clean and Care for Faux Leather

The Best Cleaners, Care Tips, and Stain Removal

caring for faux leather

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 4 hrs - 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to $10

Whether you choose faux leather for the sake of fashion, your beliefs in animal rights, or because the price is usually lower than natural leather, you'll be pleasantly pleased to find it's usually easy to clean. You can clean faux leather by washing items with mild soap and warm water. Removing stains from faux leather is simple, requiring just a small amount of gentle soap and water. Even faux leather garments that have linings can often be cleaned at home.

Faux leather garments should be cleaned after a few uses or when they become stained. Sofas and furniture should be cleaned at least once per month, but sometimes more often if you have pets or children. Before you begin, take a moment to read the care label, as some linings may not be machine washable. If you are unsure, consult a dry cleaner. You can often hand-wash the garment at home.

Clean faux leather garments, including jackets and pants, in cold to warm water with a gentle detergent (warm water may shrink your items). Hand-wash or choose a delicate cycle in the washing machine, then allow the garment to air dry after wiping it down with a microfiber cloth to remove excess water. Remember to never put faux leather in the dryer, which can cause the material to come apart. You should never clean faux leather with harsh cleaning chemicals as it is the surest way to ruin the material.

Here, learn how to wash faux leather pieces at home, including your favorite jacket or pants and items like faux leather shoes, purses, and boots.

What Is Faux Leather?

Faux leather, which is the same thing as synthetic leather, is made from plastic or vinyl that is treated with texture and color to mimic real leather.

  • Vinyl-based faux leather: Vinyl-based faux leather is more pliable but less breathable, which is good for items other than garments. Faux leather is essentially the same as vinyl, but the vinyl used to make the faux leather is processed with other plastic materials to give the fabric a more leathery look.
  • Plastic-based faux leather: Garments are typically made with polyurethane-based faux leather (also called PU leather or pleather, meaning plastic leather), which is more breathable. The process involves coating a base fabric with a polymer substance and treating it to resemble leather.

Faux leather is not as durable as real leather, which can last for decades. Faux leather can last a few years if maintained well before the treated surface begins to peel or crack.


Vegan leather is the same thing as faux leather. The reason it is called vegan leather is because the faux leather is made without any animal products.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Washing machine or large sink for hand-washing
  • Iron
  • Pressing cloth
  • Soft cloth (optional)
  • Cotton swab (optional)


  • Warm water
  • Gentle detergent
  • Baby, olive, or coconut oil
  • Isopropyl alcohol (optional)
  • Baking soda (optional)


How to Wash Faux Leather Clothes
Detergent Gentle detergent
Water Temperature Cold to warm
Cycle Type Delicate or hand-wash
Drying Cycle Air-dry
Special Treatments Condition to prevent cracking
Iron Settings Low
How Often to Wash After use or when soiled (clothing); at least monthly (furniture and accessories)
items for removing stains from faux leather clothing

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

How to Clean Faux Leather Clothes

  1. Hand-Wash or Machine-Wash?

    Faux leather jackets, leggings, or skirts can usually be hand-washed or machine-washed. The key to success is using the correct water temperature, detergent, and gentle agitation. If your garment says "hand-wash only" on its care label, follow these directions to prevent damage.

    If you choose to machine-wash the garment, place it in a mesh laundry bag for extra protection, and reduce the speed for the final spin cycle to reduce wrinkling.

    placing the faux leather garment in a mesh bag

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  2. Use Cool or Warm Water

    Set the washer or fill the sink with cool to warm water. Never use hot water, which can cause the faux leather to become misshapen or even melt.

    filling the sink with water

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  3. Select a Gentle Detergent

    A mild detergent is best for faux leather. If hand-washing, add the detergent to the water, and swish your hand around so it distributes evenly.

    selecting a detergent to use

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  4. Turn the Garment Inside Out

    Faux leather is usually the most soiled on the inside of the garment due to body oils. Whether machine-washing in a mesh bag or hand-washing, turn the garment inside out so that the detergent and water solution can reach the interior surface easily.

    turning the garment inside out

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  5. Use Gentle Agitation

    If hand-washing, swish the garment through the water, and squeeze gently. Allow it to soak for five minutes. In a washer, select the delicate cycle, and reduce the spin speed for the final cycle.

    selecting a delicate cycle

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  6. Use a Cool Water Rinse

    Rinse any hand-washed garments in cool water until no suds remain. Excessive detergent left on the faux leather can cause it to stiffen and crack. Do not wring. Always use a cold water rinse in the washer. Do not add any fabric softener.

