Living Rooms

How to clean a leather sofa – an expert guide

Discover how to clean a leather sofa and keep it in great condition

How to clean a leather sofa – living room with leather sofas, coffee table and desk
(Image credit: Future)

Asking how to clean a leather sofa? Ensuring it stays fresh and hygienic is vital, of course, but so too is ensuring the beautiful upholstery isn’t compromised by the task.

As with any other living room seating it’s important to keep a leather sofa free of dust, debris and potential allergens for a healthy home and to give the material proper care.

Our guide has all the cleaning tips necessary to keep a leather sofa pristine and handsome.

How to clean a leather sofa

A leather sofa is easy to clean and care for once you know the correct procedure. ‘Leather is a wonderful upholstery choice,’ says Lucy Searle, global editor in chief of Homes & Gardens. ‘One of its advantages is that it ages well so long as it’s given the right care.’

Here’s the lowdown on how to clean a leather sofa to add to your living room cleaning routine.

1. Vacuum a leather sofa

Living room with leather sofa and armchair

(Image credit: Future)

Start cleaning a leather sofa by vacuuming it but first remove throws and pillows and check down the sides and back for any loose change, candy wrappers and so on. Use the vacuum cleaner with the brush attachment on leather upholstery to avoid scratching it. 

Slowly suck up all the crumbs and dirt that have accumulated on the surface, using a slow sweeping movement. Switch over to the crevice tool to get anything from the edges your fingers couldn’t reach, as well as cleaning the seams. Repeat on the cushions.

2. Wipe down a leather sofa

leather armchair and footstool by wood stove

(Image credit: Future)

While vacuuming will remove dust, crumbs, pet hair and so on, a leather sofa can also benefit from further cleaning. But before going ahead, check the furniture tag for the manufacturer’s guidelines.

A W on the label means you can only use a water-based cleaner. S or P means it can only be cleaned with solvents (dry-clean only). SW or WS means that you can use either a water-based detergent or solvent cleaner. A steam cleaner will be fine to use, too. Finally, X means that you can’t use any water or detergent on the surface – get it professionally cleaned instead.

Most sofas will be finished leather and it's fine to use a slightly damp cloth to give it a quick clean. However, make sure the cloth is only damp and not wet otherwise a water mark will be left.

3. Clean a leather sofa with a specialist product

Living room with leather sofa and coffee table

(Image credit: Future)

Generally a leather sofa can be cleaned with a specialist product – we like Leather Honey leather cleaner (opens in new tab) from Amazon. Apply with a soft lint-free cloth.

‘Spot test in an inconspicuous area first,’ says Lucy Searle. ‘Apply cleaner sparingly, too. Just moisten the cloth to wipe down the upholstery. It’s essential to work gently – leather shouldn’t be rubbed hard – so if it doesn’t come up clean, repeat the process.’

4. Condition a leather sofa

You can protect a new sofa or soften and moisturize old leather with a leather conditioner – we like Leather Honey leather conditioner (opens in new tab) from Amazon. 

Use leather conditioner according to the manufacturer’s instructions and, if the sofa is old, take the opportunity to repair a leather couch to restore it to its former beauty.

5. Know when to call the professionals

If a leather sofa is stained and cleaning doesn’t help, don't be tempted to scrub – you may be causing more harm than good. Instead, call in a professional upholstery cleaner.

Can I use vinegar to clean my leather sofa?

White vinegar can be used to clean a leather sofa, but do test the solution in an inconspicuous place first.

Mix equal parts water and vinegar, then wipe the sofa using a microfiber cloth. ‘Work from top to bottom, rinsing the cloth in the homemade cleaning solution from time to time,’ says Lucy Searle, global editor in chief of Homes & Gardens. Make sure the cloth is just damp, not wet, to avoid damage to the leather and work gently.

Dry the sofa with a soft clean towel.

You can remove ink from leather with vinegar, but do so with caution – our separate guide has full details.

Can I use dish soap to clean my leather sofa?

It is possible to use dish soap to clean a leather sofa. ‘Always stick to a mild dish soap to clean leather,’ says Lucy Searle, global editor in chief of Homes & Gardens. ‘Mix with warm water in a bowl and use to dampen a microfiber cloth, then wipe down the sofa with the solution.’

Use a cloth dampened with plain water to wipe a second time, and dry with a third cloth. ‘Be sure to follow the rule with leather, working gently and never rubbing,’ says Lucy.

Amy Cutmore
Amy Cutmore

Amy Cutmore is Editor-in-Chief, Audience, across Future's Homes portfolio. A homes and interiors journalist of 20 years standing, she has spent much of that time writing about technology, appliances and kitchens. While other people count how many countries they've visited, Amy tots up how many countries' washing machine factories she's toured (it's eight by the way, from South Korea to Slovenia). She can't leave the house without a decent pair of noise-cancelling headphones, and is always ready to explain an acronym – be it QLED, DAB or HDMI.