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How to Clean Leather Chairs – Step-by-Step from Experience

Leather chairs are an investment in any home or office, and one reason they’re used is that they’re so comfortable. With constant use and exposure to moisture, there can be concerns about how to clean them without damaging the leather or comfort level. I will discuss how to clean leather chairs step by step.

Cleaning leather chairs is removing stains, dirt, and mold to improve their appearance without damaging the material. A soft brush with or without a vacuum, microfiber cloth, or leather cleaner can eliminate unwanted marks or soil and keep leather chairs looking and feeling newer for longer.

Leather chairs are pricey, so what does one do when there’s a spill? What are the best methods for cleaning leather chairs? Let’s check out the tools and supplies needed to clean leather chairs and a step-by-step guide on how to do it.

What Is Cleaning Leather Chairs?

Cleaning leather chairs is removing stains, dirt, body oil, and moisture damage from leather to improve its appearance without harming the delicate material. Prompt and appropriate cleaning methods are best for leather chairs as they are especially prone to frequent spills and food stains. When choosing products to clean leather chairs properly, the material’s properties must be considered not to damage the fibers.   

What We’ll Explore

  • Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
  • Reasons You Might Choose to Clean Leather Chairs
  • Variations or Styles of Cleaning Leather Chairs
  • Cleaning Leather Chairs Overview Table
  • Skill Level of Cleaning Leather Chairs
  • Tools and Supplies Needed for Cleaning Leather Chairs
  • How to Clean Leather Chairs Step by Step
  • How to Get Better at Cleaning Leather Chairs
  • My Personal Research on How to Clean Leather Chairs
  • Helpful Insights on How to Leather Chairs
  • Key Takeaways
Cleaning a Black Leather Chair With a Microfiber Cloth - How To Clean Leather Chairs - Liberty Leather Goods
Cleaning a Black Leather Chair With a Microfiber Cloth

Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions

One myth about how to clean leather chairs is that once moisture from skin or spills has set in, it cannot be removed. However, this is only partially true. Cleaning methods for removing moisture stains left behind exist; in most cases, these stains can be removed entirely. 

Another myth around cleaning leather, in general, is that olive oil is a good conditioner. This is false because the leather will soak it up quickly, leading to oil spots.  

A common misconception is that saddle soap is great for cleaning and conditioning leather. This is also false because it’s very alkaline, which can remove the tanning agents and cause premature leather cracking.

There are a few things to keep in mind when cleaning leather chairs, including not using too much water, testing products in an inconspicuous spot first, always allowing the leather to dry completely, and always using leather conditioner.

Reasons You Might Choose To Clean Leather Chairs

Leather chairs are made of highly durable material resistant to moisture, but accidents can happen. Daily use of leather chairs increases the probability of stains and moisture exposure, which is one reason one might choose to clean leather chairs. 

Moisture from sweat, drinks, spills, and more can be absorbed into the leather. According to researchers Cetin, Karabay, Ozturk, and Kurumer of Dokuz Eylul University, sweat or water vapor permeability of leather chairs affects the comfort level even though leather may not feel wet with 30% moisture levels. 

This can lead to stains in the material if not cleaned up immediately. Cleaning spills and moisture spots is another good reason to clean leather chairs. Dirt and debris can also collect on leather, and routine cleaning and moisturizing can keep leather chairs looking and feeling great.

Variations or Styles of Cleaning Leather Chairs

There are a few ways to clean leather chairs; most are super easy to do with materials already on hand. Let’s look at the most common variations of cleaning leather chairs:

  1. Vacuum attachment with a soft brush 
  2. Soft-bristled brush
  3. Microfiber towel
  4. Old t-shirts
  5. Leather Wipes
  6. Leather cleaner

It’s important to note the manufacturer’s instructions when using commercial leather cleaners.  Follow the unique directions for each product and always test cleaners in an inconspicuous place, like the underside of the seat or under the armrest, for colorfastness. 

Cleaning Leather Chairs Overview Table

Area of PreparationDetails
TechniqueCleaning Leather Chairs
Overall Level of Skill (1–5)3
Time to Complete (minutes/hours)20–60 min.
Workspace NeededMinimal
Skills NeededMinimal
Tools and Supplies NeededVacuum or soft brush, leather cleaner, microfiber towels or old t-shirts, leather conditioner
Key Helpful TipTest products in an inconspicuous spot firstOnly use liquid cleaners on non-absorbent leathersLeathers like Nubuck and Suede require specialty cleaning brushes and methods
How To Clean Leather Chairs Overview

Skill Level of Cleaning Leather Chairs

It doesn’t take a great deal of skill for cleaning leather chairs, just remember to treat the material kindly. The skill level for cleaning leather is likely around a three on a scale of one (no skill) to five (expert experience). A few things to remember are:

  1. Only use liquid cleaners on non-absorbent leather
  2. Test products in an inconspicuous spot first
  3. Allow the leather to dry completely after cleaning
  4. Use leather conditioner after drying to prevent the material from drying and cracking.

