How to Protect Leather Couches: 12 Foolproof Tips to Try

Melissa Graham
Written by Melissa Graham
Updated November 15, 2022
Children jumping on a leather sofa
Photo: Catherine Falls Commercial / Moment / Getty Images

Less is more when caring for this type of upholstery

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Soft and luxurious to the touch, leather is a durable and easy material to maintain. Learning how to protect leather couches is vital to keeping your luxury upholstery clean and healthy for years to come. The more effort you put into maintaining the quality of your leather, the better it will look over time. 

When cleaning and protecting this type of upholstery, it’s best to use a gentle touch. Let’s review how to protect your leather furniture like a pro.

1. Maintain a Cleaning Routine 

The key to maintaining the look of your leather couch is keeping a cleaning routine. The more consistently you clean your couch, the longer the leather will last without cracking or fading. Daily dusting, vacuuming, and regular conditioning are a few ways you can prolong the lifespan of your leather couch. Add “clean leather couch” to your house cleaning checklist to prioritize this important task.

2. Follow the Label Instructions

Each leather product is different, so begin the cleaning process by reading the care instructions carefully. These instructions can help you understand what materials you should or should not use on the leather in order to maintain its look and feel over time. 

Labels can also describe what type of leather was used to make your couch, which can help you determine how best to treat it. Pigmented leather, for example, is the most durable, so it can withstand more wear and tear than aniline leather, which is less resistant to soiling. Of course, you only need to follow this step the first time, but it’s a handy reminder when needed. 

3. Dust the Couch

Before deep cleaning your leather furniture, start by dusting the couch with a dry microfiber cloth. That way, you can remove the sitting layer of dust and debris before digging into the nooks and crannies. You can also use a lightly dampened cloth when cleaning protected leather. If you’re committed to the upkeep, it helps to dust on a weekly basis to make sure dust and dander don’t linger for too long. 

Dust that isn’t removed can compromise the finish of the leather and attract more dirt and grime. Eliminating dust is especially important if you have pets, since they can leave behind hair and oil that accumulates if not wiped away. 

4. Vacuum With the Right Attachment

Not sure when to use the brush attachment on your vacuum? Cleaning your leather couch is the perfect opportunity. To get rid of crumbs and pet dander, vacuum your leather couch with a brush attachment. Consider doing this more frequently if you have pets to clean excess pet hair. 

If your couch’s cushions are removable, don’t forget to vacuum the crumbs, dirt, and debris that fall underneath. For couches with reclining functions, pay close attention to the crevice at the bottom since it’s a hidden spot that tends to collect debris over time. 

5. Wipe and Dry the Surface

Maintain the sleek look of your leather couch by preserving its shine. You’ll generally want to wipe the surface with a soft cloth lightly dampened with distilled water. You can also use a leather cleaner approved by the furniture manufacturer.

Make sure your cleaning method won’t damage the upholstery the first time you clean your leather furniture. Test the technique out on a small inconspicuous area. If the leather didn’t get damaged or absorb water, proceed with your method. If your furniture absorbs water, use a dry cloth.

6. Remove Stains Immediately

Wiping down leather sofa surface
Photo: Kilito Chan / Moment / Getty Images

Unfortunately, spills and stains are part of life, and may end up on your leather couch. The difference between a permanent stain and a temporary one is how quickly you react to it. Follow these guidelines for removing stains:

  • Clean up spills immediately: Blot spills with a clean, dry cloth or towel, then air-dry. Keep in mind that grease stains should disappear over time.

  • Air-dry water stains: If you spill something water-based on protected leather, wipe with a clean, lightly dampened cloth and air-dry. 

  • Treat stubborn stains: For more stubborn stains, moisten a soft cloth or sponge with a combination of mild non-detergent liquid soap and distilled water or a leather cleaner. Then, gently wipe. Wipe again with a clean cloth lightly moistened with plain distilled water. Blot with a dry cloth.

  • Avoid harsh cleaners: When treating stains, avoid harsh soaps, cleaning solvents, detergents, or ammonia. Don’t use a lot of water, no matter whether it’s hot or cold water.

7. Remove Scratches 

Scratches can appear on your leather couch as a result of hard items like pet nails or zippers rubbing against the material. Buttons, clasps, and hard parts of footwear can also cause small nicks, so stay mindful of what is coming in contact with the leather when you sit down. 

Did your furry friend leave a scratch on the leather couch cushion? Fear not: There are ways to remove the unsightly scratches.

  • Gently buff the leather with a chamois cloth or clean fingers.

  • For stubborn scratches, rub in a tiny amount of distilled water and blot it with a dry cloth.

8. Condition the Leather

In most cases, it’s helpful to condition your leather couch to revamp its look. Check the label to see if you should condition your leather furniture. If yes, apply a leather conditioner every six to 12 months to keep your upholstery soft and supple. The dryer the environment, the more often you’ll want to repeat this process. 

To make your own leather conditioner, combine 2 cups of warm water, a tablespoon of natural baby soap, and a splash of vinegar. Be sure to test conditioners on a small, hidden area of the material before applying it to the entire couch.

9. Avoid Direct Sunlight and Heat

In as little as 4 to 6 months, direct sunlight can not only change the color of your leather but also lead to cracks. If you can’t move your couch or a shady spot isn’t available, try covering the exposed areas with a blanket during the sunniest part of the day. You can also try tinting your windows or installing blinds or curtains to keep the sunshine at bay. 

Regardless of where you live, it’s best to keep your leather couch away from large windows, air conditioners, radiators, or rooms with poor insulation such as garages or sunrooms. Heat from radiators or direct sunlight can dry out the leather and lead to premature cracking, which is why it’s important to keep the position of your couch in mind. 

10. Maintain the Shape of Leather Cushions

If your leather couch has removable cushions, the best way to prevent sagging seats is to switch the position of your cushions regularly. Try to rotate them every one to two months for the best results. If you can’t remove your leather couch cushions, avoid sitting in the same spot, which can lead to uneven weight distribution and shape. 

For leather couches that already have significant sagging, you can replace the filling. The cost for filling varies depending on the size of your furniture and the degree of sagging. 

11. Stay Mindful of Spillable Materials

Before flopping down on your leather couch with a delicious but greasy snack, stop to think about whether it’s worth the risk. Grease or oil can instantly stain a leather couch, so avoid eating or using oily materials while sitting on it. If you spill something greasy or oily on it, try putting baking soda, cornstarch, or talcum powder on top of the stain to absorb the oil. You can also purchase leather cleaner specifically to treat these types of stains. 

Other materials that should not come in contact with your leather couch include baby wipes, petroleum-based cleaning products, Windex, bleach, Pledge, waxes, and silicone. These can do everything from erode the stitching to leave behind a sticky residue that’s hard to remove. 

12. Hire Professional Help

Some stubborn stains may not budge from your couch, even after trying several DIY cleaning methods. If stains persist, hire a local leather furniture repair pro to repair your leather furniture. The cost to clean a full-size leather couch is typically between $195 and $475

Professional leather cleaning usually entails cleaning, conditioning, addressing any re-coloring needs, pressing, and deodorization, if necessary. Most cleaning services or repairs come with a warranty, so if the work is still not to your liking or doesn’t last as long as it should, you can have the issue re-examined.

Frequently Asked Questions

Like stains, the best way to prevent cracks is by treating them as quickly as possible. You can apply a protection cream or conditioner, which will fill in and plump any gaps or wrinkles that may start to form.

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