How to Clean Leather – Antiques Care

As with many things in life, going gently reaps the best results: Any harsh action will often only result in making matters worse.

So, whenever you are cleaning leather, do so with care, and do so gently, avoiding any heavy scrubbing or harsh products. Be especially careful with aniline leather, which due to its lack of protective top later, can easily become stained. In this article, we will take your through the best techniques for cleaning leather and removing stains and mildew, so you know exactly how to keep your leather furniture in pristine condition for longer.

It is best to clean leather on a regular basis, so as to avoid any settling dust, dirt build up, and/or lasting damage from the oil in your skin permeating the leather.

What to use:

  • Mild soap, such as Dove or Ivory.
  • Moisturising soap.
  • Vinegar solution (equal parts of water and white vinegar).
  • Saddle soap, though it has been said that repeated use of saddle soap can dissolve leather over time.

Leather Cleaning Cloth

What not to use:

  • Baby wipes
  • Furniture polish
  • Anything containing wax
  • Silicones
  • Oils
  • Cleaning Solvents
  • Bleach and ammonia-based cleaners

Note: Before beginning the cleaning process, always make sure you test your chosen cleaning product on an inconspicuous spot first, allowing it to completely dry.

Bad Cleaning Products

Cleaning and removing stains and impurities from the leather:

Use a dry soft cloth, a microfiber cloth or a feather duster to dust the surface; You can also use a vacuum cleaner with the soft brush attachment. It’s important to get rid of any dirt which is hiding in the nooks and crannies before cleaning, as dirt combined with moisture will spread across the surface of the leather and can lead to stains.

Dampen a soft cloth, preferably a microfiber cloth and wring it out so that the cloth is damp, not wet – You must never let leather get too wet. You can spray water onto the cloth directly, using a spray bottle to ensure it doesn’t become too wet.

Wipe the cloth over your soap of choice or wring it out in the vinegar solution. Make sure if using moisturising soap, you bring it to a lather before it comes into contact with the leather. If using liquid soap, only use a very small amount.

Gently rub the entire surface of the leather with the cloth, using circular motions.

Do not rinse the leather, but simply dry it using a clean towel or cloth, pressing down gently over the entire surface to remove any excess moisture. Do not use a hair dryer or leave it in the sun to dry – direct contact with sunlight can be very damaging to leather.

Removing Impurities from Antique Leather.

If you spill any liquid onto leather, even water, act immediately by blotting it with a dry cloth to remove any excess moisture. Make sure you don’t wipe it, as it may spread the liquid and make it more difficult to manage.

The above cleaning method should work for light stains and watermarks, but if you have tougher or darker stains, you may need to take alternative measures. Like with the cleaning products, make sure you test your chosen method on an inconspicuous part of the furniture first.

How to remove dark stains:
Create a paste of 1 part lemon juice and 1 part cream of tartar.
Using a soft cloth, work the paste gently into the affected area. This can have an immediate effect if the stain is very recent.
If it shows no sign of budging, leave it to sit for a few hours and then apply a little more.
Once you have let the second layer of paste sink in for a few minutes, wipe it all off with a damp sponge. Don’t let it get too wet, as water spots can stain too!

How to remove ink spots:
Take a cotton swab and moisten it with rubbing alcohol.
Using circular motions, gently massage the alcohol into the ink spot.
As if by magic, the ink will slowly begin to disappear.

How to get rid of mould and mildew:
Mix together equal parts of water and rubbing alcohol.
Take a microfibre cloth, dampen and wring out in the mixture.
Rub the affected area gently, until you can see all of the mould or mildew has vanished.
Buff with a clean dry cloth.