How to clean your leather sofa (in 5 easy steps)


A how-to on keeping your leather sofa looking its best.

Leather sofas are a great choice for many reasons – they’re stylish, timeless, durable… and perhaps best of all, they’re relatively easy to clean.

For a regular weekly or fortnightly clean, a quick vacuum or wipe down with a dry cloth will do. But even the most careful among us might look at a white or cream leather sofa and worry, or fuss over a spilled drink.

So here’s our step-by-step guide (with bonus tips) to have your leather sofa looking pristine. This approach works best when you have a stain that needs lifting, or as a deep clean every 3 months, or twice a year.

What you’ll need:

  1. A vacuum cleaner (optional)
  2. Two or more microfibre cloths
  3. Saddle soap/white vinegar/gentle soap
  4. Leather cream

Let’s get started!

1. Vacuum or wipe any dirt away

First of all, physically remove any dirt or grime from the surface of your leather sofa. This will avoid it from being inadvertently rubbed into the sofa when you’re wiping it down with the cleaning solution.

A good option here is to use the soft brush attachment on the vacuum cleaner to avoid scratches. But if you don’t have a vacuum cleaner, a dry microfibre cloth would also do the trick – and is important for Step 3 too!

2. Prepare a cleaning solution using household products

When it comes to choosing the right soap or cleaner for your leather sofa, the main rule of thumb: the gentler, the better. A few options work well here, and most are household items readily available in your bathroom or pantry!

A mild PH-balanced soap (such as Dove) is the very best choice for cleaning leather – either in bar form or by mixing a few drops into some warm water for a very diluted mixture. For a natural approach, a simple dilution of 50:50 white vinegar and water can do the trick. This is an effective, yet gentle stain remover for most types of upholstery and leather is no exception.

Lastly, saddle soaps, or soaps specifically made for leather, are an option, but they also run the risk of darkening or hardening the surface of your sofa.

3. Test it on a small section of the sofa

Whichever option you choose, try using it on a small section of the sofa first – preferably somewhere that isn’t highly visible. Apply a small amount, and let it dry out to ensure that it looks the way you want it to and there isn’t discolouration.

4. Clean the sofa with a microfibre cloth

Now we get to it! You’ll need two soft microfibre cloths, one for cleaning the sofa and one for drying it. First, dip one cloth into the cleaning liquid and wring it out – it should be damp, and not dripping wet. If you’re using bar soap, dampen the cloth and swipe it across the surface of the soap.

Now, working from top to bottom, rub the cloth gently but firmly along the surface, taking care to go into the corners. Continue to rinse the cloth in the cleaning solution as and when you need it. Once you’re done, use the other cloth, and gently buff the sofa dry for a lovely polish. There’s no need to rinse the solution out, but it’s crucial to thoroughly dry the sofa to ensure there’s no risk of mildew or mould.

5. Apply a leather conditioner

To keep your leather sofa in tip-top condition, use leather cream or conditioner to restore moisture and suppleness. This is best used every 6 to 12 months, though it’s also best to check the care label on your sofa’s upholstery to find the best option.

Bonus Tips:
It’s always best for stains to be dealt with right away – blot up spilled water, food, oil or ink as soon as you can before it has time to set. Rubbing alcohol can be carefully used to lift ink stains, and baking soda works well on grease marks.

Have the unfortunate luck of ballpoint ink marks on your sofa? We have a useful guide to safely removing biro stains from a leather sofa that’s worth a read.

Finally, when in doubt – take it to the experts! They’re the best people to advise you on cleaning and preserving your leather sofa without doing more damage.