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Can You Steam Leather? – When It Works and How To Do It

So you’ve got an old couch that looks worse for wear — dirty, dingy, and wrinkled. Can you steam leather clean and remove wrinkles?  I will discuss when steaming leather works and the best ways to do it.

Leather can be steamed to remove wrinkles, dirt, and germs using distilled water in a clothes steamer on low heat and covered with a microfiber towel. Keep the steamer moving across the leather to prevent damage and allow it to air dry before applying a leather conditioner.

Do you have an old, wrinkled leather jacket you’re unsure how to clean and remove wrinkles from? Did you ever think about steam as a way to remove dirt, stains, and wrinkles from leather items? Let’s review if you can steam leather and how it works.

What Is Steaming Leather?

Steaming leather is using a clothes steamer to remove dirt, wrinkles, germs, and creases from leather. Leather is a natural, complex material that is durable and flexible but can develop wrinkles and dirt with use. Leather items, from shoes and belts to furniture, can be steamed to keep them looking and feeling great.

What We’ll Explore

  • Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
  • History of Steaming Leather
  • Steaming Leather Overview Table
  • Why You Might Want to Seam Leather
  • Can You Steam Leather Characteristics
  • Can You Steam a Leather Jacket
  • Can You Steam Leather Seats
  • Can You Steam a Leather Bag
  • Can You Steam Leather Shoes
  • How To Steam Leather Step by Step
  • Can you Steam Faux Leather
  • Pros of Steaming Leather
  • Cons of Steaming Leather
  • Alternatives for Steaming Leather
  • My Personal Research Into Steaming Leather
  • Helpful Insights Into Can You Steam Leather
  • Key Takeaways
A Man Steam Cleaning a Jacket - Can You Steam Leather - Liberty Leather Goods
A Man Steam Cleaning a Jacket

Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions

A common misconception about steaming leather is that it won’t damage the material. However, there are risks involved with steaming leather, especially if it’s not done correctly. Some also believe leather is waterproof and can handle the moisture from steam.

The truth is leather is only water resistant and not waterproof. Therefore, steam from an iron could potentially damage the leather and shrink it. Using a clothes steamer on leather is not without risk – it can dry leather out and cause shrinking and cracking if not done properly.

History of Steaming Leather

In 1300 BC, when prehistoric people used leather as clothing and shoes, it was beaten on rocks in the river to clean. This led to the material breaking down and the need for better cleaning and preservation processes. Vegetable tanning came about in 400 BC, which made leather easier to clean and longer lasting. 

Soap and water were used from then on, but it wasn’t always effective at removing stains, germs, and wrinkles. The clothes steamer was invented in 1821 and was often used on cotton and polyester clothing. It wasn’t until the 1970s, when leather became a popular clothing item, that people started steaming it, and in the early 2000s, we learned how to steam leather without damaging it. 

Steaming Leather Overview Table

Clothes steamerUse distilled water, low heat setting, hold 6 inches away, keep the steamer moving
Steamy bathroomHang away from moisture, run the shower on hot for 10 minutes, and gently pull the leather to release wrinkles while warm
How To Steam Leather Characteristics

Why You Might Want To Steam Leather

Applying steam to leather shoes can make them look brand new. A leather jacket can also get new life with a steam application. Steaming can make dirty, dark leather look clean and bright again. As long as it’s done correctly, steaming leather can fix several problems, including: 

  1. Removing deep dirt and stains
  2. Getting rid of bacteria for a germ-free surface 
  3. Removing wrinkles and deep creases

Watch this helpful video from Joe Huntley demonstrating how to steam leather car seats.

Can You Steam Leather Characteristics

Leather Types

Any type of leather can be steam cleaned, from top grain to faux leather. Even suede and other full aniline leathers can be steam cleaned using low vapor mode.

