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How To Clean White Leather – Unique Methods for This Color

Leather products are an investment and require routine care and maintenance to keep them looking and feeling good.  White leather is unique because it needs special treatment to prevent it from breaking down or turning yellow.  I will discuss the best ways to clean white leather.

Cleaning white leather is removing soil from white leather without damaging the material or finishes to prevent yellowing and keep them looking new.  Stains, spills, and water damage can be eliminated from white leather using a soft brush or microfiber cloth and proper leather cleaning products.

Do you have an old leather couch that is dirty or yellowing?  Are you looking for how to clean white leather to make a purse look new again?  Let’s check out some step-by-step instructions, tips, and examples of how to clean white leather.

What is Cleaning White Leather 

Cleaning white leather is removing dirt, debris, and stains while preventing damage to the leather fibers, color, and protective finish.  Regular maintenance cleaning will also help slow yellowing from natural pollutants that white leather is prone to.  Therefore, the right leather cleaning agents and materials should be used to maintain the quality and appearance of white leather.

Cleaning a White Leather Couch With a Microfiber Cloth - How To Clean White Leather - Liberty Leather Goods
Cleaning a White Leather Couch With a Microfiber Cloth

Uses for How To Clean White Leather 

Over time and repeated use, white leather can become dirty, stained, and yellow.  Spills, stains, dirt, and moisture can contribute to unpleasant smells, cracks, and mold, so it’s best to clean white leather regularly and when needed to keep it looking great.  Uses for how to clean white leather include the following:

  1. Everyday use
  2. Dirt
  3. Stains
  4. Spills
  5. Scuffs
  6. Water damage
  7. Mold
  8. Yellowing
  9. Ink
  10. Body oil
  11. Smoke

Types or Variations of Cleaning White Leather 

Variations for cleaning white leather will depend on the leather type and finish.  Genuine white leather is often made with chrome-free technology for tanning, which requires using multiple other re-tanning agents, according to researchers Huang, Song, Yu, Wang, and Shi.  Whereas faux white leathers are often made of different plastics and surface coatings.  Therefore, there are various ways to clean white leather.  

Dry Brushing

The first and simplest is to carefully brush white leather with a dry, soft-bristled brush or vacuum cleaner attachment to remove visible dirt and debris.  A dry, lint-free microfiber cloth or old t-shirt can also be used with or without a small amount of leather conditioner to wipe away stains gently. 

Caution should be taken when cleaning specialty leathers like Nubuck and suede.  They require specialized stiff brushes to restore the surface texture and may darken when cleaned with moisturizers.  In general, Nubuck and suede require specific cleaning methods.

Wet Cleaning

After testing the absorbency of your leather by placing a droplet of water in an inconspicuous place, non-absorbent white leather can be cleaned using a microfiber cloth or old t-shirt and a leather cleaner that is approved for use on white leather.  Following the manufacturer’s instructions, apply the white leather cleaner and let it set for about 10 minutes. 

Gently wipe away the cleaner using a clean, slightly damp cloth and allow dry completely before applying a leather conditioner to prevent drying and cracking.  A hairdryer on a cool setting may be used to speed up drying time. 

If the white leather remains soiled after it’s thoroughly dry, only repeat the cleaning process once. Any remaining stains may be permanent and require help from someone who is experienced with cleaning white leather.

Test the white leather cleaner in an inconspicuous spot like the inside of a cuff, the back of a seat cushion, or a hem.

Tools Needed for Cleaning White Leather 

Few tools are needed to clean white leather.  Start with a soft dry brush, microfiber towels, or old t-shirts.  This fabric is soft and optimal for cleaning white leather as it won’t shred or scratch the material.  A wet leather cleaner may be necessary for deep cleaning non-absorbent white leather. 

You may also need a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment and a hair dryer used on a cool setting to speed drying time.  Once cleaning and drying are completed, you will want to choose a leather conditioner that will moisturize and protect the clean, white leather.  Tools that may be needed for cleaning white leather include:

  1. Microfiber cloths or old t-shirts
  2. Leather cleaner
  3. Soft-bristled brush
  4. Vacuum with a soft brush (be cautious of suction power)
  5. Leather conditioner, protector, or oil
  6. Hair dryer, on a cool setting
  7. Specialized stiff brushes for Suede and Nubuck (different brushes for each)

Skill Level of How To Clean White Leather

The skill level for how to clean white leather is rather simple.  According to an article by Made Uus titled Traditional leather processing using domestic methods in Estonia, leather processing uses chemical or mechanical treatments to provide different properties.  You’ll want to consider the leather’s quality and that genuine leather is held together by tiny, breakable fibers.

