Last update: 3 years ago
Leather sofas bring a certain elegance to a room. They are comfortable luxuries that can last a lifetime if treated properly. Although leather couches can be horrendously expensive, their longevity far outweighs the cost. So, to get the most out of your sofa, you will have to learn how to look after it.
Before you rush to clean your leather sofa, you should know that different types of upholstered leather have different cleaning requirements. Keep reading to find out how to identify which type of leather your furniture is made from, as well as how to clean it.
Types of leather
The easiest way to find out which type of leather your furniture is made from is by checking the manufacturer’s label or any documentation that came with the sofa. If either of these is missing, you can always check for information on the manufacturer’s website. If you bought your sofa second-hand or have lost the care instructions, below we have outlined the two most common types of leather that are used for furniture upholstery.
Protected, or semi-aniline leather, is the most common type used in the making of furniture upholstery. This type of leather is treated with aniline dye, as well as an additional layer of pigment protection. The extra treatment makes the leather much tougher, more stain-resistant and gives it a more uniform look.
Some protected leather pieces are treated with thicker layers of pigment, which gives additional protection against the general wear and tear of daily use. Durability is not the only aspect affected by heavy pigment treatments. The leather will also often become stiffer and take on a shinier appearance.
Unprotected, or aniline leather, is a more expensive option despite the fact that it’s treated with a less protective pigment. Full aniline leather feels much softer and extravagant than it’s protected cousin. The lack of an additional layer of pigment also allows the natural and unique grain and markings to show. Furniture, upholstered with unprotected leather, may not be as durable or stain-resistant as protected leather, but it does provide a sumptuous sensory feast.
DIY or not
There is a small debate currently raging within the cleaning community regarding the use of homemade cleaning solutions on leather furniture. Proponents of home remedies maintain that they are safe and just as effective as commercial products for a fraction of the cost. Defenders of commercial leather cleaners argue that many of the home remedies consist of damaging ingredients which can cause substantial long-term damage to both leather and pigmentation.
It is also worth noting that the use of a homemade cleaning solution may void the warranty which comes with most new leather sofas.
When including a leather sofa in your weekly cleaning routine, you can simply lightly dust it with a soft cloth or a duster. If the sofa is used a lot, use a vacuum cleaner with its soft brush attachment to get rid of dirt, dust, and crumbs.
Dmitri Kara, cleaning expert
Tips for cleaning leather
How to clean semi-aniline leather
As protected leather is more durable, it will not mind being regularly cleaned. However, you should avoid using bleach, saddle soap, dish soap, and any other product with caustic ingredients as they can cause substantial damage to the leather very quickly.
The use of commercial leather cleaning products is highly recommended for sofas upholstered with protected leather. This will help ensure that your furniture stays looking great and in top condition for longer.
How to clean aniline leather
Due to its lack of a protective pigment layer, unprotected leather cannot be cleaned in the same way as protected leather can. A lot of manufacturers recommend simply dusting the sofa and vacuuming it using a soft brush attachment. This is done because the soft leather can be easily scratched from more intensive cleaning. If the care instructions allow for it, you may also gently wipe the sofa with a soft cloth, dampened with distilled water.
If the leather is stained, you should consult the care instructions or ask a professional upholstery cleaner for advice on whether a commercial leather cleaning product can be used. Before using any leather cleaner, test it on a hidden area of the sofa to ensure that it will not cause any damage, discolouration, or any other side effects.
Need a Cleaner?
Enter your postcode to view our rates and availability in your area.
How to Clean a Leather Sofa
What you will need:
- 1 soft cloth – a microfibre cloth is the best option;
- Leather furniture cleaner;
- 1 large bowl or basin;
- Distilled water;
- A vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment;
- A clean, dry towel.
- Start off by vacuuming the sofa with the soft brush attachment. Be sure to get into all of the crevices where dirt and crumbs like to hide. Try to remove all dust, dirt, and debris as they could scratch the leather when you start cleaning.
- Read and follow the instructions on your leather furniture cleaner. Test the product on an inconspicuous area before you tackle the visible areas.
