How to clean leather couch like a pro

Cleaning dust and stains off your leather couch doesn’t have to stress you out. Follow this guide, or find a Tasker to help you out.

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A leather couch has a unique way of making a space look more stylish and sophisticated. It can also be a bit pricey, so maintaining its beauty is a must. After all, if you’re into saving money and making sustainable choices, you wouldn’t want to keep replacing your furniture every few years or so.

Luckily, this guide on how to clean leather couches can help you out. You’ll find tips for cleaning different types of leather couches: real leather, faux, and suede. The best part? You won’t need fancy cleaning supplies for this job. In fact, you probably already have most of the recommended cleansers in your home!

Top tips for leather couch maintenance

Before we go into the details of couch cleaning, here are a few important reminders to keep in mind.

  • Read the care manual that comes with your leather couch, and note the cleaning products recommended for you to use and avoid.

  • Position your leather couch away from direct sunlight. Sunlight will dry up the natural oils on leather and cause it to stiffen and crack. It can also cause the colour of your couch to fade.

  • Clean your light-coloured leather couch at least once every six months.

  • Clean your dark-coloured leather couch at least once a year.

  • Remove stains and marks as soon as you see them. Letting them set will make them more difficult or time-consuming to clean.

  • You can apply home furniture polish (ideally, the kind that prevents dust build-up) on your couch once a month to keep it looking shiny and brand new.

  • If you cleaned your couch with a cleaning solution, don’t forget to wipe it dry right after. Water can wear out leather if you leave it to dry on its own.

How to clean a leather couch

The best way to clean leather couch involves three stages: vacuuming, stain removal, and leather conditioning. To start going through these stages, here are the items you’ll need if your couch is made with real leather:

  • A vacuum cleaner
  • Microfibre cloths
  • Mild dish soap
  • Baking soda
  • Leather cleaner or conditioner
Pro tip: Use a 2-in-1 leather cleaner and conditioner to save more time. 

How to vacuum your leather couch

  1. Remove the seat and back cushions and vacuum them.
  2. Vacuum the rest of the couch and remove any loose dirt and crumbs. If you can’t remove the cushions, make sure you put the right attachment on and vacuum the crevices.

How to remove stains on your leather couch

  1. Dip a clean cloth into a bowl with warm water and dish soap solution.
  2. Wring it out and rub the damp cloth in small circles around the stain to buff it out. Avoid rubbing back and forth, so there’s no unnecessary wear and tear.
  3. If the stain is caused by grease, a dry cloth with a bit of baking soda should work to absorb it.
  4. Wipe the couch dry with a rag.

How to use a leather cleaner and conditioner

  1. Spray the leather cleaner (or a 2-in1 cleaner and conditioner) onto a cloth. Don’t spray directly on your couch.
  2. Lightly rub it all around the couch, including the edges and nooks. Work from top to bottom and try to keep all of your wipes even.
  3. If you are not using a 2-in-1 product, wipe away any excess cleaner before applying a leather conditioner.
  4. Apply a small amount of conditioner onto a clean cloth and get to work. The conditioner leaves a lovely smell while moisturising the leather.
  5. Once you’ve finished with the conditioner, let the leather dry for an hour or so. 

Note that you can also use a leather furniture polish after conditioning your couch. After the conditioner moisturised the leather, the polish will give it a shiny finish while making any scuffs less visible.

With that, you're now all done with cleaning and conditioning your leather couch!  Your couch is now shiny, stain-free, and looking good as new.

Important: Avoid using any harsh chemicals like alcohol or leather shoe polish during your clean. These aren’t made for real leather and will likely do more harm than good.

How to clean a faux leather couch

You may have gone for a faux leather couch if you don’t like the idea of real leather (for all animal lovers) or if you want the look of leather for a fraction of the cost. Faux or fake leather requires slightly different care, mainly because its material may include polyvinyl chloride or vinyl.

Here are the materials you’ll need to keep your faux leather couch in pristine condition: 

Steps to clean your faux leather couch

  1. Vacuum the couch with the brush attachment, covering any cracks or crevices.
  2. Mix liquid dish soap or a mild household detergent with warm water.
  3. Wipe the couch with a clean rag dampened with the detergent solution.
  4. Rinse the cloth, then wipe down the couch a second time to remove the detergent and dry the excess moisture.
  5. Dip a cotton ball in vinyl stain remover or rubbing alcohol to clear off any stains, then rinse the area with a cloth damped with water.
  6. Finally, wipe dry your couch with a clean cloth. 

