How to Clean a Leather Sofa

High-quality leather sofas are classic, timeless pieces of furniture. They offer a luxurious look and feel that lasts for years – provided, of course, that they’re treated properly. If you’ve made the investment in a leather sofa, then you’ll want to be sure that it’s around for years to come – which means looking after it. Here, we’ll look at the right way (and the wrong way) to care for your leather sofa.

 G Plan Mistral

G Plan Mistral 2 Seater Leather Sofa

How Often Should You Clean a Leather Sofa?

It’s advisable to clean your leather sofa every week or two. If that sounds over-the-top, it doesn’t have to be. You shouldn’t need to spend long cleaning a leather sofa if you do it regularly.

What Can You Use to Clean a Leather Sofa?

There are a range of leather sofa cleaning products available, but a home-made solution will often work just as well. Leather is a little more durable than fabric, and can withstand more caustic cleaners – but if you’re in the slightest doubt, do a spot-test on a patch of the sofa that isn’t visible, like the underside of a cushion.

A combination of washing-up liquid and hot water usually works well for light cleaning. Just be sure that you don’t soak the sofa, and that you wipe it dry immediately afterwards. If you’re trying to remove more stubborn stains, rubbing alcohol might do the trick – either diluted and sprayed on, or applied directly to troublesome areas with a damp cloth.

How Do You Condition a Leather Sofa?

Leather is a tough material that looks fantastic and repels stains – but to look its best it must be treated occasionally with conditioner. Apply oil once or twice a year, and the leather will soak it up.

Why should you do this? Well treating your leather sofa will not only produce a lovely, shiny finish; it’ll also protect the material against staining.

Before you start, pick a day on which you’re going to be out for the evening. The conditioner will need a chance to dry, so you’ll want to leave it overnight. While it might be possible to use any old oil you pull out of the kitchen cupboard, we’d strongly recommend using a quality leather conditioner. Apply it using a microfiber cloth and work it into the leather with broad, circular strokes; this will ensure the oil is evenly distributed.

When you come back the next day, your leather should be dry, but you’ll need to take one final step to get the material gleaming. Take a soft cloth and buff the leather, working your way methodically from top to bottom, again using a circular motion.

Cleaning a Leather Sofa: Step-by-Step Instructions

Let’s run through the process of cleaning your leather sofa, step by step. First, you’ll want to check the label, which will provide useful information on what substances can be used to clean the sofa. This comes in the form of a code:

W means water-based cleaners are allowed.

S or P means solvents are allowed.

X means you can only vacuum the sofa – if you want a more thorough clean, you’ll need to go to a professional.

Having established what sort of sofa you’re cleaning, the next step is to assemble some cleaning materials. These should include:

  • A brush
  • A vacuum-cleaner
  • Saddle-soap (a substance used to clean horse’s saddles. You can get versions which are specially-made to deal with leather furniture).
  • A cloth
  • Washing-up liquid

You’re now ready to clean the sofa.

  1. Begin by removing the cushions and vacuuming every nook and cranny.
  2. Use a brush to loosen any particles, and the upholstery attachment to penetrate the fibres. Note that while the surface of the sofa might be leather, the interior might be made from more absorbent fabrics.
  3. For the most part, you’ll be able to clean the leather itself using a damp cloth and a little bit of soap. Be sparing in the amount of water you soak up at any one time, otherwise you risk creating water-stains.
  4. If there’s a more persistent stain to shift, you might want to use a solution of equal parts water and vinegar – though you’ll need to clean up the vinegar if you want to avoid a lingering smell.

Where stains are especially stubborn and can’t be shifted by vinegar or rubbing alcohol, it might be time to bring in a professional. Using too much force to shift a stain can damage the sofa, so don’t be tempted to sit there scrubbing for hours on end.

General Leather Sofa Care Tips

There’s more to looking after your leather sofa than cleaning it regularly. Here’s a few tips for leather sofa care.

Keep it away from direct sunlight and heat sources

Leather which is exposed to direct sunlight, and the heat from an adjacent radiator, will dry up faster, and require more frequent maintenance.

Plump your cushions regularly

This will help preserve the shape of the sofa, and prevent creases from forming. A sofa that’s sagging in places can often look a little sad, but regular plumping helps offset this effect.

Clean up spills as soon as they occur

The longer you leave it, the more difficult it will be to extract the stain. In the case of liquids like red wine, this is particularly important.

Certain substances, like oil and ink, can produce really stubborn stains. These should be addressed by a professional cleaner, as they will penetrate the leather to an extent that DIYers can’t touch. Keep a few scatter cushions handy to conceal this sort of stain until it’s dealt with!

Shopping for a new sofa? View our full selection of luxury leather sofas here.