- If directed to dilute the leather cleaning product, dip the cloth in the mixture until it is damp, but not soaking wet. If the leather furniture can be used undiluted, move to step 4.
- Start wiping the sofa with your cloth, starting from the top and working your way down. Be sure to rinse the cloth as needed.
- Dry off the sofa with a clean towel. Don’t try to save time by using a hairdryer. This will cause the leather to become dehydrated and cracks in the leather will begin to form.
Where possible, do not expose your leather sofa to sunlight. This will cause the leather to age prematurely, become discoloured, or form cracks. Try to keep your sofa away from other sources of heat, such as radiators, heating vents, and air conditioning units.
Mark Clark, Fantastic Cleaners
How to remove stains from leather furniture
Sometimes accidents happen, and this is an unavoidable part of life. Regardless of the precautions you take, someone will spill something on your nice, expensive leather sofa sooner or later. Luckily, you will be prepared for this eventuality with our stain removal guide below.
Grease stains on a leather sofa can be a nightmare to remove if allowed to set, so we recommend taking action as soon as possible after noticing the stain.
The best way to remove grease stains, caused by food or beauty products, is through the use of a commercial leather furniture cleaner.
- Blot the stain with a soft cloth to remove as much of the grease as possible
- Cover the affected area with your preferred leather cleaning product and let it dry.
- If the stain is still there, cover it with baking soda. Let it sit for a few hours and then brush it away.
We’ve all been in this situation. You need to sign a card or quickly write something down when, all of a sudden, disaster strikes and you drop your fountain pen on the sofa, leaving an unsightly ink stain… Well, maybe not. But ink stains do happen and, when they do, you need to know how to deal with them.
- Dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol; it should be slightly damp, not drenched.
- Carefully blot the stained area without soaking the leather.
- Once you have removed the stain, lightly clean the leather with a damp cloth.
- Following this, use a clean rag or towel to dry the leather.
Mould and mildew
Mould and mildew are not only unpleasant to look at, but also smell bad and can cause respiratory issues. The method for removing mould and mildew is, thankfully, quite simple.
- Mix equal parts of distilled water and rubbing alcohol.
- Wipe all areas affected by mould or mildew.
- Once the fungi are removed, wipe the sofa with a damp cloth.
- Dry with a clean towel.
This mixture can also be used to sanitize or disinfect a leather sofa that was purchased second hand.
The most common stains that sofas suffer from are caused by drinks, such as water, juice, wine, tea, and coffee. When a spill happens, you should take action immediately. If you allow a spill to dry, it will leave spotty stains which are incredibly difficult to remove.
- Blot the liquid with a cloth. Do not rub it to avoid spreading it further.
- Clean the area with a leather sofa cleaner and a soft cloth.
- Dry the area with a clean towel.
Conditioning a leather sofa
Source: Shutterstock / Courtesy of Serena Carminati
Conditioning a leather sofa may seem like an extravagant and over-the-top step to take when you have already taken the time to keep your sofa clean. This may be true, but if you want to keep the leather soft and in prime condition, you should apply a good leather conditioner at least once or twice a year after cleaning.
- Read and follow the instructions on the label of the leather conditioner.
- Test a small amount on a hidden area before applying it to the entire sofa.
- Apply the conditioner to your sofa using a soft, or microfibre, cloth.
- Work from top to bottom using circular motions.
- Let the leather conditioner dry overnight.
- Use a clean, soft cloth to buff the leather on the following day. Start at the top and work down using small circular motions to restore the shine of your leather sofa.
We think you’ll like…
So, there we have it, your guide to cleaning a leather sofa. For best results, lightly maintain your sofa on a regular basis using a commercial leather cleaner, avoid using household products when cleaning the leather because they can damage it, and use a leather conditioner once or twice a year. If you follow these steps, your sofa will look great for years to come and will remain as welcoming as on the day you brought it home.
Need a Cleaner?
Enter your postcode to view our rates and availability in your area.
Did we miss anything? Do you have any tips for cleaning a leather sofa? Let us know in the comments below or give us a shout on social media!
Picture source: Shutterstock / Courtesy of