How to Clean a Leather Sofa

Brown leather couch with white striped pillow on cushions

The Spruce / Olivia Inman

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 4 - 8 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0-15

Leather sofas are a tried and true furniture classic. They can be found in a variety of colors and styles that range from midcentury modern to the classic British Chesterfield. And bonus: natural leather sofas are durable and easy to both clean and maintain.

Pet hair and most spills on leather furniture can be easily wiped away, as leather doesn't absorb liquids and odors as quickly as fabric upholstery. A quick cleaning for your leather couch is as simple as mixing up equal parts vinegar and water and wiping the material down with a soft cloth. Combined with deeper cleanings using the right soap and leather conditioner, a well-constructed leather sofa can last for decades.

Types of Leather on Sofas

The quality of the leather on sofas can vary depending on the type of hide used and how it is processed and finished.

  • Aniline: Aniline leather is full-grained hide that has been treated with the chemical aniline. It is prized for the ability to see the pores and imperfections on the hide. Aniline leather is exceptionally soft, but it does not have a protective coating preventing the finish from being stained.
  • Semi-aniline: Processed with a thicker protective coating than aniline, semi-aniline is more resistant to stains, more durable, and less expensive than aniline.
  • Pigmented or Protected: The natural leather is coated with a polymer that contains dye pigments to create the most durable, scuff-resistant, and least susceptible to stains type of leather for furniture.
  • Suede: Natural suede leather is created from the soft underside of a split-grain animal hide. It has a nappy finish that is easily stained. There are specific care and cleaning steps for suede furniture that must be followed.

Other than suede, the cleaning methods for all types of leather sofas are the same. But, it's still a good idea to check the sofa manufacturer's specific cleaning instructions and to test any cleaning products on an inconspicuous spot to be sure the leather dye is stable.

How Often to Clean a Leather Sofa

To keep a leather sofa looking its best, it should be dusted weekly and given a more thorough cleaning monthly. Of course, spills and stains from mud, ink, or grease should be cleaned up and treated immediately.

Along with regular cleaning, your leather sofa also needs regular conditioning to maintain its soft quality. Most leather furniture should be conditioned every 6 to 12 months, depending on how often you tend to wet-clean it. Even gentle wet cleaners remove oils from leather.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 vacuum with upholstery brush attachment
  • 2 microfiber cloths
  • 1 small bowl or bucket


  • 1 bottle castile, saddle, or mild soap
  • 1 box corn starch or talcum powder
  • 1 bottle isopropyl alcohol
  • 1 bottle leather conditioner, like Lexol


Materials and tools to clean a leather couch

The Spruce / Olivia Inman

How to Clean a Leather Sofa

  1. Remove Dust and Debris

    Weekly dusting will help keep your leather sofa clean and bright. Use a vacuum with an upholstery brush to capture the unwanted dust, pet hair, and dirt.

    The crevice tool on most vacuums is helpful to reach areas between and under cushions. You can also use a disposable electrostatic duster or a microfiber cloth.

    Vacuum with upholstery brush cleaning in between brown leather couch

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

  2. Wipe Away Grime

    A gentle touch and mild cleaning products will remove all but the toughest stains from leather. While there are plenty of good commercial leather cleaners on the market like Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner or Wipes all you need is a mild soap like Castile, saddle soap, or a bar of Ivory, some warm water, and a microfiber cloth.

    Create a cleaning solution in a small bowl or bucket with warm water and a few drops of liquid soap. If you are using a bar of soap, simply dampen the microfiber cloth and rub it over the bar of soap.

    Work in small areas, starting at the top of the sofa, and wipe down each piece of the surface. Your cloth should be thoroughly wet, but not dripping. For areas of heavier soil like sofa arms, use gentle circular motions to trap all of the soil. Rinse and wring the cloth frequently as you work.

    Mild soap bottle next to microfiber cloth and bowl of water for cleaning solution

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman


    Always test any commercial or homemade leather cleaning product on a hidden area before cleaning the sofa to make sure that there is no color change to the leather.

  3. Buff to a Shine

    Once you have wiped away the soil, you do not need to rinse the leather. Too much water can damage and discolor the leather. Instead, use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to buff the surface.

    Dry yellow microfiber cloth buffing cushion on brown leather couch

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

  4. Tackle Tough Stains

    Stains on leather do happen, but they are no match for prompt and careful attention and a few cleaning solutions.

    • Grease stains: If treating a grease stain on your leather couch, remove any solid debris and blot the area with a paper towel to absorb as much of the oil and grease as possible. Sprinkle the area with a layer of cornstarch or talcum powder. Allow the cornstarch to remain in place for at least four hours or overnight to absorb the oil from the leather. Vacuum away the cornstarch and repeat as needed until the stain is gone.
    • Ink: Blot fresh ink stains with a paper towel, being careful not to further smear the ink. Rub a damp microfiber cloth over a bar of mild soap and working in small circles, rub the area of the leather with the ink stain. Move to a clean area of the cloth as the ink is transferred. Only use isopropyl alcohol to remove an ink stain as the last resort as it can discolor the leather.
    Cornstarch poured over grease stain to remove from brown leather couch

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

  5. Condition Dry Leather

    If your leather sofa has lost its luster and feels stiff and dry, use a good commercial leather conditioner like Chemical Guys Leather Conditioner to restore the leather's suppleness. Follow the product directions and buff the leather with a microfiber cloth to restore the finish.

    Commercial leather conditioner bottle on yellow microfiber on brown leather couch to restore suppleness

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

Tips to Keep a Leather Sofa Clean Longer

  • Wipe up any spills as soon as they happen.
  • Vacuum off the sofa weekly.
  • Keep your leather sofa out of direct sunlight to help prevent fading or cracking of leather.
  • Don't sit on the leather sofa if you're sweaty, as your body oils can be absorbed by the leather and cause stains and discoloration.