How to Clean Leather

Learning How to Clean Leather – Tips and Tricks

Leather is one of the most versatile products in fashion and design. Leather is used in furniture and in car seats. High-quality leather can be sophisticated or rustic, sexy or adorable, just depending on how it’s used. But from your patent leather Mary Jane pumps to your child’s baseball glove, one thing is true. Eventually, you’re going to have to clean that leather.

Sure, you could have the leather professionally cleaned, but who can afford this type of expense these days? Also, you may feel reluctant trusting your treasured motorcycle jacket or your grandfather’s suitcase, or your designer shoes to the neighborhood dry cleaner. It’s much cheaper and more reliable to do it yourself.

If you want to know how to clean leather, there are a few things you want to keep in mind. The exact technique you use depends on whether the leather is finished or sealed, like the leather used in garments, handbags, or furniture, or if it’s unsealed, like the leather used in baseball gloves or saddles.

In addition, if you’re doing more than just general cleaning and there is a specific stain on the leather you need to remove, there are some different steps you’ll have to follow. Either way, cleaning your leather isn’t too difficult and you should be able to do it yourself.

How to Clean Leather that is Finished

How to Clean LeatherFinished leather has been sealed during the tanning process, so you don’t have to be nearly as careful with it. Before beginning the process, gather these things ahead of time:

  • Several soft cloths
  • Water
  • Gentle, moisturizing soap
  • Leather Conditioner

Step one: Gather together several soft cloths to help you clean. You can spring for fancy, expensive leather polishing cloths if you want to, but an old cotton t-shirt or a cloth diaper will work just fine.

Step two: Take one cloth and dampen it, squeezing out most of the water. Use a gentle soap such as Dove or Ivory to work up a slight lather. Don’t go too crazy with the bubbles, as they tend to leave a slight residue on the leather’s surface.

Step three: Without getting the leather too wet, gently scrub with your sudsy cloth in a small, circular motion across the leather’s surface. You should see the leather start to come clean. Don’t rub too hard or use too much moisture.

Step four: Dampen another cloth and use it to wipe away the lather on the leather’s surface. You may want to work in sections, scrubbing and then wiping clean. Remember, you’re not rinsing the lather off but wiping it off, as too much water will damage your leather.

Step five: Polish the leather’s surface with another dry cloth. At this point, it’s a good idea to use a leather conditioner such as Armor All to finish up the process.

You’re done! This is how to clean leather that has been sealed or finished.

How to Clean Leather that is Unfinished

You’ll typically find unfinished leather in baseball gloves, work boots, and saddles. You should only clean your unfinished leather with a special saddle soap, as other products with tend to stain or harden it. If you’re not sure whether or not your leather item is finished or not, treat it as though it is unfinished just to be on the safe side.

Gather these items ahead of time:

  • A sponge
  • Saddle Soap
  • Soft cloths
  • Leather preservative

Step one: Dampen the sponge and use it to rub the saddle soap into the leather. Work up a light lather, again making sure to avoid using too much water while doing so. You want to wet the leather, but not to soak it as that could cause water damage.

Step two: Use your soft cloths, (again either rags made from an old cotton t-shirt or a cloth diaper will work fine) wipe away the lather. You should see the leather start to come clean.

Step three: Allow the damp leather to air dry. Try to arrange the leather object in its proper shape, and avoid heat that will cause the leather to shrink and dry out.

Step four: Finish by applying a leather preservative such as mink oil with another one of your damp cloths. Use a small circular motion and gently rub the oil into the leather. This will keep it soft and supple.

That’s all there is to it! This is how to clean leather that’s not finished.

How to Clean Leather that’s Been Stained

Sometimes you need to know more than just how to clean leather. You need to know how to remove a specific stain from your leather’s surface.

Keep in mind that incorrectly treating leather can damage it, so always do a spot test to before attempting to remove the stain. And if it’s a severe stain, you may want to go ahead and have the leather professionally cleaned. However, if you do decide to attempt it yourself, here’s how to clean leather that has specific types of stains.

Mildew: Dilute 1 cup of isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) with 1 cup of water. Wet a soft cloth (again, a cloth diaper or old t-shirt will do) with the solution and use it to clean off the area. Let the leather air-dry.

Ink: For ink stains, try hair spray. Spray the ink stain with it and then wipe it off. You may need to repeat several times before the ink comes off completely.

Grease: Blot excess grease with a clean cloth. Sprinkle talcum powder or cornstarch on the affected area. Let sit for at least 4 hours, then wipe off the powder.

Gum: Removing gun from leather is pretty simple. Just hold a plastic bag filled with ice cubes on the gum to harden it. You should then be able to easily lift off the hardened gum in one large chunk. If any little bits of gum are left behind, melt them with a hair dryer and rub them off with yet another soft cloth.

Salt: If there’s salt stains on your leather from sweat or from ocean water, a vinegar solution will help. Combine three parts vinegar with one part water and use it to dampen a cloth. Rub the salt stain with the cloth and it should go away.

Now you know our tips about how to clean leather. Your old leather items should be good as new in no time.

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