How do I Choose the Best Leather Cleaner?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Anyone who owns several leather garments or accessories knows there is no such thing as an all-purpose leather cleaner. Leather products are manufactured using different types of leather, making it necessary to decide which type of cleaner would be best for a given item. If you are not sure how to go about choosing the best leather cleaner a cleaning project, here are some things to consider.

Man wearing a hoodie along with a leather jacket.
Man wearing a hoodie along with a leather jacket.

A good place to begin your search for the best cleaning option is with the manufacturer of the leather item you wish to clean. Often, cleaning and maintenance instructions are provided when the item is purchased. If you’ve lost those instructions since then, there is still the chance you can find the information online. Look for a web site operated by the manufacturer. There is a good chance the cleaning data you need is posted on the site. Alternatively, you may find a toll-free telephone number or an email address you can use to contact the company and ask about what type of leather cleaner to use with your item.

Woman in a leather jacket.
Woman in a leather jacket.

If contacting the manufacturer is not an option, check for cleaning services in your area that specialize in cleaning leather products. They will be able to recommend cleaners that are formulated to clean the type of leather used for your jacket, sofa or purse. While the match may not be as exact as getting instructions from the creator of the leather item, there is a good chance the recommended leather care product will do the job nicely.

Contact the manufacturer of the leather product you own and ask which cleaner is best for that item.
Contact the manufacturer of the leather product you own and ask which cleaner is best for that item.

Another consideration to keep in mind is the condition of the leather. For example, a leather sofa will over time begin to dry and possibly crack if the cleaning agent does not help the upholstery to retain a certain amount of suppleness. This means you need a product that is both a leather conditioner and cleaner in one. Fortunately, there are several excellent compounds on the market today.

Leather cleaner might be useful for luggage that has seen a lot of travel.
Leather cleaner might be useful for luggage that has seen a lot of travel.

If your leather is in need of repair, your best bet is to have the repairs completed before you purchase any type of leather cleaner. The leather restoration may involve some process that will make a difference in how you clean the item. While this is rare, don’t take any chances. Waiting a little longer will ensure you don’t ruin the leather repair by using the wrong type of cleaner.

Once you acquire the ideal leather cleaner, make sure to read the instructions carefully. Only leave the product on the leather surface for the proper amount of time. Even when the leather cleaner is the right type, prolonged exposure might damage the leather surface.

Leather purses often need to be cleaned, as they are vulnerable to stains.
Leather purses often need to be cleaned, as they are vulnerable to stains.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments

galen84basc

I would just like to remind people that if in doubt, see a leather specialist. Leather is a notoriously tricky product to clean, and it's not very forgiving either, which means that you pretty much have one shot to get it right.

My friend had this amazing vintage leather jacket that she just loved, but it got this weird stain on it one night after she went out clubbing. She picked up a generic leather jacket cleaner and went at it, but unfortunately all it did was create this big halo around the stain, highlighting it and making the situation even worse.

She took it to a leather specialist after that who said that there was really nothing she could do because the cleaner had damaged the old leather so much that it was pretty much stuck that way.

So, moral of the story; if in doubt, save yourself the heartache and see a leather specialist! They may be more expensive, but they are a lot less expensive than a new couch/jacket/handbag.

yournamehere

So I recently got this really nice leather sofa, and of course the first thing I did when I got it home was accidentally scratch it with my purse.

Is there a way that I can use some sort of leather cleaner or restorer to get the scratch out? I had read somewhere that if you use certain types of leather cleaners often enough they will sort of smooth the leather over until the scratch goes away, but I wanted to verify this with someone before I started attacking my leather sofa with cleaner.

So does anybody have any advice about what I can do? I'm just kicking myself for scratching it so soon!

googlefanz

One thing that is very important to remember when you're cleaning old leather is to not just use a leather cleaner, but a conditioner as well.

So many leather cleaners are actually designed only for young, supple leather, and using them on old leather can strip out any remaining moisture and cause the leather to crack or become discolored.

However, if you follow up your cleaner with a conditioner, or use a leather cleaner conditioner combo, then the leather will remain healthy and good looking.

This applies to young leather too in terms of simple maintenance, by the way -- the more you keep your leather conditioned when its young, the fewer problems you're likely to have with it when it's old.

Amphibious54

I use toothpaste (the actual paste, not the gel) and an old toothbrush to clean my leather sneakers. I would not use this method as a leather upholstery cleaner, but it works well for scuffmarks on sneakers. The toothpaste is gentle enough that it does not damage the shoes. It also makes the shoes look better than using shoe polish. The shoes look like new after one cleaning, and the stitching even comes out clean.

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