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How to Clean a Leather Sofa
5 MIN READ   |   10 March 2021   |   Arthur Guzowski

How to Clean a Leather Sofa

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There are two kinds of people who want to know how to clean a leather sofa.

The first type of person is someone who just bought their first leather sofa and wants to know how to clean and maintain it before it actually gets dirty. This way, they can purchase all the necessary cleaning supplies ahead of time. When the time comes for their leather couch to be cleaned, (probably at the first sign of scuffing), they will know what to do. This is what we recommend for anyone who just purchased any type of leather furniture.

The second type of person who wants to find out how to clean a leather sofa is someone who noticed that after years of wear and tear, their leather sofa (or any other type of leather furniture) is looking forlorn. At this point, it’s a rescue mission. Deep cleaning leather furniture after years of use is a tall order. But don’t worry – it’s not impossible.

Brown L-shaped leather sofa

No matter what brings you here today – if it’s a brand new leather couch in need of some conditioning or an old sofa in need of salvation, we have a few fool-proof methods!

Get Your Leather Cleaning Gear in Order

There is a variety of leather cleaning supplies you will need:

  • A soft micro-cloth
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton balls
  • Mild dish soap and water
  • Shoe polish
  • Leather conditioner
  • Leather oils

What household products can you use to clean leather?

There are plenty of household products you can clean a leather sofa with, and you probably have most of them available.

One home-made cleaning solution that works very well on this type of furniture and especially grease stains is equal amounts of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. It’s just about as effective as most other cleaning products. The only problem with it is the vinegary smell. You can add orange or grapefruit essential oils to it, and it will actually help you with conditioning. You can also apply it in spots with a cotton ball.

How to condition a leather sofa – everyday care

brown leather corner sofa in a bright living room

First, let’s talk about easy day-to-day maintenance before any serious damage has happened.

These are the steps you should follow to take care of your leather couch or leather furniture on a weekly basis:

4 Steps in Leather Care Troubleshooting

Step 1: Catch it early

The best time to tackle a stain is while it’s fresh. Get to it ASAP with these tips to have it looking good as new in no time. Here are some of the more common culprits and tips on how to clean a leather sofa from particular contaminants.

Getting blood, coffee and food stains off of leather

We’re not asking how you got blood on your couch or if you need an alibi. But if you need to make sure it won’t stain your couch forever, here is what you do:

This is a biggie, so tackle it straight away. Dilute pre-wash stain remover with water and blot the area with a clean cloth in small circular motions. It’s best to use cold water – apply it with a damp soft cloth and then dry the area with a dry cloth. Repeat this process until the blood comes out.

If the blood has already set into the deep fibres of the leather, you can do as much good as you can by using the method above and then using saddle soap and conditioner. When you’re done, use shoe polish to mask the bloodstain – shoe polishes were made for leather and will usually easily match your sofa.

Getting urine off of leather

A dog in a close-up laying on a brown sofa

If you’re lucky enough to grab your pet before they pee on the sofa (we’ve all been there), dab the stain or affected area with an absorbent paper towel and warm water. If you missed it, pick up any residue with a soft bristle brush, then soak it with warm water and blot dry with a clean, dry cloth. Finish off with warm soapy water.

Some pets’ urine is very alkaline (if you happen to own a bunny, this one is for you) – it will literally bleach your leather furniture in a matter of seconds. The only way to get rid of this is to apply pigment to the couch. You can do this easily by applying shoe polish, and massaging it in with a microfibre cloth.

Step 2: Reapply colour to bleached or discoloured leather

There are several ways of reapplying colour to your leather sofa – most people go for professional help when they encounter this problem, but there are some at-home methods to do this. This needs to be done carefully – remember that bleach takes the colour out of leather forever. This is why you should never use ammonia-based cleaners.

Purchase an at-home leather dye kit and follow directions. Unfortunately, although you might get rid of a glaring white stain, it’s virtually impossible to get the colours to align exactly. It’s much easier to learn how to avoid stains and how to clean a leather sofa from gunk than to make it come back from permanent damage like grease stains, bleach stains, or tears.

If you simply want your leather sofa or other leather furniture to regain its former shine and the deep colour it had when it was brand new, simply condition it with a leather conditioner or gentle oils. Remember – leather is skin. A lot of moisturising tricks do work on leather sofas. Read on about moisturising leather care:

Step 3: Freshen up your sofa with conditioning oils

small oils in brown bottles

There are a number of oils that work very well with leather. This is more of a conditioning task, and something to get done on a bi-monthly basis.

Oils that work especially well on leather are:

You can also add a few drops of essential oils to your regular conditioning oil mix. Essential oils like orange, lemon, or clove not only condition leather but also leave a fresh scent that lingers for days.

You can make your own leather cleaning solution and put it into a spray bottle. Use this home-made conditioning solution recipe, and apply it with a microfiber cloth or any type of soft cloth that you have at home.

Home-made leather conditioner

  • 50 ml olive oil or coconut oil
  • 100 ml vinegar
  • 1 spoon dish soap
  • 5-15 drops of essential oils (lemon, tangerine, orange, clove)

Step 4: Go extra deep with protein powder and water

This is our number one go-to solution for getting rid of those stubborn spots that just won’t lift off with a regular vacuum or surface cleaner. You can grab it from most supermarkets (in the baking aisle), or opt for an all-natural whey protein powder like this one, which we love! It really brings out the best of our leather couches and sofas – and even our kids’ car seats! All you need to do is make a paste of 1/2 cup of powder with 3/4 cup of hot water. Apply this to the affected spot and leave for about 15 minutes before cleaning off. It is such an effective cleaner that we’ve used less than 1/2 a tub since we’ve started sitting on our leather couches again! Here’s how we tackled a nasty spot on our cream leather sofa.

Tip: Before using, test on a hidden spot first to ensure there will be no discolouration upon removal. If there’s any discolouration, apply more water and plenty of elbow grease until you’ve removed it all! We think this is best used as a twice-a-year deep clean.

Common Questions

Can I use washing-up liquid to clean my leather sofa?

Yes, washing up liquid or gentle dish soap is just fine for a quick wipe when you’re cleaning your couch.

What are the best ways to repair tares?

Repairing a tare on any type of leather furniture is a challenge. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Self-adhesive leather patches. you can get them anywhere online, although it’s best to do it in person because your eye is better at judging colour than the screen. And you want the patch to match your leather sofa as much as possible. These usually come in special kits that contain leather glue, filler, offset spatulas (like the ones for mixing paint) and forceps.
  • Sewing – if your leather has torn at the seams (a much better alternative than, let’s say, a tear caused by a sharp object) you can get some specialised tools like a curved needle and strong thread and try your luck. There is a full tutorial on how to sew leather here. It’s not that hard!

Final Thoughts

Before you begin to experiment, check the manufacturer’s guide to cleaning your sofa. Some leather would be ruined if wet (wool mix) while others may fray if scrubbed vigorously. This should always be the first step to take before getting serious and taking the shoe polish out. When it comes to knowing how to clean a leather sofa – it’s best to remember that all of them are made differently and have different needs. If you don’t have directions from the manufacturer, reserach your particular couch online. There is bound to be some troubleshooting forums out there.

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