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Best Leather Cleaner for Each Project Type: From Experience

Leather cleaner is something we’ll likely find ourself using at one time or another on a project. We might be restoring an old piece, preparing a new one for finishing, or just cleaning up an item during routine maintenance. Some recommendations include paid links to products that I trust.

Lexol Leather Cleaner is my recommended leather cleaner – click here to view it on Amazon. It is gentle, pH-balanced, and does not contain conditioning agents. This helps it leave the surface free from dirt and grime (without harsh chemicals), while allowing the crafter to choose what conditioning and surface protectants to apply, if any.

*Note (April, 2022) – Sources have been sharing that the Lexol formula has been changed. Originally seemingly made in the USA of mostly natural ingredients – it now appears it is being made overseas, with some unnatural ingredients, and several strong additives that contribute to a noticeable smell. If that can be confirmed, the new formula would NOT be recommended. The recommendations are focused on the old, original formula that had been around for years.

Depending on the type of leather one is cleaning, let’s explore a few leather cleaners options that can be helpful.

Best Leather Cleaner for General Uses for Most Leathers

Lexol Leather Cleaner

This cleaner has been around for decades and trusted by leather restorers as well as those that work in harsh, rugged environmemts cleaning saddlery and tack. Since this cleaner is gentle, it can be used on most leather types – click here to view it on Amazon.

Additionally, it doesn’t include added conditioning agents. Some might prefer that since cleaning and conditioning is one step, though having them combined also means having to ensure that conditioning agent is safe for the leather it ie being used on. With Lexol, it’s just a cleaner, so one can clean easily with it, then choose what conditioner to apply after.

Leather Working Tools - Leather Cleaner and Conditioner - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Cleaner and Conditioner

Best Leather Cleaner for Saddlery and Tack

Belvoir Tack Cleaner by Carr Day and Martin

For those working exclusively with saddlery and tack, Belvoir Tack Cleaner by Carr Day and Martin is an excellent choice – click here to view it on Amazon. Tack often gets exposed to moisture, dirt, rain, mud, grease, sweat, heat, cold, and a variety of elements on a frequent basis.

This is a pH-neutral formula will not rot stitching, and its integrated anti-fungal properties help reduce the growth of mold on the tack. It comes in an easy-to-apply spray bottle, and is a solid choice if one is working primarily with saddlery and tack.

Best Leather Cleaner for Automotive Upholstery

Leatherique Prestine Clean with Leatherique Rejuvenator

Leatherique manufactures a high-end, quality leather cleaner and conditioner for automotive upholstery. The Prestine Clean product does not contain silicone or harsh chemicals, so it focuses on cleaning and removing dirt and grime from the leather’s surface. This is gentle and works very well – click here to see it on Amazon.

Once the automotive upholsery is cleaned, it’s important to condition it right after. Leatherique makes a partner product for the cleaner, and this product is a consitioner called Leatherique Rejuvenator. It is an oil, comprised of proteins and collagins, to actually help soften and strengthen the leather fibers.

Some conditioners leave a barrier between above the fibers, where this penetrates into the fibers. After using the cleaner, it’s recommended to apply the Leather Rejuvenator – click here to see it on Amazon.

Best Leather Cleaner for Suede and Nubuck

Saphir Medaille d’Or Omni’Nettoyant – Nubuck & Suede Cleaner Shoe Shampoo

Suede and nubuck have exposed leather fibers – this gives them that softer, textured feel. It also requires a little specialized care to ensure they stay in good shape for a long time. The Saphir Medaille d’Or Omni’Nettoyant removes stains, watermarks, grime, and everyday buildup of dirt. It should only be used on suede and nubuck, and not other types of leathers.

It is a natural formula, without synthetic additives such as silicones or petroluem-based products, and has been around for decades. If you’re looking for a gentle and proven suede or nubuck cleaner, it’s definitely worth looking at the Saphir Medaille d’Or Omni’Nettoyant Shoe Shampoo – click here to see it on Amazon.

Having a quality leather cleaner, that’s appropriate for the type of leather that one is cleaning, is essential to doing great work. As you get more experience and work on more projects, you’ll likely find your self reaching for your favorite cleaner time and time again.

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