Leather Finish

The leather finish protects the material from dirt, water, scratches, and more. It is essential to keeping leather functional as well as beautiful with properties to resist water, bacteria, and heat, according to a research article published in the Journal of Leather Science and Engineering by Fan, Ma, and Xu. All different leather finishes can be steamed, including:

  1. Full aniline
  2. Semi-aniline
  3. Bonded leather

Supplies Needed

The supplies needed for steaming leather include: 

  1. Clothes steamer
  2. Distilled water
  3. Microfiber towels or old t-shirts
  4. Leather conditioner
  5. A bathroom with hot water will suffice if a clothes steamer isn’t available.

Steam Temperature

Leather is susceptible to damage from high heat and will shrink and burn, so lower temperatures must be used to prevent this. A clothes steamer should be set to low heat, which is usually around 120–140 degrees Fahrenheit.


Many options for clothes and fabric steamers are available for any budget. Therefore, steamers can vary in cost and may include:

  1. Travel steamer – $22
  2. Handheld steamer – $40
  3. Full-size steamer – $70–$180.

Can You Steam a Leather Jacket?

A leather jacket can be steamed to clean, remove wrinkles, and refresh the material. Simply hang the leather jacket on a hanger, cover the steamer with a microfiber towel or old t-shirt, and keep the steamer moving to prevent concentrating steam in any spot. Let it air dry completely, then apply a leather conditioner.

Can You Steam Leather Seats

Steaming can be used to clean and refresh leather seats. This will brighten the leather, remove germs, and make the seats more comfortable and softer. Once the seats are cool and dry, apply a leather conditioner to keep the leather looking great.

Can You Steam a Leather Bag

Leather bags can be steamed to clean and disinfect the leather. Steam can also be used to remove the wrinkles and creases that often occur when using a leather bag. Place the leather bag on a flat surface and work in small sections, smoothing out wrinkles by hand. Apply a leather conditioner once the leather bag has cooled completely.

Leather can be steamed at low heat (120-140 degrees Fahrenheit) to remove dirt, germs, and wrinkles.

Can You Steam Leather Shoes

Leather shoes can be steamed to remove creases and wrinkles. Cover the shoe with a microfiber towel or old t-shirt and place a shoe tree inside the shoe to prevent shrinking. Then use the steamer to go back and forth over the shoe to remove wrinkles. Let the shoes cool thoroughly, then apply a leather conditioner, and they will look just like new.

How to Steam Leather Step by Step

  1. Add distilled water to the steamer and set to low heat.
  2. Steam an inconspicuous area to test for any damage. If no damage occurs, move on to step three.
  3. Cover the steamer with a microfiber towel or an old t-shirt.
  4. Move the steamer back and forth across small sections of the leather.
  5. Gently tug on the leather to relax and smooth any wrinkles or creases.
  6. Allow the leather item to air dry completely.
  7. Apply leather conditioner.
  8. Enjoy!

Can You Steam Faux Leather

Faux leather can be steamed for the same reasons as real leather. Use a microfiber towel or old t-shirt to cover the steamer and protect the faux leather. This can be used on faux leather clothing, upholstery, and even vehicle interiors to keep the material clean and wrinkle-free. Faux leather can be steamed for many reasons, including to:

  1. Deep clean
  2. Disinfect
  3. Remove odors
  4. Smooth out stains and wrinkles

Pros of Steaming Leather

Steaming leather is more efficient than ironing and can even be used on delicate leathers, including lambskin. Steaming leather has many other benefits, including: 

  1. Removing wrinkles and creases
  2. Killing germs
  3. Removing dirt and stains 
  4. Making leather fresher and more comfortable

Cons of Steaming Leather

Steaming leather with a clothes steamer must be done carefully and infrequently to prevent damage. The steamer must be kept moving and not held in any one spot for more than a second, or scalding and melting can occur. Steaming can not be used on cracked leather as this will worsen the damage. 

Alternatives for Steaming Leather

Hang in Steamy Bathroom

Hang leather items in the bathroom, away from faucets and shower, for this steaming method. Then turn the shower on to the hottest setting and leave it running for 10 minutes. Then, gently pull on the leather to smooth out deep wrinkles. Once the leather item is dry and cool, apply a leather conditioner.