Proper white leather cleaners and conditioners are best to prevent those bonds from weakening due to cleaning.  Also, test white leather’s absorbency in an inconspicuous spot for color changing or staining.  Generally, only non-absorbent white leather should be cleaned using liquids.

Always try to learn what type of leather you’re working with and if there’s any protective coating.

How To Clean White Leather

Now that we’ve discussed the most important things to keep in mind, I hope you’re feeling prepared to clean your white leather products.  Usually, use the instructions for any leather cleaner you choose for the best guidance, but here is a general overview of the cleaning process:

  1. Use a soft-bristled brush or vacuum to remove dust and debris.  Be cautious of suction power.
  2. Do an absorbency test with a water droplet in a hidden place.  Absorbent leather generally should not be cleaned with a liquid cleaner.
  3. If the leather is non-absorbent, test the white leather cleaner in an inconspicuous spot like the inside of a cuff, the back of a seat cushion, or a hem.  
  4. If no staining occurs, apply a small amount of liquid cleaner to a soft cloth and gently wipe (don’t scrub) the white leather.
  5. If the stain or yellowing remains after a gentle wipe, lightly reapply the liquid cleaner and let it soak on the leather for 10 minutes.
  6. Use a clean and slightly damp cloth to remove any excess cleaner.   
  7. Allow the leather to air dry, or use a hairdryer on a cool setting pointed across the leather, not directly at it, to speed up the drying process.  Don’t dry white leather directly in the sun.
  8. If the leather remains soiled after drying, only repeat the cleaning process once.  Anything that remains after the second cleaning is likely permanent or requires a professional leather cleaner. 
  9. Condition the white leather with a leather conditioner — buff off the extra conditioner with a clean cloth.

Tips for How To Clean White Leather  

 When cleaning white leather, keep these tips in mind for the best results:

  1. Never soak white leather in water or use a washing machine. 
  2. Avoid harsh chemicals like unapproved leather cleaners and soaps, bleach, or alcohol; these substances can damage the material and cause white leather to turn yellow.
  3. Avoid using abrasive materials, including Magic Erasers, to prevent scratching white leather.
  4. Always test the absorbency of your leather boots before applying any liquid leather cleaners.
  5. If there are difficult stains or severe yellowing, consider consulting a leather care professional.
  6. Regular maintenance can slow the aging and yellowing of white leather.

How to Get Better at Cleaning White Leather

So, how can you get better at cleaning white leather?  It takes practice, patience, and the right products.  Always try to learn what type of leather you’re working with and if there’s any protective coating.  Then read the instructions for the leather products you use for cleaning and conditioning.  You’ll probably make some mistakes, but we all do.  Learn from them and just try again!

Examples of How To Clean White Leather

  1. Always clean spills on white leather furniture as soon as they occur to prevent staining.
  2. Absorb any excess moisture immediately with a microfiber towel or old t-shirt.
  3. Absorbent white leathers can be dry-dusted to remove dust and dirt.
  4. Clean white leather purses and shoes often, as they are prone to transfer stains from contact with denim.
  5. When using commercially prepared leather products, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  Test in an inconspicuous spot for any staining or discoloration.

Check out this helpful video for tips on removing denim dye transfer stains from white leather using a leather cleaner.

Related Insights

Can you use a magic eraser on white leather?

Magic erasers may be great for removing stains from white walls, but not from white leather.  Magic erasers are abrasive and will cause damage to white leather surfaces and speed wearing and aging.  

Does WD-40 clean leather?

While WD-40 can sometimes clean leather, it is not recommended. It is especially harmful to white leather because it can strip the color, spread stains, and break down leather’s protective finishes and the leather itself. 

Can I use Vaseline to clean leather?

Vaseline may effectively remove scratches and some stains from white leather, but it can soften and break down leather bonds.  It can also promote rot in some types of leather, so in general, avoid applying Vaseline on leather.

The Most Popular Products for Cleaning White Leather

I asked friends and family what types of products they use to clean white leather products.  Here’s a table representing the percentages of their responses and what I learned from the poll about how to clean white leather.

White Leather Cleaning ProductTimes Selected
Soap and water (not recommended)33%
Alcohol wipes, rarely (not recommended)17%
Leather cleaner33%
No product17%
White Leather Cleaning Products

Final Thoughts

Leather products are an investment of not just money but proper care and cleaning over time.  White leather cleaned and conditioned with the appropriate products will always look and feel good.  Hopefully, this article helped you find the answers you were looking for on how to clean white leather and feel confident enough to do so.  Which variation will you use, and which white leather product will you clean?

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