How to Clean Leather

Leather has such a nice look and feel to it. Whether it is clothing or furniture, the smooth texture against your skin is such a luxury. Leather is an elegant material that enhances almost any setting. Unfortunately, leather can be somewhat troublesome to clean. Stains can be hard to remove and if you use the wrong cleaners, you run the risk of damaging the leather. Considering how much leather accessories can cost, that can be an expensive mistake.

Having an pricey jacket or a nice leather couch covered in stains can look tacky. As an investment, you want them to look as good as possible. But if they have some stains or unsightly spots on them, you need to know the proper way in how to clean leather.

Why Is Leather So Hard To Clean

Leather comes in many different styles and finishes. Some are tanned while others have colors dyed into them. All require separate means of cleaning. Cleaners that work on one type of leather might not work on another. It all depends on the handling instructions for that particular type of leather.

Leather comes in two basic styles: finished and unfinished. Finished leather is the type most commonly seen in clothing and furniture. Jackets, boots, purses, and couches are all examples of finished leather. Unfinished leather is found in things like tools, baseball gloves, and some western accessories. Every type of leather is delicate and very susceptible to changes in temperature and weather so care must be taken to keep it in good shape.

The hardest thing about cleaning leather is that the cleaning process can change the leather’s appearance. Since leather is essentially animal skin, it can suffer from much of the same problems as any other type of skin. It can dry out and crack or become permanently stained. Any special coats or finishes that the manufacturer applied to the leather can be damaged as well, creating a worn and weathered look. Finished leather is much easier to clean than unfinished because the finish that a manufacturer puts on the leather acts as a barrier to help protect it.

Tools To Clean Leather

Before you start scrubbing away on your favorite coat, you need to gather the right tools. Unless your leather has seen some serious wear and tear, you generally don’t need to buy any expensive cleaners.

Cleaning Leather Tips

How to Clean Leather

How to Clean Leather

Before you get started be sure to review the following cleaning leather tips. The first step to cleaning leather is to take a cloth, get it damp, and apply just a little soap to it. Do not put the soap directly on the leather. You want to use small amounts applied with a rag. To get the rag damp, you can run it under a tap of warm water or get a bowl of warm water and dip a corner of the rag into it. The rag should not be soaking wet. Its okay if the leather is a little damp afterwards but you don’t want it dripping.

Before you start wiping down the entire piece of leather, test out a small corner somewhere to make sure the leather isn’t going to be harmed by cleaning it. Even though it is only warm water and soap, you don’t want to ruin the leather by drying it out or leaving a permanent dark stain. If the leather tests out okay, proceed with the cleaning.

Cleaning Leather Techniques

It’s easy to take a rushed approach when cleaning leather. Techniques such using the right amount of water to dampen a cloth can be easily overlooked.  Be sure to pay attention to details outlined in this guide in order to get the best results.

Using the damp rag with the soap, gently rub the soapy lather across the leather. Don’t use a lot of lather, just leave a thin skim. Clean the leather until you have covered the entire surface and all the dirt and stains have been removed.

Your next step is going to be removing the soap. The best way to do this is to take another damp rag and gently wipe away any of the soapy residue. DO NOT RINSE THE LEATHER WITH RUNNING WATER. Leather is not completely water-resistant. It is an animal hide which means it’s porous so it will eventually absorb all that water. Getting it too wet will dry the leather out and that is a sure fire way to ruin it. Plus, it will take days to completely dry from being wet.

Once you have wiped off all of the soap, you need to dry the leather. Do this by using another soft clean rag but don’t wet this one. You’re drying it, remember? Wipe the entire surface down until all the excess water is gone. At this point the leather may still be damp from absorbing some of the water. Let the leather sit awhile and completely dry before you condition it.

After the leather has dried completely, you need to condition the material. Even a gentle cleaning with soap and water can dry it out so the leather will need to have its oils replenished. You can get all kinds of different leather finishes and conditioners made especially for that purpose. But the best item to use is actually olive oil and chances are you already have it in your kitchen. Take a clean dry rag and put just a little olive oil on it. Use the rag to rub the oil into the leather. Don’t use too much or you’ll end up with a really greasy piece of leather. A little olive oil goes a long way. After you’ve conditioned it, let it dry again.

If you are cleaning a piece of unfinished leather, you can use the same steps above but you will need to use a glycerine-based soap, also known as “saddle soap”. You can find this at any decent leather shop, saddle shop, or even stores that carry a lot of leather items such as clothing and shoe retail stores. And remember, when in doubt about how to properly clean leather, you can always take it to a dry cleaner for assistance.

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