How To Clean Leather

how to clean leather
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When you clean leather, remember that ‘gentle’ is the key word. While leather seems tough enough to take it, water is not its friend. Always use

mild products or those specifically made for leather, along with clean white cloths.

The first step is to test the product on a small patch of the item to be cleaned, to make sure it will not be damaged by the cleaning. Use a very small amount of a gentle moisturizing soap (such as liquid face soap) or saddle soap on a damp cloth and apply.

Rub in tiny circles until you have a light lather. Wipe away the lather and polish with a dry towel. If there is no change to color or appearance, you may apply this technique to the entire piece.

You will ideally need three cloths; two slightly damp ones to rub the soap in and then to remove the lather, and a dry cloth to polish. Choose a material which doesn’t pill or shed, such as cheesecloth or cotton.

Always work with small amounts of

soap and water, and work from area to area as quickly as possible. The least amount of time you can leave the lather on, the better as too much moisture will damage your leather.

Once the entire piece is clean, treat the leather with a leather conditioner to protect its new luster.

If your cleaning process (or normal wear) leaves water spots on your leather, you can remove them by moistening the area again with a little water and letting it dry naturally – just don’t put leather in the sun to dry. It will make the spots worse.

Ink spots can be attacked with some rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab. Use the swab on the ink directly; it should come off without damaging leather (as always, test a bit in a hidden spot before you start). For more stubborn stains, try some hairspray. Spritz the affected area and leave for a moment, then wipe clean.

Mildew can be eradicated with a quick mix of 1 cup water and 1 cup of rubbing alcohol. Moisten a clean cloth and wring it out thoroughly then apply to the mildewed area then air dry.

The key to successfully cleaning leather is to apply even the gentlest cleaning products as sparingly as possible. This will ensure your leather will be well-treated and not further damaged by the cleaning process.

Further Reading and Additional Resources

‘How to clean leather’ at

Step-by-step with photos, at ‘How to clean leather’

How to clean leather, specifically focusing on leather furniture, from