It's easier than you think. 

By Rebecca Padron
May 01, 2019
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Leather lasts forever with the right amount of care and upkeep, so why not get the most bang for your buck and learn how to clean a leather couch to keep it looking shiny and brand new. To learn the proper technique, we reached out to John Mahdessian, president of world-renowned dry-cleaning service Madame Paulette, who walked us through the leather cleaning process. Leather maintenance tip number one? “Keep it away from the sun," Mahdessian says, so it won't fade. "Use home furniture polish on leather once a month to give it a nice finish," he adds. 

Once your leather is refreshed and renewed, it will last for years with regular maintenance. So how often do you need to clean a leather couch? Mahdessian recommends cleaning light-colored leather every six months and dark-colored leather once a year. Once you've learned the steps below, cleaning your leather couch will become a painless part of your regular cleaning routine. 

What You'll Need: 

  • Leather conditioner/cleaner (such as Chamberlain's Leather Milk, $17, amazon.com
  • Mild dish soap 
  • Microfiber cloths 
  • Baking soda 

Follow These Steps: 

  1. Start by vacuuming the leather couch to get rid of any crumbs. Then dust it, if necessary, to remove any lingering dirt. Luckily, a leather couch isn’t as porous as an upholstered sofa, so it’s easier to clean. If your couch cushions can be removed, don’t forget to vacuum the undersides. Recliners tend to collect dirt in the crevice where the bottom reclines.
  2. Time to tackle the stains: dip a clean cloth in a bowl of warm water mixed with dish soap, then wring it out so it's damp (not wet!). Dab or rub in small circles around the stain until it’s buffed out. Don’t rub back and forth, as it causes more wear and tear and harms the leather’s surface. If it’s a grease stain, use a dry cloth and a little bit of baking soda to absorb it.
  3. Dry the sofa—don't skip this step! Water tends to weaken leather if left to dry on its own, so it’s important to get a dry rag and dry the couch from top to bottom. 
  4. Now it’s time to get down to business and use cleaners. Leather cleaners can help break down the dirt and stains to make your leather couch look like new. Some products are 2-in-1 and contain both the cleaner and conditioner. Spray the cleaner onto a cloth, rather than directly onto the furniture, to prevent it from leaving spray marks. Swipe lightly all around, making sure to clean the edges, nooks, and crannies. Work from top to bottom to avoid any uneven polish marks.
  5. After you’ve cleaned, make sure to wipe away any excess cleaner before conditioning the couch. Grab your favorite conditioner, either in spray or bottle form, and apply a small amount onto a clean cloth. Conditioners are great because they contain healthy oils to make your furniture look fresh, smell phenomenal, and stay moisturized.
  6. Once you’ve finished buffing in the conditioner, allow the leather to dry for an hour or so to let the product seep in and avoid getting the oil on your clothing. Once dry, voila!—your leather couch will look like you just got it from the store.

Note: Avoid applying harsh chemicals, like alcohol or leather shoe polish, which aren't intended for leather couches and can actually harm your furniture.