While we spend a lot of time trying to keep towels and sheets looking new, leather is one of those materials that just looks better with age. But even if your goal is a well-worn couch or chair with a beautiful patina, your leather furniture still requires cleaning to stay in its best shape. After all, you want the piece to look well-loved, not neglected.
To keep your leather couch looking good, you’ll need to do two kinds of cleaning, explains Patryk Gawlak, owner of Peak Cleaning Services LLC. We asked the expert to share his best ideas on simple maintenance and deep cleanings when stains inevitably happen—but not all stains are created equal, so Gawlak notes the importance of using the right materials. We've broken down the expert's tips and tricks so when that inevitable red wine spill happens, you'll be prepared.
Meet the Expert
Keep scrolling to learn the expert's tips and tricks on how to clean a leather couch, and keep your furniture looking its best for years to come.
How Often Should You Clean a Leather Couch?
Gawlak recommends regular cleanings as part of your routine to keep your leather 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.
For stains, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get a bit more serious. Once a month, Gawlak also recommends a deeper clean: Wipe it down with a wet wipe, then finish with a leather cream conditioner. “The wet wipe down provides a deeper regular cleaning, and conditioning helps to prevent cracks and discoloration,” he explains.
Things You'll Need
- Clean washcloth or microfiber towel
- Dish soap
- Warm water
- Leather conditioner
- Baking soda (optional)
- Rubbing alcohol (optional)
- Ice (optional)
How to Clean a Leather Couch
For weekly cleanings, a few simple materials can keep your leather couch maintained in good condition. Gather a clean washcloth or microfiber towel, a bit of dish soap, and the leather conditioner of your choice to get started.
Step 1: Wipe Down the Couch
While you can buy commercial leather wipes at many stores, all you need to make your own wet wipe is warm, soapy water and a clean towel. Add a few drops of dish soap to a damp towel and begin wiping down all surfaces of the couch—cushions, sides, armrests, and back.
Step 2: Dry Thoroughly
After wiping down all surfaces, dry the couch thoroughly with a new washcloth or microfiber towel to ensure no excess water is left before conditioning.
Step 3: Condition the Leather
Read the manufacturer's recommendations for your specific sofa to learn which conditioners match the type of leather you have. Once you've gathered the leather conditioner of your choice, apply it to the leather on all surfaces: Genuine leather is, of course, made from cattle skin, and Gawlak compares this step to applying lotion to our own skin to stay moisturized.
If your leather couch is under a warranty, using the wrong type of leather conditioner may void it: Be sure to follow the manufacturer's guide and document the products you use by saving the receipts.
How to Remove Regular Stains
Because leather is so absorbent and can’t just be thrown in the washer, be careful to ensure that any stain treatments make things better—not worse. Thankfully, most stains can be removed using common household items.
Step 1: Start With Soap
For most stains, like spilled coffee or ice cream, a bit of dish soap can do the trick. Simply add warm, soapy water to a damp cloth and apply it to the affected area.
Step 2: Scrub in Circles
For most types of stains, 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. Working in circles, and being sure not to use too much water, wipe down the area before drying it 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 if it feels slimy to the touch, you may be dealing with grease.
Step 1: Sprinkle Baking Soda
To remove it, “Sprinkle a pinch of baking soda on the stain and let it sit for a few hours until the oil is absorbed,” says Gawlak.
Step 2: Wipe Away Stains
Once the baking soda has had time to set into the stain, wipe it away with a dry, soft cloth. Repeat a second wipe-down with a damp cloth to remove any excess baking soda.
How to Remove Ink Stains
Ink stains may be unsettling at first, but thankfully, they can usually be removed with simple cleaning materials in your home.
Step 1: Bring Out the Rubbing Alcohol
“Apply rubbing alcohol to a cotton ball, then gently dab until the stain begins to lift,” says Gawlak. Be sure to dab, not rub, because rubbing can spread the ink.
Step 2: Pat Dry
Once the stain is removed, dry the area by gently patting it with a clean washcloth. Repeat steps as necessary if ink stains remain visible after drying.
How to Remove Wax or Gum
Don’t panic if wax, gum, or something sticky gets on your leather furniture. Gawlak notes that the trick is to harden the substance to remove it instead of blotting or rubbing it out.
Step 1: Cool Down the Area
Place some ice cubes in a Ziploc bag and hold it against the problem area. Wait for the wax or gum to harden as much as possible before removing.
Step 2: Gently Scrape Away
Once it’s hardened, you can pick the debris 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.
Step 3: Consult the Manufacturer if Necessary
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. Some damage, especially damage to the leather itself (in the form of scratches or large stains), may require professional assistance.