When it comes to your home decor, it’s hard to beat the sleek, timeless aesthetic of a leather sofa. Leather sofas are a classic look that can be paired with more leather furniture or even wood or metals. Leather couches are also very durable and can last for many years when they are properly cared for.

Wondering about how to clean your leather sofa properly? Good technique and use of the correct cleaning products (like leather conditioner, leather cleaning solution, leather cleaners, protection cream, and dry cleaning product) can help thoroughly clean a leather sofa and restore it to its original glory. When you clean a leather couch, it’s also crucial to carefully clean it according to your leather manufacturer's instructions or manufacturer’s guide to prevent potential damage.

Read this blog post for a step by step guide on how to clean your entire sofa, expert tips on how to enhance your cleaning routine, and other suggestions for your cleaning process!

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Types of Leather and Cleaning Leather Sofas

Learning how to clean leather sofas correctly begins with determining the type of leather that your sofa is made from. Different types of leather may require a different cleaning process or cleaning solution, so don’t skip this crucial first step. Here’s an overview of the various types of leather upholstery out there and their characteristics and care needs:

1. Full-grain Leather

full-grain leather

Most leathers when it comes to couches are made from full-grain leather, which is considered to be the highest quality of leather available on the market. Full-grain leather isn’t dyed or sanded, which preserves the original grain of the leather. Leather conditioner and cleaning solution are typically safe to apply, thorough surface cleaning should be conducted first with a soft brush, warm water, and microfibre cloth.

2. Top-grain Leather

Top-grain leather is also very popular for leather sofas. Top-grain leather varies from full-grain leather in that it has been sanded and buffed. This treatment smooths the surface of the leather and adds consistency to the leather surface. Top-grain leather also has less natural grain than full-grain leather because of this.

3. Bonded Leather

bonded leather

Bonded leather is quite commonly used in an array of modern furniture and upholstery. Unlike top-grain and full-grain leather, bonded leather is composed of a mix of both genuine leather and other materials. Leather materials like leftover fibres are blended with a polyurethane binder and adhesives and then bonded onto a backing, which is typically made of paper. Usually, bonded leather is around ten to twenty percent full leather, so it tends to be more affordable than true leather.

The unique composition of bonded leather means that it tends not to last quite as long as genuine leather. It also requires different care than genuine leather and should be wiped down gently with a soft cloth and dried before you apply leather conditioner. Avoid using abrasives like baking soda and harsh materials like rubbing alcohol and white vinegar.

4. Aniline Leather

analine leather

Aniline leather is often used to add a unique look to leather upholstery. This kind of leather is specially dyed with aniline dye, which changes the colour of the leather while still preserving its natural texture and appearance. Because of the dye used, leather conditioners, leather cleaners, oils, and abrasives like baking soda should never be used. Instead, wipe clean your leather sofa with a damp microfiber cloth in a circular motion to remove couch dust and grime that has built up.

5. Faux Leather

faux leather

Faux leather doesn’t contain any genuine leather at all, but still provides the appearance of it. Faux leather is an excellent choice for people who are looking for a more affordable option than genuine leather, or who don’t want to use materials derived from animals. It’s also sometimes referred to as polyurethane leather, PU leather, or vegan leather.

Even though faux leather isn’t made of leather, it tends to be quite durable. Not only does it last longer than bonded leather, but it is also more resistant to stains, bubbling, peeling, and fading. It is best cleaned with damp clothes to remove dust and ingrained dirt. Simply use gentle, circular motions to remove sofa stains and wipe them down with a mild or diluted detergent. As with bonded leather, you should avoid using baking soda, vinegar, and rubbing alcohol, which are too harsh and can damage the appearance of your leather sofa.

Assessing the Leather

Now that you’ve gotten familiar with the different types of leather and their cleaning requirements, you should carefully identify which kind of leather sofa you have. It is very important to correctly identify the type of leather used in your couch, as different kinds of leather can have very different cleaning requirements (such as dry cleaning products or damp cloths). If you have questions or concerns regarding the cleaning process, check the manufacturer's cleaning instructions and care recommendations before proceeding.

