How to Clean a Leather Sofa

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How to Clean a Leather Sofa
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 Leather Sofa

Leather sofas can add a touch of class to any room, and come in many styles, from classic to contemporary. However, maintaining a leather sofa can be quite a challenge, and improper cleaning methods can damage the furniture. Using the right techniques to care for a leather couch minimizes wear and keeps the sofa looking fresh and new for years of enjoyment.

Different Types of Leather

There are a number of different types of leather, which are created using various processes that result in distinct textures and qualities. Before attempting to clean a leather sofa, it is important to find out what kind of leather the sofa is made of. Often, you can tell just by touching the leather, but to be sure, look for a label on the sofa or information in your owner’s guide, or contact the manufacturer. There are three broad varieties of leathers available on the market:

Aniline Leather

Aniline is top-grain, natural leather that is softened with oil, producing a buttery feel. It is arguably the most luxurious kind of leather, and it is also the most expensive. However, because it is not treated with any type of protective coating, it is not the most durable. Not only does it scar and mark easily, it fades very quickly as well. Even indirect light can change its color significantly. The best test to check the durability of leather is to run a fingernail gently on the surface; if it leaves a track, it is probably not suitable for rooms that are accessible to children and pets. In addition, aniline leather should only be cleaned by a professional.

Semi-Aniline Leather

Semi-aniline leather is similar to aniline in look and feel, but it is coated with a thin layer of protective pigment, giving it some durability. However, even with the protection, semi-aniline leather still marks easily if care is not taken. As the protective layer is quite thin, it is also liable to stain easily. It is possible to clean this kind of leather at home by carefully following the instructions given below, but it is important to use a leather conditioner once every few weeks.

Corrected-Grain Leather

Corrected-grain leather is made from hides that originally contained lots of imperfections, such as bite marks and scars. To correct these imperfections, an imitation leather grain is embossed on the surface. It is then coated with a thick protective pigment, which hides the imperfections further and gives the leather the durability it needs. This kind of leather is best suited for rooms that have lots of traffic in terms of children and pets. The advantage of corrected grain leather is that it is easy to clean, as the protective layer is quite thick, making the leather less susceptible to water damage.

Cleaning Instructions

Most modern leathers are treated with a protective top coating that should be safe to clean, but if in doubt, contact the manufacturer before attempting any cleaning process. In any case, test a cleaning product or procedure on an inconspicuous part of the sofa. If there is any discoloration or marking, it is obviously not a good idea to carry on. In that case, it may be a good idea to contact the manufacturer to find out what the best cleaning products are for that kind of leather.

The first thing to do is get rid of any coins or objects that may have gathered in the cracks and crevices of the sofa. Vacuum the sofa thoroughly with a vacuum cleaner that has a soft brush accessory. Take care that the leather is not scratched in the process. If the suction of the vacuum is too strong, use a handheld vacuum with less power to prevent leaving any marks.

Dissolve a few drops of extremely mild liquid soap into distilled water. Distilled water is recommended because chlorine content in tap water may discolor the sofa over a period of time. Avoid using any abrasive material on the sofa, as it may destroy the protective coating and scar the leather. Dip a soft cloth into the water, and wring it out as much as you can. Then, use this cloth to wipe the surface of the sofa gently. Places like the backrest, where the head meets the sofa, may need to be wiped with a dry cloth first to remove oils and dirt from hair or skin. Only use gentle circular motions on leather, as vigorous motions may scratch the surface. Using another damp soft cloth, wipe away any soap residue from the sofa. Finally, use another cloth, specifically for leather, to buff the sofa, giving it a shine. It is extremely important to make sure the sofa is completely dry after the cleaning process. Even though most leather sofas are covered with a protective pigment, some absorption is inevitable.

After cleaning the leather, it is a good idea to use a leather conditioner once every few months. This helps in preventing the leather from drying out and cracking. There is no need to apply too much conditioner. After application, make sure it soaks into the leather well, and you will start seeing the difference almost immediately.


