10 Tips to Clean a Leather Sofa

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10 Tips to Clean a Leather Sofa

Leather furniture requires specific methods of cleaning. With regular maintenance and the right products, you can keep a leather sofa clean and in good condition. Use the tips below to clean your leather sofa.

1. Dust the sofa thoroughly.

Pay special attention to the spaces between the sofa’s seat cushions.

  • Use a vacuum cleaner to remove all the larger debris, then wipe all over with a clean, soft cloth.
  • This ensures that dust and dirt will not be pressed into the leather as you continue the cleaning process.
  • When using the vacuum, be careful not to scratch the leather with the plastic cleaning attachments.


2. Carefully observe where the sofa most needs cleaning.

When cleaning leather, a less-is-more approach is called for.

  • If there are only a few grimy spots, concentrate on those areas and leave the rest alone as much as possible.
  • Wipe down relatively clean areas with a clean, damp (not wet) cloth. That’s all it really needs.
  • For cleaning suede or nubuck sofas, you will need a different approach than the one described here.


3. For lightly soiled areas, wipe down with a damp, soapy cloth.

This is good for big patches of light soiling that would be tedious (and expensive) to clean with leather cleaner.

  • Use a mild, all-natural soap that does not contain Sodium Laurel Sulfate or the like. Harsh soap will cause the leather to dry out.
  • Do a spot test first in a part of the sofa that is hidden from view.
  • Don’t rub too hard, as this will just push the dirt further into the leather.
  • This method is also good for cleaning off anything sticky and water soluble
  • Use light passes, and rinse the cloth often. Wring the cloth out well so it’s not too wet.
  • Alternate with a clean dry cloth to wipe away loose dirt. This should also keep the surface of the leather relatively dry.


4. Lightly spray the leather with a mild solution of vinegar and water to remove mold or mildew.

  • Try to use as little liquid as possible, and wipe quickly to keep it from soaking in too much.
  • The vinegar is a mild disinfectant and should kill any mold.


5. Buy a leather cleaner for more heavily soiled areas.

  • Look for a good saddle soap or natural leather cleaner that contains natural beeswax and not too many petroleum products or solvents.
  • The best cleaners are wax rather than oil-based. This allows the cleaning product to condition the surface of the leather, but not soak in too much and change the way the leather “breathes.”
  • Contrary to popular belief, neatsfoot oil is not the best treatment for leather. However, it’s ok in small amounts.
  • Remember that leather is a natural material, and every piece is a little bit different. You may have to try several different cleaners before finding one that works for your particular sofa.


6. Spot test the cleaner.

Clean a small spot that is not easily visible before using it on the entire sofa.

  • Make sure that the leather has dried fully and that no stains or discolorations are left behind before using the product on the entire sofa.
  • Many leather cleaners contain solvents that can discolor the leather.

7. Apply the cleaning product with a damp cloth.

Dip the damp cloth into the cleaning product. Applying medium pressure, rub the surface of the leather with a circular motion.

  • Dampen the cloth lightly. A cloth that is too wet will leave stains on the leather.
  • Start with areas that are the least dirty (but still need cleaning). Then work your way to dirtier areas. This keeps the dirt from spreading.
  • Change or clean the cloth often. Keep reapplying cleaner and using a clean part of the cloth until you have cleaned all the parts of the sofa that need cleaning.


8. Wipe excess cleaner from the sofa.

With a clean, damp cloth, wipe each cushion again, rinsing the cloth in clean water after each pass over a cushion. Do not use a cleaning product for this round, since you are rinsing the surface that you just washed.

9. Eliminate stains.

This may or may not be possible, depending on the type and severity of the stain. Stains that are deeply set in or contain stubborn dyes may not come out.

  • Go back over the stain with a heavy duty leather cleaner that is mildly abrasive. In a pinch, you can use a bit of toothpaste. Wipe off completely when you’re done.
  • Remember to spot test any cleaners you use first!
  • If the stain does not come out easily, don’t keep scrubbing it, as this may damage the leather.
  • Remember sometimes it’s better to just leave well enough alone. Consider just flipping the cushion over, if possible.
  • If all else fails, consult a professional cleaner. They may be able to remove the stains for you or at least give more detailed information about how to remove your particular stain.


10. Condition the leather.

When the sofa is completely dry, put a light coating of leather preservative all over the sofa.

  • Again, use a natural, wax-based leather conditioner for best results.
  • Condition your sofa regularly to keep the leather supple and protected. Do this at least once a year.
  • Buff the sofa all over with a clean cloth. This will make the leather shine.