How to clean and maintain a leather sofa

Leather sofas cost a pretty penny, so you won't want to let it go to ruin. Here's how you can maintain yours.

How to clean a leather sofa

A genuine leather sofa is a purchase that is intended to last for many years, even decades. Their hard-wearing nature means that they provide comfort over a long period, and their enduring style means that they can be used again and again, in a variety of different settings.

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Here’s our advice for the best methods of maintenance to will keep a sofa at its prime for years to come:

Cleaning basics

It’s important to start with the gentlest method of cleaning first; better to start gentle and work towards stronger cleaning methods if your initial tries are insufficient, than to begin with a harsh cleaning product and risk ruining the sofa. Any products that are used should be tested on an inconspicuous spot which is not always in full view, such as the back or underneath an arm.

Scrubbing can cause scratches and make stains more noticeable than they were in the first place. Gentle wiping motions combined with the right products should be enough to remove the majority of stains.

Chemicals, alcohol and strong detergents should be avoided at all times when cleaning a real leather sofa; they can cause more harm than good. If the stain or mark is proving too stubborn, always consult a professional who will be able to rid the sofa of most stains while working with the natural properties of the material.

Regular maintenance

Wiping a leather sofa
© Manuel-F-O

The most basic maintenance and care for a leather sofa is simple; a wipe down with a clean, soft cloth every week or so should keep the leather looking as stunning as it did when it arrived. It is recommended that a white cloth is used to do this, so as not to leave any dyes or deposits on the sofa. Vacuuming the leather is also a good method of keeping it clean, as with any other upholstered furniture. If there is a build-up of dust or dirt on the sofa, a slightly damp cloth will get it back to its old self.

Greasy stains

Greasy stains, such as food, will not budge when confronted with a damp cloth as water alone will not get oil or grease out. A soft, dry cloth is often effective in these circumstances, and should be blotted gently until the mark is removed. Talcum powder is also a great way to soak up the greasy stain; it should be sprinkled lightly over the area and left for a while, before being brushed away with a soft-bristled brush if possible. For larger or particularly oily stains, the process may need to be repeated, but perseverance is the key and will help to ensure the stained area reverts to its old lustre.

Watery marks

Watery marks, such as drink spillages, are among the simplest to get rid of. If possible, they should simply be blotted with a soft cloth as soon as the spillage occurs. If the stain has only been discovered once the water has dried, use a damp cloth and wipe outwards from the stain towards the outer edges of the cushion or the sofa itself. There should be less and less moisture as the cloth is wiped outwards; this helps to avoid tell-tale stain removal marks and, once dry, the sofa will look as though the stain was never there.

Ink stains

Stains that consist of mainly ink are the most difficult to remove and, depending on the size and severity of the stain, and the kind of ink that caused it, it may need to be tackled by a professional. As with the greasy and the watery stains, the fresher the mark is, the easier it will be to remove without a trace.

Marks from ball-point pens on light-coloured real leather sofas have a chance of fading and disappearing as time goes on; the water technique can be used to give it a helping hand, with the slightest hint of a gentle and non-abrasive soap solution for assistance. It may be tempting to opt for a stronger substance such as alcohol or detergent to remove a stain as harsh and unforgiving as ink, but this will potentially damage the colour and the upholstery itself. In these cases it is always best to call out a professional leather cleaner.

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Scratches

Stains aside, minor scratches can also ruin the aesthetic of a stunning leather sofa. The best way to remove these is to use a clean finger and try and buff the mark away. If this fails, a little distilled water and a renewed attempt to buff the scratch away can help to work the scratch out of the leather. Again, if the mark is large, noticeable and is not responding to any methods, it is recommended that a professional is consulted, as they will have extra tools and equipment that will be able to do the job.