Tools and Supplies Needed for Cleaning Leather Chairs

Few special tools or supplies are needed for cleaning leather chairs; most are probably already in the garage or closet. Items needed for cleaning leather chairs may include:

  1. Vacuum with a soft brush attachment (being cautious of suction power)
  2. Soft-bristled brush
  3. Leather cleaner
  4. Microfiber towels or old t-shirts (3 or more) — because they are lint-free, soft, and non-abrasive
  5. Leather wipes
  6. Leather conditioner

How to Clean Leather Chairs Step by Step

With the proper tools and supplies, it’s time to learn how to clean leather chairs step by step.

  1. Use a soft brush, with or without a vacuum cleaner attachment, a microfiber towel, a leather wipe, or another lint-free cloth to dry dust the visible dirt and debris.
  2. Test the absorbency of your leather chair by applying a small drop of water in an inconspicuous place. If the water beads up and remains on the leather’s surface, it is non-absorbent leather. If the water soaks into the leather material, it is an absorbent leather. Usually, only non-absorbent leathers should be cleaned with liquid cleaners. 
  3. If your leather chairs are made of non-absorbent leather, you can use a liquid leather cleaner after testing it in an inconspicuous spot for color changes or damage.
  4. If no damage occurs, apply a small amount of leather cleaner to a microfiber cloth and wipe the leather in one direction to remove the stain. Generally, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use with a commercial leather cleaner.
  5. If the stain remains after gently wiping, you can re-apply the leather cleaner to the chairs and let it soak for about 10 minutes. 
  6. Wipe the leather with a clean microfiber cloth in one direction.
  7. Repeat the cleaning process no more than twice; anything that remains after this point will likely be permanent or require help from someone experienced with cleaning leather chairs.
  8. Allow the leather chair to air dry completely. Carefully using a hairdryer on a cool setting pointed across the leather and not directly at it can help speed drying time
  9. Apply a proper leather conditioner after drying is complete.

For more insight on how to clean any leather chair, check out this helpful video.

How to Get Better at Cleaning Leather Chairs

Leather chairs don’t usually need to be cleaned very often, but frequent cleaning will help you get better at the process and keep your chairs looking nice. It’s best to know the type of leather you’re cleaning, if it is finished or has a protective coating, or if it is unfinished like suede. This will aid in choosing the proper products to use. 

There is not just one right way to clean leather chairs, but there are a few products that should not be used because they can cause damage to the leather. Bleach, harsh soaps, saddle soap, disinfecting wipes, and vinegar are not good for most types of leather. 

Get familiar with the types of leather products available and which work best. Mistakes can happen, so always test products in inconspicuous spots for colorfastness. Then keep on cleaning those leather chairs to improve your skills!

My Personal Research on How to Clean Leather Chairs

To learn more about what types of stains people need to have removed from their leather chairs, I asked a few leather upholstery cleaning companies which hard-to-remove stains they see the most frequently. Here is a table representing the percentages of their responses and what I learned from the poll about how to clean leather chairs.

Type of Leather Chair StainTimes Selected
Ink/ Dye25%
Food Grease25%
Body oil19%
Body fluids19%
The Most Common Leather Chair Stains

Helpful Insights On How to Clean Leather Chairs

What do you clean leather dining chairs with?

Leather dining chairs can be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner attachment on a low setting, a soft-bristled brush, leather wipes, microfiber cloths, or old t-shirts. A proper leather cleaner can be used on non-absorbent leather.

What is the best cleaner for a leather chair?

The best leather chair cleaner will depend on the type of leather being cleaned. A good cleaner for leather chairs will be one that is made for the specific type of leather you are cleaning. 

How do I clean leather chairs naturally?

Leather chairs can be cleaned naturally using a dry brush, microfiber cloth, old t-shirt, or vacuum to wipe off the dirt and debris. 

Can you clean a leather chair with soap and water?

A leather chair should generally not be cleaned with soap and water because household soaps can have alcohol, oil, and other chemicals that can dry, damage, or rot the leather over time. Most soaps that aren’t approved for use on leather will have an improper pH level that can break leather fibers.

Key Takeaways

  1. Always learn what type of leather you are cleaning by doing an absorbency test.
  2. Always use the right type of products on leather chairs.
  3. Always condition leather chairs once completely dried.

In Closing

Leather chairs are a good investment, and for them to remain in good shape, it’s a great idea to keep them clean and conditioned. No fancy skills are involved. With just a few supplies and some patience, your leather chairs can stay looking great. A clean leather chair is a more comfortable leather chair, after all!

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