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How to Clean Leather Furniture

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Leather furniture is durable, long-lasting, luxurious and comfortable. It is also expensive, so you'll want to ensure it stays in beautiful condition for as long as possible. Proper cleaning methods and stain removal are essential to keep your leather furniture looking like new for years to come.

Before you begin

Before you start cleaning your leather furniture, it's important to know what type of leather it's made from. Some types are not tolerant of water whatsoever, and require special leather cleaner or the help of professionals. This information can usually be found on your furniture tags or any written instructions you received with its purchase. If not, contact the retailer for more information. Most leather furniture is made from top-coat protected leather, which can be cleaned with water and mild soap, as explained in this guide.

What you'll need:

  • Vacuum with soft brush attachment

  • Distilled water (the chlorine in tap water can be harmful to the leather's surface)

  • Mild liquid soap

  • Several clean, soft cloth rags

  • Water-based leather protector/conditioner

Cleaning the furniture

  • Begin by vacuuming the piece of furniture to suck up any loose dirt, dust, or debris. Be sure to use the soft brush attachment to avoid scratching the leather, and keep it on a low setting to avoid dents.

  • Put a few drops of soap into about a quart of water, and mix until it becomes sudsy. Dip one of the rags into the water and wring out.

  • Test the cloth on a small area of the furniture, preferably one that is normally out of view to ensure it doesn't harm the leather's surface.

  • Wipe the surface gently, one section at a time.

  • Dip another rag into plain water, and wipe off the soap mixture.

  • Dry each damp section of the furniture with a third, dry cloth.

  • Use a fourth cloth to gently buff the furniture and increase shine.

  • Apply leather conditioner to the furniture, following instructions on the bottle.

Stain removal

Depending on the type of stain, there are a variety of DIY home methods for treating spills on your luxurious leather furniture. Always test any method on a small, inconspicuous area of the furniture, and make sure the suggested solutions are permissible for use on the type of leather piece you have.
  • Dark stains (mud, food, blood): Create a paste that's one part cream of tartar and one part lemon juice. Rub the paste into the stain and allow the mixture to sit for about 10 minutes. Remove the paste with a soap and distilled water soaked cloth (as described above), wipe dry, and buff.

  • Water stains: Wipe up water immediately after it's spilled with a soft cloth. If a stain forms from spilled water that's dried on the furniture, you will have to blend the stain with the surrounding area. Dampen a cloth with plain, distilled water and wipe outward from the center of the stain. Be gentle, and use a dry cloth to blend the water into the outer edges of the stain.

  • Grease stains: Eating oily or greasy foods on your leather furniture can make for a mess-and an unattractive stain left behind. Wipe up as much of the grease as you can, and shake a layer of cornstarch onto the surface of the stain. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes, and vacuum the particles, using your soft brush attachment.

Other tips

  • Nourish the leather. Restore your leather's luster by mixing two parts linseed oil with one part white vinegar and shaking thoroughly. Dampen a soft cloth with the solution and gently wipe the surface of your leather furniture circular motion. Allow the mixture sit for 10 minutes and then buff with a dry cloth until it shines.

  • Avoid abrasive chemicals. Harsh cleaning products such as ammonia-based cleaners, varnish, and bleach should be avoided on or near your leather furniture. They can cause damage or discoloration. You should also never use baby wipes or other alkaline products, oils, or anything containing wax or silicone.

  • Vacuum furniture regularly. Keep your leather furniture looking great by vacuuming frequently to remove dust particles and other debris. This helps your leather breathe and eliminates dirt and other film that can cause unsightly stains.

  • When in doubt, call the professionals. If you have an especially difficult stain you are unsure of how to remove, or you have a question about the type of leather furniture you have and the proper way to clean it, don't hesitate to call a professional leather cleaner. They can help you determine the best way to remove any stain for the type of leather furniture you own while avoiding further damage to your furniture.

Nicole La Capria  Posted by Nicole La Capria on April 16, 2014

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