Leather is a unique material and not just because of the look and feel. But when it comes to cleaning leather, you can’t take the same approach as you would with fabric upholstery.
Many people have to learn how to clean leather furniture the hard way after an accidental spill. And while panic sets in to avoid a permanent stain, this often results in making things worse.
To help you avoid such mistakes, we’ve put together a few general cleaning tips along with some recommendations of how to deal with specific types of stains.
General Cleaning Tips
Even if you’re the most careful or maybe luckiest person to never spill anything on your leather furniture, regular daily usage and contact with humans and pets will require some cleaning.
The great thing with leather is that depending on the color, you probably won’t see most of the normal wear.
But once you look at the cleaning cloth when you’re finished, you’ll understand that there is a need to regularly clean leather furniture.
Here is what you should consider doing.
3 Regular Cleaning Steps
Step 1: Careful Vacuum
Before you start wiping down a leather sofa, loveseat, or chair, make sure that you remove any loose debris.
Ideally, you should be using a soft furniture nozzle attachment for your vacuum and turn the suction setting way down. If the nozzle sucks onto the leather furniture too tightly, you could end up with scratches.
It’s also a good hygienic practice to vacuum in between seat cushions and backrests as dirt and dust may settle in there.
Step 2: Gentle Clean
Always use a very soft cloth, ideally, a microfiber cloth, as this will have the best cleaning effect without causing any scratches while wiping.
Even if there’s a bit of stubborn dirt, don’t be tempted to use a rough scrubbing sponge.
The cloth should also not be soaking wet, but just damp. The best thing to do is dip it in lukewarm water and then wring it out.
If you don’t have a special leather furniture cleaning solution, then aim to use a pH-neutral gentle soap. A mild baby soap is often a great option as it will protect the natural leather fibers.
Rub a small amount of soap across the leather surface with the damp cloth, and then wipe it clean with a dry cloth.
The final tip for this process is to avoid the leather becoming very wet and allow it to dry slowly before you use it again.
Step 3: Conditioning
To make sure that you can enjoy your leather furniture for years to come, it’s also a good idea to apply a leather conditioner about once a month.
It’s not necessary to do this every time you clean a leather couch, but applying conditioner occasionally with a microfiber cloth will help to preserve the natural material and buff it up for a great appearance.
Specific Stain Removal Tips
Beyond the regular maintenance cleaning mentioned above, there are going to be some situations where you might need to urgently clean leather furniture.
Here are some specific situations and how to deal with them to avoid making things worse.
Removing Everyday Stains
If you spill things like juice, ice cream, tea, or coffee, then you want to act fast before the spill has time to soak down into the lower layers of the leather.
And here are the three steps to clean leather furniture after a regular stain.
Step 1: Use A Gentle Soap
Use a soft cloth with gentle pH-neutral soap and water. The water only needs to be slightly warm, and it’s a good idea not to apply the soap directly to the leather but rather dissolve some in the water to avoid having excess soap residue.
Step 2: Work In Circles
The top bit of advice you can follow is to work the damp cloth on the stain in a circular motion. You can switch between clockwise and anticlockwise but avoid scrubbing back and forth with pressure.
That’s more likely to add wear and tear and could even cause a scratch on the leather.
Step 3: Wipe Clean
The final step is to thoroughly wipe away the soap with a clean, dry cloth. If you can still see some of the stain, then repeat the process another time.
Removing Grease Stains
Whether it’s a few random potato chips that fell onto the leather unnoticed, or you dropped a slice of pizza, these are the instructions to follow as soon as possible to deal with grease stains.
Step 1: Apply Baking Soda
The first thing you need to do is sprinkle some baking soda directly onto the stain and gently pat it down so that it makes contact with the entire grease stain.
You’ll need to leave it to work there for a few hours and what will happen is that the baking soda will start to remove and absorb the grease from the leather.
Step 2: Wipe The Leather
Wipe away the banking soda with a brush and damp cloth and see if the stain has fully lifted. If there is still some visible staining, then try to use the regular stain removal cleaning tip above.
Removing Ink Stains
Ink stains can be heartbreaking as they don’t tend to easily come off the leather surface.
But with these steps, you should be able to remove most types of ink with household items.
Step 1: Apply Rubbing Alcohol
Gather some soft cotton pads and rubbing alcohol. Apply the alcohol to the cotton and then carefully dab it on the ink. It’s important not to rub it back and forth or in a circular motion, as that will only spread the ink around and make the stain worse.
Step 2: Clean With Dry Cloth
Once you notice that the ink has lifted enough from the leather sofa to not be noticeable, then use a dry piece of cotton to lift off any remaining alcohol from the surface area and leave it dry out naturally.
You can repeat this step if the ink is still visible after drying, and avoid using that part of the sofa until you have resolved the problem.
Removing Sticky Stains
Wax, gum, and other sticky substances can seem like a huge problem to deal with, but there is a trick to dealing with these materials.
Step 1: Freeze The Stain
The worst thing you can do is clean a leather couch with sticky stains the same way you would with other spills.
The best thing to do is to cool the material down as much as possible so that it crumbles away. Put some ice cubes in a ziplock bag and then place it directly on the stain.
Wait until the gum or wax feels hard before you move to the next step.
Step 2: Scrape Away The Sticky Materials
Once the sticky stuff has hardened, it will be much easier to scrape it away and off the leather without spreading it around any further.
Just avoid using a knife and ideally use some sort of a straight plastic edge or even a metal spoon.
Step 3: Repeat If Necessary
Only remove the sticky material that is fully hardened by the ice. That might mean having to repeat the above steps a few times if it starts to soften a bit.
And the closer you get to the surface of the leather couch or chair, the more careful you need to be with the scraping action.
Taking The Right Steps To Clean A Leather Sofa
It’s important to repeat that there is a difference in the steps you need to follow to clean for regular dirt or maintenance and to deal with different types of stains.
The sooner you take action with stains, the more likely you are not to have to call out a professional cleaning service.
And the best thing about the above tips is that they don’t require specialist tools or solutions but rather rely on a few common household items.
It’s the best way to fix problems quickly.