How to Clean White Leather

White leather couches on hot pink rug

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Leather is a natural product made from the hide of an animal. It can be processed into a softer finish like suede or nubuck or tanned to create a smooth finish like aniline or Napa leather. White leather is created during the alum or chrome tanning process with no colored dyes added.

White leather goods, whether used for upholstery, accessories or clothing, are particularly susceptible to stains and discoloration. Special care should be taken with white leather goods to prevent yellowing from natural pollutants and cleaning products.

How Often to Clean White Leather

Whether you have a piece of furniture covered in white leather, a purse, shoes or jacket, it should be cleaned regularly to help keep it stain-free and conditioned to prevent cracking. Depending on how often it is used, wipe the leather down regularly with a dry microfiber cloth. This will remove smudges and light soil.

Spills and stains should be treated as soon as they happen to minimize staining.

Tip

It is disappointing to discover that your once pristine, bright white leather jacket is now butter yellow. This is caused by exposure to air pollution and the natural oxidation process that breaks down the fibers of leather. While it is impossible to prevent yellowing completely, there are some things you can do to help keep leather white:

  • Avoid exposure to nicotine and cigarette smoke.
  • Clean the leather regularly.
  • Use a good leather conditioner at least every six months to protect the surface from cracking. The conditioner also slows oxidation.

What You Need

Supplies

  • Liquid Castile soap or leather soap
  • Water
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Linseed or olive oil

Tools

  • Spray bottles
  • Microfiber cloths
  1. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    You can purchase commercial leather soaps or cleaners, but it is very simple to make your own. Mix your cleaning solution in a spray bottle and be sure to label it clearly. Choose one of these formulas:

  2. Wipe Leather with a Damp Cloth

    Dampen a microfiber cloth with plain water and wipe down the white leather. This will remove dust and some surface soil.

  3. Spray the Cleaning Solution on a Cloth

    Rather than spraying directly onto the leather, spray the cleaning solution onto a clean microfiber cloth. This will prevent over-wetting and possible watermarks.

  4. Wipe Down the Leather

    Starting at the top of a piece and working in a small section at a time, wipe down the leather with the cloth sprayed with the cleaning solution. Use a gentle, circular motion. Do not scrub! If soil remains, use a bit more cleaning solution.

  5. Buff the Leather

Once the white leather is clean, use a dry microfiber cloth to gently buff the leather. There is no need to rinse away the cleaning solution.

Removing Oil Stains From White Leather

If oil or grease stains mar the leather, sprinkle the area liberally with baby powder or cornstarch. Allow the powder to remain on the stain for at least four hours. The oil will be drawn into the powder. Brush or vacuum away the powder and repeat as often as needed until the stain is gone.

Removing Ink Stains From White Leather

When an ink stain happens, blot away any damp ink with a white paper towel. Dip a cotton swab in isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). Working from the outside edge toward the center to prevent the ink from spreading, rub the cotton swab on the stain. As the ink is transferred, move to a clean swab.

Work slowly until all of the ink is gone. The leather may look dull after treatment. Use a leather conditioner or a tiny dab of olive oil to recondition the surface.

Removing Scuff Marks From White Leather

Scuff marks are common on white leather shoes. You can use a melamine eraser to gently buff away the marks. Be extremely careful and do not scrub because it can remove the surface finish of the leather.

You can also make a homemade cleaning paste by mixing equal parts of lemon juice and cream of tartar. Spread the paste on the stained area and let it sit for 30 minutes. Wipe away the paste with a damp cloth and buff the leather with a microfiber cloth. Repeat until the stain is removed.

Use a leather conditioner to help restore the leather finish and prevent the leather from drying out and cracking.

Removing Mold and Mildew Stains From White Leather

If your leather goods are stored in an area with high humidity and temperatures, mold and mildew can begin to grow. Regular cleaning to remove food stains and grime can help prevent the growth of mold.

For small areas of mold, follow the recommended removal steps. For extensive mold, a professional will need to treat the leather with an anti-fungal treatment.