How to clean a leather couch — these 7 expert tips will bring yours back to life

These 7 tips for how to clean a leather couch are just the ticket from our experts

An image of a brown leather couch up against a neutral wall with a bookshelf, coffee table and desk beside it.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're wondering how to clean a leather couch without damaging it, in a bid to revive the beloved sofa you spent ages saving up for, fear not.

Our expert in-depth guide on getting your couch looking its best again will reveal the multitude of ways you can revive tired-looking leather. If you assumed all you need to do is wipe it and it’ll look good as new again, then you've definitely come to the right place.

Best of all, our cleaning expert-approved guide will detail how to clean leather without causing damage. Win-win.

How to clean a leather couch well

First things first. In order to know how to clean a couch and keep it looking its best for years to come, our experts highlight the importance of picking carefully the products you'll use, and the steps to take clean a leather couch well, and keep it in tip-top shop for years to come.

1. Read manufacturer’s care instructions

Before you begin cleaning the upholstery, dig out your leather sofa's care manual. 

Cleaning expert, Sabrina Tretyakova explains, “First, be clear on the warranty terms before attempting to clean your leather couch. Following the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions is best for cleaning your furniture.”

If you fail to follow the manufacturer's care and cleaning instructions, you could void the warranty or insurance it comes with. For a bigger-spend item such as this, protect your investment by erring on the side of caution when cleaning it.

Sabrina Tretyakova
Sabrina Tretyakova

Sabrina Tretyakova is an ISSA-certified cleaning technician helping more than 1,200 clients including private homeowners and large corporate offices. 

2. Vacuum your couch

Once you've checked the care instructions, the next step on your list according to Sabrina, should be to vacuum your couch. 

She explains, “Your leather couch can have dry food debris like bread or biscuit crumbs. Therefore, vacuuming your couch is the easiest way to remove dry debris.”

Just make sure that if you're going to vacuum your leather couch, you use one with with adjustable suction power (we use this Miele bagless vacuum cleaner from Amazon on a daily basis) and check the suction is set to low. Otherwise, you could end up damaging the leather. 

3. Use a leather cleaner

Leslie Kilgour, a professional organizer and cleaning expert, says, “I recommend periodically using a specialized leather cleaner or a mild soap solution on a damp cloth to gently wipe down the surface.”

If you're working on cleaning sunscreen stains or food spills, it's a good idea to choose a solution made for leather, especially when you're removing tough stains from a couch

Sabrina Tretyakova, Cleaning Expert, adds, “Never use too much water to remove leather couch stains. Ideally, use a damp cloth instead of a wet one.” 

She also rates this Leather Honey Leather Cleaner from Amazon as a great formulation. Sabrina says,"This product is ideal for removing dirt and stains from leather couches without damaging the leather.

A great alternative to consider is, Chemical Guys Leather Cleaning Set from Amazon. "This commercial cleaning solution," Sabrina explains, "includes a pH-balanced cleaner that can remove deep-set stains and oil residue. It also contains vitamin E, a natural conditioner that replenishes and protects the leather.

Leslie Kilgour
Leslie Kilgour

Leslie Kilgour is a professional organizer and home hack expert. She works with clients to organize, refresh, and clean their spaces. She also works with teenagers and young adults to learn cleaning hacks for their spaces, furniture, and life. She is the founder of Get It Straight on Long Island. 

4. Condition the leather

Once you've cleaned your leather item, the next step will be to condition it and lock in all the moisture and treatments you've given in.

Leslie says, “To make your couch last longer and look better, condition the leather with a reputable leather conditioner. This will also help maintain its suppleness and prevent drying or cracking.”

We like the non-toxic and silicone-free Leather Honey Leather Conditioner from Amazon.

5. Make regular care a priority

Once you've given your leather couch this deep clean and condition, and it has a new lease of (leather) life, maintain it's condition moving forwards.

Leslie says, “When it comes to general care for leather couches, regularly dust the surface with a soft, dry, cloth (these microfiber cloths from Amazon would be ideal for this) to prevent dirt and debris from settling and accumulating.”

After dusting, you can gently wipe it with down (these leather cleaning and conditioning wipes from Amazon should work well).

6. Deals with spills ASAP

Say you spill your coffee or drop some yogurt onto your newly revived leather sofa, don't make the mistake of letting it sit. The longer you leave a spill, the more likely it will stain. 

Leslie says, “In the case of spills, address them promptly by blotting with a clean, absorbent cloth to prevent staining. It's advisable to avoid harsh cleaning agents or excessive water, as they may compromise the leather's quality.” 

Whilst Sabrina adds, “Spray a recommended leather cleaner onto a cloth and dab it on the stains to break down dirt and remove them.”

7. Be mindful of products you use

One important factor to keep in mind when cleaning a leather couch is to be cautious about the products and tools you use. 

Leslie explains, “I tell my clients to refrain from using harsh cleaning agents, abrasive brushes, or excessive water, as these may damage the leather's natural texture and finish. 

"Additionally, resist the temptation to use generic household cleaners, as they may contain substances that are detrimental to leather surfaces. Generally, you want to discourage pets from climbing on or scratching the couch to prevent unintended damage.” 


What should you avoid when cleaning a leather couch?

Sabrina says, “Never use ammonia or bleach to remove stains from a leather couch. These ingredients can damage the leather. Sanitizing wipes and sprays are also not recommended because they contain chemicals that can harm the finish.  

"Alcohol-based cleaners or shoe polish are not intended for use on furniture either and can cause it harm."

How often should you clean a leather couch?

Sabrina says, "Ideally, it would be best if you deep-cleaned your leather couch twice a year. However, much depends on its color and the number of stains."

Knowing how to clean a leather couch can be a more challenging task than you might assume. Picking the right cleaning products and tools is essential, otherwise you may end up damaging the item you were trying to spruce up. 

In addition to one-off cleaning, knowing how and when to regularly clean your leather couch is also vital. Leslie says, “Regular care not only preserves the integrity of your leather couch, but also contributes to a clean and inviting living space.”

If you’ve also got an upholstered couch, this TikTok couch-cleaning hack might be worth a try. 

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.