How to clean a leather couch: Tips and tricks for leather care

Leather couches are gorgeous, and incredibly comfortable. As a result, it's a tragedy when they get dirty or damaged. Here's how to clean a leather couch quickly and effectively.

Some home remedies will help you clean your leather couch.
Some home remedies will help you clean your leather couch.  © Unsplash / Paul Weaver

Everybody loves a good leather couch. They're comfortable, they look great, and are tremendously popular.

What they're not, though, is cheap. If you're going to buy something as expensive as a leather couch, you're going to want to take care of it.

Leather couches need to be cleaned regularly if you want them to maintain their luster. Stubborn stains can contaminate the gorgeous leather that you paid so much for, as can coffee, red wine, and food.

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So what's the deal?

With this collection of tips and tricks, household remedies, and preventative measures, TAG24's guide is going to take you through everything you need to know about how to clean a leather couch.

Cleaning a leather couch: The TLDR highlights

You want to keep your leather couch elastic and soft, as comfortable as can be, and as stylish as when you got it from the furniture store.

Here's a quick rundown:

  • Every type of leather needs to be treated differently. Soft cloths and mild soaps are suitable for smoother leather types, while suede should really only be treated with soft brushes and dry cleaners.
  • Washable leather should only be treated with distilled or boiled water, but never soaked.
  • Aggressive cleaners, especially those which contain fat solvents, and microfiber cloths are not suitable for cleaning a leather couch.
  • All leather furniture should be cleaned of dust and dirt at least once a week.
  • Specialty cleaners, such as leather soap, are suitable for the cleaning of stubborn dirt and stains.
  • There are many home remedies that can help clean a leather couch. Some of these include potato flour, baking soda, and curd soap.
  • After intensive cleaning, a leather couch should be covered with leather grease or leather care milk to provide UV and color protection, and increase the couch's longevity.
  • Use a sealant to prevent dirt from getting deep into the pores of a leather couch.
Soft cloths are your best bet for effective leather couch cleaning.
Soft cloths are your best bet for effective leather couch cleaning.  © 123RF / Nobilior

What you should know about cleaning real leather

It's much, much, much easier to clean imitation leather than it is to clean the real stuff.

That's not so surprising, right? In the end, if it wasn't for the ease of cleaning and the cheaper price, then there would be absolutely no point to the "fake" stuff.

Yet, genuine leather is the seat of real luxury, and it requires similar care to that of human skin. A piece of leather furniture like a couch is exposed to everyday stresses, losing moisture and elasticity. Leather must be cared for properly, and that care must be specific to whatever type of leather that you have.

As a general rule, it's recommend that any treatment you apply is relatively careful and delicate. Smoother leather has sealed pores and is a little more water-repellent than the others, while rough leather has a sanded and open-pored surface that feels great but is harder to clean.

And let's not forget suede, which is significantly rougher and should only be treated with dry cleaning agents.

Depending on the roughness of the leather you are treating, you will need to clean it a different way. Whatever way, though, you want to keep the couch from being stained and be as cautious as possible.

Best ways to clean a leather couch

There are quite a few different ways to clean a leather couch thoroughly and effectively. Here are a couple of things that you should keep in mind:

  • Under no circumstance should you ever soak leather. This will lead to severe and irreversible water stains.
  • Make sure to only use distilled, boiled, or bottled water to clean a leather couch. Tap water could leave lime stains.
  • Never use microfiber cloths to clean a couch, as they can cause scratches.
  • Absolutely never use aggressive cleaning agents, especially those with fat solvents, as they dry out the leather.

If you own a leather couch that has a water-repellent surface, you should make sure to carefully wash it with dry dust cloths. For rough leather, though, you really should use a furniture brush or the soft attachment of a vacuum cleaner.

Your choice of cleaning agent should always be chosen based on the type of washing required, though, to make sure that you maintain your leather couch properly.

When caring for suede, a vacuum cleaner with a soft attachment can be used.
When caring for suede, a vacuum cleaner with a soft attachment can be used.  © 123RF / Cunaplus

Best home remedies for cleaning leather couches

If you don't really feel like buying an expensive leather care product, there are a number of easy home remedies that you can try out. Household remedies won't guarantee a perfect result – that's what those expensive-as-heck products are for - but that doesn't mean that they aren't worth giving it a go.

Here are a couple of quick and easy home remedies:

  • Baking soda and powder can quickly remove unpleasant odors from your leather couch. They should be applied to the applicable area and then vacuumed after a few hours. Using a soft brush, of course.
  • Potatoes aren't just great fried, they're also great for grease stains if they're applied as a powder. Well, a flour – potato flour. Use the same method as with baking soda.
  • Mix vinegar and water in a 50:50 ratio and apply it to remove more stubborn stains.

