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Design & Style

How to Clean Leather: 8 Tips for Cleaning Leather Properly

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Sep 21, 2020 • 2 min read

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Tan France Teaches Style for Everyone

Leather is one of the most durable natural materials—if you treat it right. Learn how to make your leather jackets, shoes, and accessories last a lifetime with gentle cleaning.

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Tan France Teaches Style for EveryoneTan France Teaches Style for Everyone

Queer Eye cohost Tan France breaks down the principles of great style, from building a capsule wardrobe to looking pulled together every day.

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8 Tips for Cleaning Leather Properly

Stains happen, but there’s a safe method for getting them out of your favorite leather clothing items.

  1. Know your leather. The type of leather that you're dealing with dictates what cleaning method you use. Finished leather (aka treated leather) is covered in a protective coating, while suede and unfinished leather (aka untreated leather) are not. A little bit of saddle soap is fine to use on a finished leather couch, but even mild soap can be too harsh for the most sensitive leathers. If you're not sure how your leather will react to cleaning, test your cleaning agent in an inconspicuous area.
  2. Steer clear of DIY cleaning solutions. When it comes to leather, you're better off using either water or cleaning products specifically designed for leather. Popular home remedies like baking soda, white vinegar, cream of tartar, and lemon juice can be harsh on delicate leathers and make the problem even worse.
  3. Treat stains as soon as they happen. The best way to deal with liquid stains is to treat them right away by blotting with a soft cloth to remove as much of the moisture as possible. Then, dab the area with a soft, damp cloth (use warm water—no soap). You can also dampen a cloth with leather cleaner—but if you're using a product that comes in a spray bottle, spray it onto the cloth first rather than directly onto the surface of the leather. Don't rub, or you could leave a water stain. Blot again with a dry cloth.
  4. Moisturize. After cleaning the leather with water or leather cleaner, use a leather conditioner to restore moisture. Gently rub the leather conditioner into your leather with a circular motion using a brush, sponge, or microfiber cloth.
  5. Dry-clean difficult stains. Grease stains, ink stains, and makeup stains that don't come clean after gentle spot-cleaning may need to be professionally cleaned.
  6. Time heals some wounds. Leather is a remarkably durable material, and sometimes just letting the leather absorb the stain is the best option—although it may take weeks or even months.
  7. Protect your leather. Protect your leather items by regularly wiping away dirt and grime. Some items, like leather jackets, may benefit from waterproofing spray, while others, like shoes, can be waxed to become more water-resistant.
  8. Store leather goods properly. Keep your leather goods in a dry place away from direct sunlight to prevent mildew and discoloration. To help leather bags keep their shape, stuff them with a clean towel and store them in a dust bag. Hang leather jackets on sturdy hangers.

Want to Learn More About Unleashing Your Inner Fashionista?

Get a MasterClass All-Access Pass and let Tan France be your very own style spirit guide. Queer Eye’s fashion guru spills everything he knows about building a capsule collection, finding a signature look, understanding proportions, and more (including why it’s important to wear underwear to bed)—all in a soothing British accent, no less.

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