How to clean a well-loved leather sofa

Leather sofas are tough enough to handle crumbling cookies and spurting sandwiches — here's how to give them some TLC

How To Clean Leather Sofa

Maybe you bought a leather sofa because you thought it’d be easier to wipe off a whole load of tikka masala from leather than from fabric. Smart move.  

But even leather sofas need more than a quick wipe. 

Luckily cleaning a leather sofa (and even cleaning a white leather sofa) is simple enough that you’ll be able to take a second to laugh with your housemate spilling their orange juice all over themselves and the sofa before you spring into action. 

How to clean a leather sofa: regular maintenance

  1. Sofas are crumb-magnets (crumbled crisps feature particularly regularly), so to start cleaning a leather sofa, go over it with a vacuum cleaner, using a soft brush attachment to make sure all the crumbs are removed from the crevices. Vacuuming is even more important when cleaning a white leather sofa all that crumb dust, fluff, and skin flakes can combine to make the white turn grey. 
  2. Next, you’ll need a cleaning product. You can easily make your own leather sofa cleaning solution by mixing equal parts water and white vinegar. If you’re using a commercial leather cleaner, be sure to follow the instructions carefully to avoid damaging your sofa.
  3. To apply the cleaner, take a soft cloth (microfibre is probably best) and dip it in your solution. Wring it out, so it’s damp, rather than sopping wet, and wipe all the leather surfaces thoroughly, rinsing your cloth in the cleaning solution every so often.

Finally, you’ll need to dry the sofa off using a clean towel so that you can sit on it and enjoy a job well done. 

Spot cleaning a leather sofa

Of course, accidents happen: a horror movie takes a turn and your lasagne goes flying, or your little one discovers their inner Picasso and chooses a sofa as the canvas for their permanent marker masterpiece. But it’s OK – it’s not hard to learn how to clean leather sofa stains before they set in. Here are a few tips to try: 

  • f someone in your household has tried to colour the sofa a different colour with a marker, you can remove permanent marker from leather by spraying it with an aerosol hairspray and wiping it away with a piece of kitchen paper – choose one that’s strong enough for scrubbing, like Plenty. Most other ink stains will come off with a careful application of surgical spirit.
  • Burger grease shot out the wrong side of your bun? Sprinkle some baking soda over the stain to absorb the grease. Leave it there for a couple of hours, then wipe or vacuum it away.
  • Baking soda is also great if you’re cleaning a white leather sofa that has a dark stain on it: mix it into a paste with an equal amount of lemon juice, rub it onto the stain, let it act for about 10 minutes, then wipe it away with a piece of strong, absorbent kitchen paper.
  • Baby wipes and acetone-free nail polish removers can also be used on some leather. As with all cleaning experiments, be sure to do a patch test somewhere invisible, like a corner at the back – that way, it’s not a problem if the leather reacts.


To deal with spills quickly, keep a roll of kitchen paper nearby, so you can grab and wipe before any erupting drinks or spurting sandwiches have had time to sink into the leather sofa's stitching.

Those funny movies that make you spit your drink out or those comfort meals on the sofa are totally worth any bit of sofa cleaning needed afterwards. Because those stains might only last for a few minutes, but the memories will last a lot longer. 

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