    rinsing the garment in cool water

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  7. Air-Dry Faux Leather

    Never place faux leather in the dryer. Hang jackets inside out on a sturdy hanger, and allow them to drip-dry. Skirts and pants can either be hung or dried flat on absorbent towels. Drying can take up to 24 hours. Frequently turn items that are dried flat. To speed drying time, wipe down the garment with a soft, absorbent microfiber cloth.

    air-drying faux leather

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  8. Condition With Oil

    When the garment is dry, use a tiny amount of baby, olive, or coconut oil on a soft cloth to condition the faux leather. This will keep the faux leather supple, prevent cracking and peeling, and help remove wrinkles.

    conditioning faux leather

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Treating Stains on Faux Leather

wiping stain from faux leather

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Most stains can be removed from faux leather with just a microfiber cloth dampened with warm water. For difficult-to-remove stains, put a tiny amount of gentle detergent on the cloth, and lightly scrub the stain.

To remove ink or dye transfer stains on faux leather, blot the area with a bit of isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) on a soft cloth or cotton swab. Work from the outside edge of the stain toward the center to prevent it from becoming larger. When the stain is removed, wipe the area with a cloth dipped in plain water.

Faux Leather Care and Repairs

How to Reduce Fading

If exposed to too much sunlight, your faux leather items may fade in color. Reduce fading by keeping faux leather in a dark place whenever it is not in use (like a clean closet or drawer in your dresser).

How to Reduce Shrinkage

Faux leather is prone to shrinking during washes. To help prevent any shrinkage, it's best to use only cold water when cleaning faux leather clothing and accessories. Air dry the material in a room with average temperatures, avoiding sun-drying on hot days.

How to Remove Tough Odors

Faux leather can hold onto tough odors like cigarette smoke, perspiration, or cooking odors. But these smells are simple to remove with some time and baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda over the inside and outside of the garment. Place it in a large sealable plastic bag or tub, and wait 24 hours. Remove the garment, and brush away the baking soda. Remove any final traces with a soft cloth dampened with plain water. Repeat if odors remain.

Ironing Faux Leather

ironing faux leather

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Most of the time, wrinkles in faux leather will smooth out during the drying process. If a garment is excessively wrinkled, turn the garment inside out. Place a pressing cloth over the garment, and use the lowest heat setting on the iron to remove wrinkles. Do not leave the iron in one spot for too long, or melting will occur. This cannot be repaired.

Storing Faux Leather

Store your faux leather clothing and accessories in a cool, dark place. Avoid placing folded items into full drawers; wrinkles may develop if the item is tightly placed between other clothing. Store faux leather bags and accessories flat in your closet and filled with paper or other materials to maintain their shape.

How Often to Wash Faux Leather

Faux leather clothing should only be washed after use or when it has become soiled. If your garments have developed a slight odor or any stains after wearing them, it's time for a gentle wash.

Faux leather bags and accessories can be washed on an as-needed basis or about once per month, similar to faux leather furniture. These items should be cleaned when they're stained to prevent any stains from becoming permanent.

Tips for Washing Faux Leather Shoes, Bags, and Accessories

  • Wipe down by hand faux leather shoes, bags, and accessories with soapy water, then rinse and dry with a soft microfiber cloth.
  • Mix the water and soap in a spray bottle, shake well, and spray onto items or a microfiber cloth to make the cleaning process easier.
  • Do not use hot water to clean faux leather accessories because it can damage or melt the finish.
  • Let the item air-dry.
  • Condition faux leather accessories by buffing the item using a small amount of softened coconut oil on a microfiber cloth.
  • What is the best cleaner for faux leather?

    Natural ingredients, such as water and gentle liquid dish soap or laundry detergent, can do the best job to clean faux leather.

  • Can you wash faux leather in the washing machine?

    Most faux leather garments are machine-washable, but some items may require hand-washing to prevent damage. Always check the care label to make sure you can wash your faux leather item.

  • How do you clean fake leather couches?

    It helps to vacuum your fake leather sofas weekly to remove dirt and crumbs that can become ground into the material. Remove stains by dabbing a microfiber cloth into a mix of warm water and gentle liquid detergent and blotting away the discoloration. To remove stains, you can also use a clean cloth to blot a small amount of rubbing alcohol on the problem. You can also condition faux leather furniture with small amounts of coconut oil.

  • Can I use Dawn to clean faux leather?

    Yes, Dawn dish soap can be used to clean some faux leather items. It's best to opt for a gentle clothing detergent for garments, but Dawn is acceptable for bags and other accessories. Use cold to warm water with just a few drops of dish soap to gently wipe down the item, then rinse it thoroughly.