Increasing the Life of Leather Sofas

Apart from regular cleaning and conditioning, there are certain things you need to keep in mind while taking care of leather sofas. This will not only increase the life of your sofa, but will leave it looking good for a long time to come.

Things to Avoid


Dye Transfer

Leather is extremely susceptible to dye transfer. Try not to sit on leather sofas with wet clothing, especially when wearing clothing colored with vegetable-based dyes that are prone to bleeding. These stains can be hard to remove. If color should seep onto a leather couch, wipe the mark with a damp cloth immediately.

Excessive Heat

Heat can cause leather to dry out and crack. If possible, make sure sofas are not extremely close to a heat source such as a radiator or a fireplace. Body heat can also cause damage. Avoid sitting on the same seat all the time.


Take care when drinking on or near the sofa. Even though most leather sofas have a protective layer, spilled liquids may result in discoloration. Gently blot spills with a cloth or paper towel. Do rub, as this may set the stain.

Excessive Light

If there is no one at home during the day, it might be a good idea to keep the curtains closed, as sunlight will fade leather.

Abrasive Materials

Avoid using abrasive materials to clean the sofa. Even baby wipes are alkaline based and might damage the protective pigment of the sofa. Bleach or ammonia-based cleaners also cannot be used. In addition, any cleaning material made of wax or silicone should also be avoided, as they may leave residue.

Taking measures like keeping the curtains closed during the day or treating stains as soon as possible will ensure that your sofa looks clean and fresh for a long time to come. Also, make sure that the rest of the family is also aware of the dos and don’ts when it comes to leather sofas.

Stain Removal

Removing stains from leather can be tricky, as the wrong technique, or an abrasive material, can destroy the protective coating. Even though there are a number of commercial stain removers, it is best to follow the instructions that came with the sofa or contact the manufacturer before trying a product. Also be wary of trying household remedies such as hair spray and bleach; these may be successful in getting rid of the stain but will permanently damage the protective layer of the sofa. In addition to this, keep in mind that leather is a forgiving material, and light stains often disappear on their own accord within a few days.

Water-Based Stains

Leather is a porous material, and even though there is a protective layer on most modern sofas, it is important to deal with water-based stains very quickly. Use a soft cloth to blot the excess water, and then let it air dry. If stains such as water rings persist on the sofas, blot the area gently with distilled water. Use a leather conditioner to make sure the leather doesn’t dry out.

Oil-Based Stains

Water doesn’t make any difference to oil-based stains. Use a dry cloth to blot the stain as much as possible. Very often, the stain will disappear on its own in a day or two. If it doesn’t, it is a better idea to call in professionals instead of trying to tackle it at home.

Urine Stains

In households with pets and children, this could potentially be a big problem. However, human and dog urine can be easily cleaned with a damp cloth and some mild soap. Treat this stain in the same way as a water stain. Also, try and find odor removers that will help take the odor away. Cat urine stains, on the other hand, may not be that easy to clean. Use the same method as with dog urine; if the stain remains, you may have to call in a professional.

How to Buy a Leather Sofa on eBay

While cleaning leather can be tricky business, finding a great sofa at an excellent price on eBay isn’t at all a tough task. From the eBay homepage, simply type leather sofas into the search box to find sofas in various classes, designs, and sizes. Once you’ve chosen the sofa you like, make sure you get all the details from the seller. Use the "Ask a Question" link at the bottom of the page to find out about the kind of leather, any prominent scratches or stains, and warranties, if any. One of the many advantages of buying through eBay is that you are covered by the eBay Buyer Protection Policy, wherein you can get your money back if the product is not as described or doesn’t arrive. However, you need to make sure you only use eBay-approved payment methods such as PayPal. Make sure you allow for the delivery costs, as well.


The popularity of leather sofas has soared over the years, as more and more durable products have become available. However, it is extremely important to choose the right leather sofa for the right room. And even though leather has a very forgiving quality, try and avoid spillages and stains as much as possible.

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