How To

How to clean leather couch so it looks brand new

By Luke Carlino

Updated: May 7th, 2020

Nothing is better than a clean leather couch that never needs to be replaced. 

If taken care of properly, leather can last forever. All you really need to achieve this is the right amount of care and upkeep. Learning how to clean leather couch furniture to keep it looking shiny and brand new means that your purchase will be well worth the dollars and never need to be replaced.

So here’s the proper technique of a leather cleaning process that will have your couch looking beautiful in no time. This is also a great technique to use if you want to get the best out of a second-hand leather couch purchase if you are looking at a more sustainable and ethical way of getting some new furniture.

Top tips for a clean leather couch

Leather couch maintenance is an on-going job, and here are some quick tips to always keep in mind when looking to care for your couch:

  • The most important leather maintenance tip is to keep your couch away from the sun so it won’t fade.
  • You can use home furniture polish once a month to give your leather a nice finish.
  • Refreshed and renewed leather will last for years with regular maintenance.
  • A light-coloured leather couch should be cleaned every six months.
  • A dark-coloured leather only requires a clean once a year.

How to clean your leather couch

The steps below will make the cleaning of your leather couch a simple part of your regular cleaning routine. First, let’s start with the items you’ll need for your clean:

Equipment

  • Leather conditioner or cleaner
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Mild dish soap
  • Baking soda

Leather couch cleaning steps

There are clearly defined stages of cleaning a leather sofa – vacuum, stain cleaning and leather cleaning / conditioning.

Vacuuming a leather couch

1. Remove seat and back cushions and vacuum them.

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

Leather couch stain removal

3.  Dip a clean cloth into warm water that has been mixed with dish soap.

4. 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.

5. If your stain has been caused by grease, a dry cloth with a little baking soda should work to absorb it.

6. To dry the sofa get a dry rag to wipe down as remaining water from the last step will weaken leather if left to dry.

Leather cleaner and conditioner

7. Spray the cleaner onto a cloth (not the furniture)

8. 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.

9. Wipe away any excess cleaner and begin conditioning (if you are not using a 2-in-1).

Tip: Some products are 2-in-1 with a cleaner and conditioner which will save you some time.

10. Apply a small amount of conditioner onto a clean cloth and get to work. The conditioner leaves a lovely smell while moisturising the leather to make things look brand new.

11. Once you’ve finished with the conditioner, let the leather dry for an hour or so, and then you are all done! Your leather couch should look like new.

It is critical that you avoid using any harsh chemicals like alcohol or leather shoe polish during your clean. These aren’t made for leather couches and will likely do more harm than good.

How to clean faux-leather couch

If you don’t like the idea of real leather (for all the animal lovers) or you want the look of leather for a fraction of the cost, you may have gone for a faux-leather couch. If so, it’s essential to know that they do require different care as the upholstery material is often a plastic leather that contains materials such as polyvinyl chloride, or vinyl.

Because of this, chemical cleaners can cause some damage to the material, making it stiff. To keep your faux-leather couch looking and feeling its best you’ll need:

Equipment

  • A vacuum with a brush attachment
  • Mild detergent
  • Vinyl stain remover or rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton balls
  • Rags

Faux-leather couch cleaning steps

1. Vacuum the couch with the brush attachment covering any cracks or crevices and remove the cushions.

2. Mix liquid dish soap or a mild household detergent with warm water.

3. Wipe the couch with a clean rag that has been 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 immediately flush the area with water.

6. Cleaning regularly is important because abrasive dirt particles can scratch the faux-materials, so regular vacuuming is a good idea.

Tip: Make sure you avoid chemical cleaners or anything that contains bleach.

In some cases, your faux-leather will come treated with a stain preventer. If it does not, you can buy and add protective-finish spray to create another layer of protection to your couch.

You should take note of the fact 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.

How to clean suede leather couches

When it comes to cleaning a more delicate fabric like suede, you need to ensure both a stain-free environment while also protecting your couch from wear and tear.

Equipment

  • 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 the couch with a suede-friendly stain repellent covering each section covering the entire couch weekly to protect from accidental spills and make cleaning much easier. Some suede-protecting products will need 2-3 coats to work properly, this should be mentioned in their instructions.

Steps to clean your suede couch:

1. Test your chosen cleaning product first on an unseen area of the couch to ensure it doesn’t negatively affect the suede e.g. the underside or behind cushions.

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 in small circular motions. Let the area dry then polish with the suede cloth.

5. If you have a dry stain, brush it gently with a suede brush then use a brown gum eraser to remove the stain (a small piece of sandpaper can also be used here if the stain is stubborn but make sure you do this very gently).

6. When the stain is gone, use a suede brush to neaten.

Frequently asked questions on leather couch cleaning

What household products can you use to clean leather?

The following household products can be used to clean leather:

  • A vinegar rinse in a mix of 50-50 distilled water and white vinegar mixture
  • Apple cider vinegar (also mixed with water)
  • A natural oil in a bowl mixed as two parts oil with one part water or lemon juice (coconut, olive, or walnut oil is perfect)
  • Essential oils, usually 10-15 drops onto a microfiber cloth or sponge
  • A mild baby soap or detergent mixed with warm water and a few drops of vinegar

How do you deep clean a leather couch?

Deep cleaning a leather couch involves initial steps of vacuuming and dusting, followed by a moist cloth and leather cleaning solution to give the couch a standard clean.

Once you have done this, you’ll need a wet cleaning brush dipped in warm water to loosen-up the bristles.

From here, you need to add a leather cleaning solution, scrubbing the couch in a circular motion with light pressure, increasing gradually to get rid of dirt and marks.

What is a good leather cleaner?

A highly rated leather cleaner is the Leather Strong Cleaner by New Life, which is appropriate for leather furniture, car/boat/caravan leather interiors, shoes, handbags, and more.

Add a microfibre cleaning sponge and a clean damp, cloth, and you are all set to achieve a great clean for your leather couch.

A little strapped for time?

If you are a little too busy to give you leather, faux-leather, or suede couch the attention it needs to stay brand new, there is another option! There are plenty of people who can come and clean your couch no matter the material or specifically leather cleaning for you to save time.

Want to learn a little bit more? Have a look at some other excellent how-to guides to spruce up your living room:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Luke Carlino

Luke Carlino is a freelance copywriter, social media manager and content creator based in Melbourne. He works for a range of clients across a plethora of industries and is also an accomplished musician with solo and band works online.

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