How to Clean Leather Furniture

David Diharce
Written by David Diharce
Updated May 11, 2016
brown leather couch
Take care of your leather couch with regular cleanings and conditioning to make it last longer. (Photo by Katelin Kinney)

Soak up these tips before you start scrubbing on your delicate leather furniture.

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Leather furniture can instantly change the vibe of a room. It can warm up an office or add elegance to a den. It is both classic and contemporary. It’s versatile and sturdy. And it does all of this while being an exceptionally soft and comfy place to sit.

But contrary to what some people assume, leather furniture needs to be maintained just like any other furniture fabric, or your leather sofa can peel or crack. Cleaning leather requires a gentle cleanser and the right techniques to keep your furniture looking great.

Choose the right leather cleaner

Start with the tags or care instructions that came with your furniture. These will likely give the best and most specific information for your pieces. If you can’t find them, check with the manufacturer. It may have care instructions on its website.

If you need to find a cleanser on your own, remember many of them are too harsh for leather, even if the cleaner is specifically marketed for use on leather. Generally avoid ammonia or alkaline-based solutions. As a rule, milder is better. And as always, be sure to spot test a small inconspicuous piece of the leather with a cleanser the first time you use it.

Cleaning technique is everything

Once you’ve decided on a cleanser, it’s time to get cleaning. Start by removing any excess spillage from the leather right away. If stains are allowed to set, they can be very difficult to remove.

Brush away any solid debris with a soft brush and then use a soft cloth to soak up any excess liquid. (Do not use any abrasive brushes or cloths to avoid ruining the leather finish.)

On a soft, damp cloth apply some of the cleanser. Then, use firm strokes to work in the soap. Dampen a separate soft, clean cloth and use it to “rinse” the area you’re cleaning.

Finally, use a third clean, dry cloth to dry the area.

Apply leather conditioner

Once you’ve cleaned the furniture, you can condition it with a leather furniture conditioner. This will restore the natural oils in the leather and keep the newly cleaned area soft and supple. (Avoid conditioners that contain silicone and wax.)

Apply, then buff with a soft cloth.

Call in an upholstery cleaner

DIY furniture cleaning is great for simple cases, but sometimes you’ll need the big guys. Leather can be a delicate material. If you damage it, you’ll likely have to replace it.

Consider seeking the help of a professional upholstery cleaning company if you’re dealing with large stains or damaged leather. You might also consider it if you’re dealing with particularly expensive or high-maintenance piece.

Look for a technician with an Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). These professionals have received training on choosing the right materials and methods. They can also give you advice on maintaining the furniture between cleanings.

Have you ever cleaned your leather furniture, or do you hire an upholstery cleaning company? Leave a comment and let us know.

As of May 11, 2016, this service provider was highly rated. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angi for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angi.

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