Note that the materials of faux leather couches can vary, so you should read the care tag on the bottom of the couch to ensure you have the proper cleaning materials. Chemical cleaners with bleach are usually unsuitable for faux leather.

Additionally, faux leather sometimes comes treated with a stain preventer. If it does not, you can buy and add a protective-finish spray to create another layer of protection for your couch.

How to clean a suede leather couch

Gray suede leather couch

Leather couch cleaning is trickier when dealing with delicate fabric like suede. You must take extra measures to protect your couch from wear and tear. Some materials you’ll need are:

  • An upholstery cleaner specifically for suede
  • A well-ventilated space with open windows
  • A painter’s face mask
  • A suede napping brush
  • A suede rubbing cloth
  • A vacuum cleaner
  • Brown gum eraser
  • A dry sponge
  • A waterproofing spray (optional)

As a weekly task, spray your suede couch with a suede-friendly stain repellent. This will protect your couch from stains (especially if you or your family like to bring food and drinks to your couch) and make cleaning much easier. 

Steps to clean your suede couch:

  1. Test your chosen cleaning product on a hidden area of the couch (e.g. the underside or behind cushions) to ensure it doesn’t damage the suede.
  2. Remove the cushions and vacuum any trapped dust or crumbs.
  3. Wipe down with a suede brush.
  4. For stains, moisten a clean cloth with suede cleaner and gently rub the affected area in small circular motions. Let the area dry then polish with the suede cloth.
  5. If there are dry stains, brush them gently with a suede brush then use a brown gum eraser to remove the stains. A small piece of sandpaper can also be used here if the stain is stubborn, but make sure you do this very gently.
  6. Finally, when the stain is gone, use a suede brush to neaten your couch.

How to clean urine from leather couch

Two puppies sitting on a leather couch

If you’re living with pets or babies, getting pee and pee stains out of your couch could be another problem you have to deal with. Luckily, you have a bunch of options for the job: dish soap, vinegar, or a store-bought urine stain cleaner.

  1. Soak up the urine from your couch using a rag or paper towels.

  2. If your couch has a removable cover and stuffing, remove the stuffing so you can wash it later. 

  3. Dip a soft cloth into your chosen cleanser (or spray the cleanser on the cloth) and gently clean the leather.

  4. Rewipe as needed or until the stain and odour are gone.

  5. Dry the leather and then recondition it using a leather conditioner.

  6. Finally, wash the stuffing and put it back on your couch once it’s dry.

Some people hesitate to use vinegar on leather, but vinegar is actually safe to use. Not only does it remove dirt and stains, but it also helps deodorise your leather couch.

No time for DIY couch cleaning?

No worries if you’re too busy to deep clean your leather couch. Just don’t wait too long before cleaning those visible stains – they’ll become harder to clean the longer you wait.

Another good option is to just let somebody else do the cleaning. You can hire a leather couch cleaning service or, if you want, hire someone to clean and freshen up your entire home or living room.

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Leather Couch Cleaning FAQs

Household products like white vinegar, baking soda, and dish soap are safe to use on leather. Just be sure to test on a small, hidden area on your couch before using the product on the entire leather furniture. Also, dry your couch after cleaning to avoid softening and wearing out the leather.

Depending on the type of leather your couch is made of, there are a few cleaning products you should keep your couch from.

For real leather, avoid using rubbing alcohol, baby wipes, leather shoe polish, and other harsh chemicals.

For faux leather, avoid bleach, coarse sponges, and abrasive cloth.

For suede leather, avoid acetone and avoid soaking the leather in any liquid (like water and vinegar) for long periods.

Yes, as long as you use a setting or temperature that’s suitable for leather. To stay on the safe side, it’s best to hire a steam cleaning service instead of attempting to steam clean on your own.

At the minimum, you should clean a light-coloured leather once every six months and a dark-coloured leather couch once a year. As for stains, grease, and urine, you must clean them off your couch as soon as possible.

The cost ranges from $50 to $200, depending on the condition of your couch and any other requests you have for the cleaner. You can check out this couch cleaning cost guide for more information.

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