While something like suede is ridiculously sensitive, and you need to be crazy careful when handling it, you can be a bit more liberal with a smoother leather. Grab a little baby wipe, or some curd soap, and get cleaning. If you don't have anything like that on hand, grab your shampoo and mix it with some water.

To summarize, you can wash and clean your leather couch with home remedies like soap and vinegar. Yet, proper leather-cleaning agents are definitely best.

How to get grease out of leather couches

If you're a little silly and decide to not bother giving your leather couch a quick clean every now and again, a layer of skin grease, abrasions, and food grease will develop.

Doesn't sound comfortable or smell nice, does it? Let's get rid of it!

To clean a greasy leather sofa, you should first give it a soft brush and get all of the dirt, dust, and sandy particles off the surface. After this, use a dry dust cloth or a few baby wipes (the latter only if it is smooth leather) to wipe down the greasy bits. Try using a soft vacuum cleaner attachment for rougher leathers, or furniture brushes if you want to be more thorough.

Once you have removed all the loose particles, purchase a grease-dissolving specialty leather cleaner or cleansing foam. Make sure that your choice is based on the type of leather couch you have and, after cleaning, try not to use the couch for a few days to let it settle. Keep in mind that the right care product will prevent the leather from drying out and cracking, so choose wisely.

You can get stubborn stains out of a white leather couch through wet wipes, a curd soap, or a milk-water mixture.
You can get stubborn stains out of a white leather couch through wet wipes, a curd soap, or a milk-water mixture.  © 123RF / 罗 宏志

How to clean a white leather couch

While white leather couches look fantastic, they are even more susceptible to showing stains than standard leather.

Through the use of the right product, however, it is very easy to clean a white leather couch. Feel free to use soft cloths and brushes to remove less resistant stains and dirt.

The most important thing when cleaning anything leather, though, is getting to it as soon as possible. Before cleaning the couch, make sure that you have soaked up any liquid that might be causing problems. Remember to dab (and we mean with a cloth). If a stain is particularly stubborn, try using baking soda and soaking it overnight before vacuuming with a soft brush.

If your furniture is open-pored suede, you are going to need to avoid any kind of liquid cleaning agents. Instead, use a soft leather brush and some carpet foam that is labeled as safe for cleaning leather. Feel free to use some sandpaper or leather eraser to roughen up the white leather again, and get that lovely texture the way you want it.

For most white leather couches, you are going to already have smooth leather, though. For these bad-boys, use wet wipes, a curd soap, or a milk-water mixture (in a 1:2 ratio) to get rid of stubborn stains. Degreased milk is also great, and proper leather cleaning products are perfect for cleaning a white leather couch and giving it a fresh shine.

What to clean a leather couch with

There are many different options when cleaning a leather couch, but also some to avoid. When it comes to the active cleaning of leather, it is important to choose things that aren't going to soak into your couch and create permanent stains.

Some of the best things to use when cleaning a leather couch include:

  • 50:50 vinegar and water solution
  • Baking soda or powder
  • Potato flour
  • Specific "leather cleaning" products with a mild PH-balance.

Make sure to never use harsh commercial products on your leather couch, or things like olive oil or fingernail polish remover. These could easily leave a nasty stain, and you don't want that.

Prevent stains in a leather couch

Leather can quickly lose its moisture, becoming dirty and dry in an indoor climate and with regular use. This doesn't look particularly lovely, and can end up causing cracked and flaking leather that's a far cry from what you want as a proud leather couch owner. In other words, it's incredibly important to properly clean and care for your couch regularly.

By regularly treating your couch and looking after it well, you will stop it from drying out or forming grease stains. As a result, we recommend a weekly cleaning schedule for not only your leather couch, but any leather furniture that you might have. In addition, you should properly treat it with a commercial product at least twice a year.

Here are three recommended tips for a twice-yearly couch clean:

  • Tip 1: Before using any leather care products, first thoroughly clean and dust your couch.
  • Tip 2: After cleaning your leather couch, use a proper leather moisturizer to grease and treat it.
  • Tip 3: You should also spritz the leather with a specialty spray to help prevent the absorption of dirt.

There are a variety of products that can help you properly care for your leather couch. Some serve to protect it from damaging UV rays and from drying out, while others serve to polish the leather and make your couch shine bright like a diamond. Finally, use leather glue to repair any cracks that may have already appeared in the leather sofa.

If you effectively moisturize, polish, and clean your leather couch on a regular basis, you and your friends will be using it for years to come.

Cleaning a leather couch: Tips to remember

The most important thing when figuring out how to clean your leather couch is to establish what kind of leather it is. If the leather is rough, or suede, you need to be especially careful, whilst smooth leather is more forgiving. Either way, if you want your couch to stay beautiful, you need to regularly clean and cure that leather.

Remember to not only clean, but grease this bad boy. The moisturizing effect that comes from properly greasing your couch will ensure that it will have a well-loved life that will last a very, very long time.

Cover photo: Unsplash / Paul Weaver

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