How to Clean and Protect Leather

Use these tips and DIY cleaning solutions to keep your leather furniture and clothing in top shape.

January 13, 2021

Photo by: Jalynn Baker

Jalynn Baker

Leather is an incredibly durable material for furniture, car interiors, clothes and accessories, but it does require some maintenance to keep it in top condition. Use these tips to regularly clean and protect your leather, ensuring it’ll look its best for years to come.

How to Clean Leather

Leather furniture can be cleaned using simple household products. First, use a soft cloth to dust the surface. Mix a 50/50 vinegar and water solution in a bowl (Image 1) and use a microfiber cloth to apply it to your furniture (Image 2). Rub the leather in a circular motion to lift the dirt out of the natural fibers. Return your cloth to the bowl often, wringing it out and rewetting it. You’ll notice as the dirt is lifted from the leather and left in the bowl. If needed, replace your cleaning solution as it becomes too dirty. Don’t fully soak the leather; simply use the damp cloth to loosen the dirt and remove it. Tip: Before cleaning the entire item, test the solution in an inconspicuous area to make sure it doesn’t damage or discolor the leather.

How to Condition Leather

Leather, like your own skin, needs to be protected and moisturized over time. You can create a simple and inexpensive leather conditioner using natural baby soap, vinegar and water. Mix 2 cups of warm water, a tablespoon of natural baby soap and a splash of vinegar in a bowl (Image 1). Use a microfiber cloth to rub the conditioning mixture into the leather, making sure not to soak the area (Image 2). Moisten the leather and leave the conditioner on the furniture. The baby soap contains gentle oils that will help to both clean and condition your leather.

You can also condition leather with a mixture of one part vinegar and two parts linseed oil. Pour the solution into a jar with a lid, shake well and apply to the leather using a soft cloth. Work in a circular motion, covering the entire surface. Rub in thoroughly, let it sit for about 10 minutes, then buff with a soft cloth to bring a shine to the leather surface. You may need to buff once more before sitting on the furniture. Store the leftover solution for future usage.

Always keep leather furniture out of direct sunlight to prevent drying and cracking.

How to Clean Suede, Leather and Upholstery 03:32

Follow these easy tips to clean and protect suede, leather and upholstery.

How to Remove Dark Stains From Leather

Remove dark stains from light-colored leather by mixing a paste of one part lemon juice with one part cream of tartar. Rub the paste on the stain and leave in place for about 10 minutes. Apply another layer of the paste, work it in, then remove with either a damp sponge or a damp sponge topped with moisturizing soap.

How to Remove Water Stains From Leather

Water spots can be removed from leather by moistening the area again with a little water, then letting it dry or gently blowing dry. Never place leather in the sun to dry.

How to Remove Ink Stains From Leather

Remove ink spots from leather by dipping a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and gently blotting the stain. Dry the area with a blow dryer. If the stain remains after drying, apply a thick coat of non-gel, non-oily cuticle remover. Leave on overnight, then wipe off with a damp cloth.

How to Remove Road Salt From Leather

Mix one part water and one part white vinegar. Take a cloth and dip into the solution, then blot over the shoes or coat lightly to remove the salt. This may have to be repeated several times to clean the entire surface. When you finish they should look almost like new. Be sure to wipe leather shoes with a damp cloth frequently, and keep them well polished with a paste.

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