How to Clean Leather Furniture

Leather couches, leather chairs, and other leather furniture give your space a luxurious and elegant feel, and the best part is that they only get better-looking and more comfortable with age. To ensure the longevity of your leather furniture though, you need to take care of it by periodically cleaning it properly. Keep reading to learn more about leather furniture and the best ways to clean it and protect it.

Learn Your Leather

Leather furniture lasts longer than fabric-covered furniture—sometimes as much as three times as long. This is because it’s meant to take abuse and wear and actually looks even better when it’s worn in. You still must take care of leather upholstery by regularly cleaning and conditioning it. Before you start though, you need to take your furniture’s leather type into consideration to clean it properly and without causing accidental damage. Here are a few types of leather regularly used to upholster furniture:

Full-grain leather – Often used to create high-quality (and often expensive) leather furniture. Full-grain leather is strong and durable, developing a desirable patina (surface sheen) over its lifetime. This type of leather is usually available in aniline and semi-aniline finishes (types of dyed finishes). This leather may not be good for households with pets because any damage from pet nails is more likely to show.

Top-grain leather – The second-highest quality leather and the most common type used in high-end leather furniture. Top-grain leather’s surface has been sanded with a finish coat added, making it feel more “coated” than full-grain leather. It is usually less expensive than full-grain leather and resists stains better. Top-grain leather is also available in aniline and semi-aniline finishes.

Corrected-grain leather – This is leather with an applied artificial grain that is embossed and dyed or pigmented to hide imperfections in the original hide. This kind of leather is good for furniture that sees a lot of use from children and pets. It is usually less expensive, easy to clean and sustains damage well.


Always check the furniture tags or manufacturer’s documentation that came with your furniture to determine the type of leather used to upholster it and for care instructions before you start cleaning your furniture.

Care for Your Leather Furniture

Step 1. Vacuum and Dust Your Leather Furniture

Start cleaning your leather furniture by cleaning out coins, objects and debris that have settled in the crevices between and under the furniture cushions. Use a hand vacuum with a soft brush accessory to pick up dust, crumbs and other debris. Be careful not to scratch or otherwise mar the leather with the vacuum, especially if you have full-grain or top-grain leather furniture. Remove dust by wiping the entire leather surface with a slightly damp cloth or duster.

Step 2. Clean Your Leather Furniture

Unsoiled or relatively clean leather can be simply wiped with a clean, slightly damp cloth. For slightly soiled areas, add a small amount of mild soap to a damp rag and gently wipe away the grime. Use all-natural soap free of sodium laurel sulfate—this type of chemical found in many soaps and detergents can dry out the leather.


Always do a spot test somewhere inconspicuous when using anything besides water to be sure that it doesn’t discolor or otherwise damage the leather.

Distilled water is recommended when using moisture to clean leather.

When using the damp cloth, also keep a dry cloth available to wipe away loose particles and to quickly wipe dry the leather you’re cleaning.

Use leather cleaner for tougher cleaning jobs such as stains and spills. Don’t use regular, household all-purpose cleaners on leather, lest you risk stripping the leather of its natural oils, causing it to dry out and crack. Cleaners formulated for leather are usually made of natural waxes or oils, such as beeswax or saddle soap, which help clean and protect the leather. The best cleaners are made of wax rather than oil, which clean and condition the surface without saturating the leather.


Always check the tags or instructions that came with your furniture for tips on care to avoid damage from using the wrong type of cleaner or cleaning method.

Apply the leather cleaner to a slightly damp cloth and then wipe the area of the spill or stain in a circular motion until the surface is clean. Keep in mind that some stains may not be removable without assistance from a professional, and some stains may not be removable at all.

To clean a spill when it happens, use a dry cloth to blot the affected area until the liquid or other material has been removed. Don’t rub the spilled substance; this may push it in deeper into the surface and cause further staining.

Step 3. Condition Your Leather Furniture

leather conditioner should be applied regularly to your leather furniture to protect it and keep it from drying out and cracking. Generally, the conditioner is sprayed onto the leather surface or onto a dry cloth and then rubbed into the leather in a circular motion with the cloth until it has been absorbed. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully for specific application tips, because application guidelines may vary by product. Make it a priority to condition your leather furniture at least every six months to a year.

That’s all there is to it! Keep your leather furniture clean and it will look great and last for years.

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