Once you’ve determined the kind of leather you’re dealing with, you should then assess the level of soiling or staining that you’re dealing with. Take the time to also evaluate the overall condition and appearance of your couch, including general wear and tear, so you can easily identify any repairs or other work that it needs.

Common stains on leather couches include:

  • Grease stains
  • Sweat stains
  • Wet spots
  • Ink stains
  • Pet stains

Gathering Cleaning Supplies

Now that you have an overall idea of what cleaning needs to be done on your couch, you can go ahead and gather the cleaning supplies that you need to get the job done. As you begin cleaning, it is critical that you only use safe and effective leather cleaning agents and conditioners that are specially formulated for the type of leather you have. Typically, if you’re cleaning full-grain or top-grain leather, you’ll use:

  • Dry cleaning products
  • Protective coatings that protect the natural oils and grain
  • Leather cleaners
  • Leather conditioners
  • Moistened microfibre cloths
  • Distilled water only

Faux leather and bonded leather require slightly different cleaning methods, as they’re composed of different materials. To quickly clean leather upholstery composed of these materials, use:

  • A damp cloth
  • A dry rag to wipe up excess water
  • A mild detergent or dish soap
  • Specialised products for faux and bonded leather

Whenever you begin cleaning any leather furniture with a product or protective coating, you must test it on an inconspicuous spot first to avoid potential damage or staining. If the product needs to sit for a period of time, be sure to let it sit for the full time before re-assessing the appearance of your couch.

microfibre cloths and leather cleaners

Pre-cleaning Preparations

Before you start the actual cleaning process, you should dust and vacuum the surface of your leather sofa to remove loose dirt and debris. Brush attachment sofa cleaning with your vacuum accessories and extensions is an easy way to remove embedded dirt. You should also pinpoint any specific stains or heavily soiled areas of the leather upholstery that you would like to target, like grease or oil stains or ink stains. Test wet and dry cleaning products on a small, inconspicuous area of the leather before proceeding with your full cleaning session, whether it’s a quick clean or a deep cleaning.

Cleaning Process

After testing cleaning agents, vacuuming, and assessing stains, it’s finally time to clean! Begin by wiping down your sofa with a cloth dampened with distilled water. Use gentle, circular motions to extract built-in dust and dirt, being careful not to scrub or scrape.

Using your desired cleaning solution (if applicable), addressing any deep stains or soiled areas. Dab your couch dry with a microfiber cloth to remove excess moisture. Water droplets can discolour leather and cause staining or bubbling, so take care to ensure that your couch is completely dry.

leather sofa cleaning

Conditioning and Protecting

After drying your couch, you can then apply any desired leather conditions or protectants. Leather conditioning is a key step for preserving the texture and colour of your couch and helping it last as long as possible. There are many options on the market to choose from depending on what kind of leather your couch is made from. You should also check your specific manufacturer’s instructions for any ingredients or formulas to avoid.

Post-Cleaning Care

After your cleaning session, regular maintenance can help you preserve the leather of your couch and keep it looking great. To maintain your couch, adhere to these tips:

  • Regular dusting
  • Applying leather condition solutions or protectants
  • Protecting leather from direct sunlight
  • Keeping leather dry and at a stable temperature
  • Immediately wiping away stains or spills
leather post cleaning care

Final Thoughts

Having a well-maintained leather couch in your home is truly a luxury like no other! By regularly cleaning, conditioning, and maintaining your leather couch, you can protect the leather and help it look great for a lifetime.

To care for your couch, be sure to:

• Determine what kind of leather you have before cleaning

• Pre-treat your couch before cleaning with dusting and vacuuming

• Apply appropriate cleaning products only according to the manufacturer's instructions

• Thoroughly wipe away moisture

• Using a leather conditioner or surface protectant

• Know when it's time to call in professional leather cleaners