While we’ll spend a lot of time trying to keep sheets and towels looking new, leather is one of those fabrics that just looks better with age. But even if your goal is a well-worn couch or chair, leather furniture requires cleaning on occasion. After all, you want the piece to look well-loved, not neglected.
To keep leather looking good, you’ll need to do two kinds of cleaning, explains Patryk Gawlak, owner of Peak Cleaning Services LLC. First, you’ll want to make sure you do some regular cleaning as part of your routine. Then, for stains, you’ll want to roll up your sleeves and get a bit more serious. But not all stains are created equal, so you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right materials.
Meet the Expert
Patryk Gawlak is a Thumbtack Pro and the owner of Peak Cleaning Service, LLC in Scottsdale, Arizona. His family has been in the cleaning business for over 20 years.
Sounds overwhelming? Don’t worry, we’ve broken it down for you. When the next inevitable red wine spill happens, you’ll be ready.
Regular Maintenance is Key
Gawlak recommends regular cleanings to keep your couch looking good. On a weekly basis, dry dust your couch with a microfiber cloth to remove built-up dust and crumbs. You can also use the soft bristle extension of your vacuum to do this, and can simply add it to your vacuuming routine.
Once a month, Gawlak also recommends a deeper clean: wipe it down with a wet wipe then a leather cream conditioner. “The wet wipe down provides a deeper regular cleaning, and conditioning helps to prevent cracks and discoloration,” he explains.
All you need for a wet wipe is warm, soapy water (just dish soap is perfect, nothing fancy) and a clean towel. After wiping down all surfaces, dry thoroughly with a dry cloth or towel before applying the leather cleaner. For the leather cleaner, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, as they can vary, and make sure the conditioner matches the kind of leather you have. Leather is, of course, skin, and Gawlak compares this step to applying lotion to our own skin to keep moisturized.
For Spills and Stains
Because leather is so absorbent and can’t just be thrown in the wash, you’ll want to be careful that any stain treatments make things better, not worse. Thankfully, most stains can be removed using common household items. No matter the stain, however, Gawlak has the same piece of advice: As you work out the stain, rub in small circles. “Don't rub back and forth in a line as it causes more wear and tear this way,” he says.
How to Remove Regular Stains
For most stains, like spilled coffee or ice cream, simply using soapy water on a damp (not soaking wet) cloth will get out the stains. Working in circles, and being sure not to use too much water, wipe down the air and then dry with a clean towel.
How to Remove Grease Stains
There are a few ways to tell if you’re dealing with a grease stain. For starters, if you dropped your pepperoni pizza right side down, you don’t have to guess: You’ll know. But if a mystery stain lingers after wiping it down with a soapy, damp washcloth, or feels slimy to the touch, you may be dealing with grease. To remove, “sprinkle a pinch of baking soda on the stain and let it sit for a few hours until the oil is absorbed,” says Gawlack. Afterward, wipe it away with a dry, soft cloth and then wipe it down with a damp cloth.
How to Remove Ink Stains
“Apply rubbing alcohol to a cotton ball, gently dab until the stain begins to lift,” says Gawlak. Be sure to dab, not rub, because that can just spread the ink. Once the stain is out, dry the area by gently patting it with a dry cloth.
Try Cold Cleaning
Don’t panic if wax, gum, or something sticky gets on your couch. The trick here is to harden the substance to remove it instead of blotting or rubbing it out. Place some ice cubes in a Ziploc bag and hold it against the problem area. Once it’s hardened, you can pick it away with your fingernails or with a spoon. (Gawlak cautions against using a knife or anything with a sharp edge, which could scratch or even tear the leather.)
Finally, Gawlak says to keep an eye on your progress—if it’s not working, slow down and reassess. When in doubt, look to a manual or contact the manufacturer if possible. And some damage, especially damage to the leather itself in the form of scratches or huge stains, may require professional assistance.