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How to clean a leather sofa cheaply and Effectively

Updated on April 21, 2016

With a smooth surface that gently reflects light; an unmistakeable yet pleasant smell; and being of a durable quality -- a leather sofa bespeaks luxury and expense. But is this typically exquisite piece of furniture living up to its potential? Or is it denied its rightful place as king of the living room by unsightly layers of dust and grime?

After all, it most likely didn't come cheap. It was bought to stand out, not to sit as obscure and unnoticed as a week old magazine dangling off the edge of a coffee table.
But no worries; it can be easily spruced up with very little effort and expense.

The steps involved are simple and the cleaning materials are
cheap and widely available.
So let's get started.

First things First

Compared to other types of sofa, a more cautious approach is called for when cleaning leather. Although durable, care still needs to be taken so as not to damage the surface.

Identify the really grimy areas of the sofa and leave them until last. The less grimy areas of the couch will typically need a much lighter wipe down.

Once you've assessed the job to be done, you can start cleaning.


Cleaning instructions

You'll need:

  • A vacuum cleaner with a soft brush head
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Warm water
  • A bucket
  • A microfiber cloth
  • A soft bristle brush


  • Vacuum the sofa throughly, getting into every crevice, with the soft brush attachement. Using any other type of attachment could scratch the surface of the sofa. Bits of hard dirt could also scratch its surface; that's why it's so important that these are vacuumed off.
  • Mix equal parts of distilled white vinegar with warm water in the bucket and give the mixture a good shake, obviously taking care not to spill any. The solution should only fill about a third of the bucket or less.
  • Dip the cloth into the cleaning solution and then wring it out. The cloth should be damp rather than soaking wet.
  • Wipe the entire sofa from top to bottom, working from the top down. As you work your way along, re-moisten the cloth at your own discretion.
  • When finished with the initial wipe, go over the grimiest, most stubborn areas with a soft bristle brush. If the solution doesn't seem to be working on these areas, don't be afraid to use pure vinegar and apply a little more elbow grease.
  • After you're done, use a clean towel to dry the sofa. Do not use a blow dryer, as this could damage the leather.



While the above should be sufficient on its own, you can take a few additional steps to really bring out the sofa's shine.

  • Mix flax seed oil with distilled white vinegar in a 50/50 ratio.
  • Using a dry cloth, rub this mixture onto the sofa, following the same top-to-bottom pattern you did when cleaning.
  • When finished, leave it overnight.
  • The next day, buff the sofa with a clean, dry rag (or cloth).

If all goes well, your leather sofa should look as good as new.

Tips for continual care

Now that you've finally restored your leather sofa to its rightful condition, you can kick back, relax and take pride in a job well done.

But don't get too complacent. Dust and grime will accumulate over time if left unchecked. It's important to give the sofa a quick wipe down every month or so. Five minutes work should be enough to keep it in top notch condition.

It's also important that you do your best not to dirty it in the first place. Avoid eating while sitting on the sofa if possible. If you insist on doing so, take care not to spill anything onto it. If you do, wipe it up immediately.

Far worse than dust and grime are surface scratches. To avoid this, never rest your feet on the sofa with your shoes on. Don't leave clothing with metal zips lying on top of the sofa. Metal zips and buttons are probably the main cause of such scratches.

Something that can really do damage is a beer bottle cap; some people have a terrible habit of putting the cap of a bottle on the arm rest of the sofa. To make matter worse, they sometimes put their hand on top of it and move it along without realizing the damage they're doing. Just be mindful of what you, or your guests, are doing from now on.

If you own a leather sofa, have you cleaned it in the last 3 months

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