Hair Dryer

Use a hair dryer on the lowest setting and hold it at least 6 inches from the leather item. Wave the hair dryer back and forth for 30 seconds in each spot on the leather item. Gently pull on the item to ease out wrinkles. Once the leather item has cooled, apply a leather conditioner.


Use a clothes iron on the coolest setting (120 degrees Fahrenheit) to remove wrinkles and creases. Cover the leather item with a pillowcase or butcher paper for protection from burns. Keep the iron moving and let the leather cool before moving it. Apply leather conditioner when done.

My Personal Research Into Steaming Leather

I asked friends and family about what leather items they have steamed or used steaming alternatives. Here is a table representing the percentages of their responses and what I learned from the poll about steaming leather.

Leather Items and Steaming MethodTimes Selected
Leather jacket-clothes steamer9%
Leather jacket-professional6%
Leather shoes-moist towel and iron6%
Leather shoes-clothes steamer9%
Leather bag-clothes steamer13%
Leather pants-steamy bathroom6%
Leather jacket-steamy bathroom10%
Leather car interior-clothes steamer6%
Leather car interior-professional13%
Leather couch-clothes steamer6%
Leather couch-professional16%
Common Leather Items That People Steam

Helpful Insights Into Can You Steam Leather

Can you use a steamer on leather clothes?

Yes, a steamer can be used on leather clothes with caution. The steamer must be set to the lowest heat setting (about 120 degrees Fahrenheit) and covered with a microfiber towel or old t-shirt to protect the leather. Keep the steamer moving to steam the entire garment to remove creases and wrinkles evenly.

What happens if you steam a leather jacket?

Steaming a leather jacket can help remove creases, wrinkles, stains, dirt, and germs. Hang the leather jacket on a hanger and use a clothes steamer covered with a microfiber towel or old t-shirt to steam evenly using constant motion. Gently pull on the leather jacket by hand to remove any deep or stubborn wrinkles, then allow it to cool and apply leather conditioner.

Can wrinkles be steamed out of leather?

Wrinkles can be steamed out of leather using a clothes steamer on the lowest setting covered with a microfiber cloth or a steamy bathroom. However, do not use a steam iron on leather because it will cause damage to the material. 

How do you get wrinkles out of leather without a steamer?

Leather items like jackets, skirts, and pants can be hung in a steamy bathroom if one doesn’t have a clothes steamer. Hang the item away from the shower and run on the highest heat to produce steam. Keep the leather item in the steam for about 10 minutes, then gently pull by hand to remove any stubborn wrinkles or creases.

Should I steam leather?

Steam isn’t good to use on leather often, but it is ok to use it occasionally. Steaming leather once or twice yearly to refresh, clean, and remove wrinkles is acceptable and shouldn’t cause damage if done properly. Be sure to apply a leather conditioner after it is completely cool and dry to keep the leather supple.

What happens if you steam-clean leather?

If leather is steam-cleaned, it can shrink, dry out, and crack. Steam cleaning can occasionally be done with a clothes steamer to smooth out wrinkles and remove dirt, but it must be held a few inches away from the leather and constantly moved to prevent damage. Always apply a leather conditioner after steam cleaning, allowing the leather to dry completely to keep it supple.

Key Takeaways

  1. Leather can be steamed at low heat (120–140 degrees Fahrenheit to remove dirt, germs, and wrinkles.
  2. Steaming leather can be done with a clothes steamer or in a steamy bathroom.
  3. Always use a leather conditioner after steaming leather items.

In Closing

Steaming leather is a good idea for deep cleaning, sanitizing, and removing creases and wrinkles. Limit to a couple of times a year to prevent damage from occurring to leather items, and use a proper leather cleaner for regular cleanings. With the right tools and methods, steaming leather is a great way to keep leather items looking great.

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