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Cleaning a Leather Couch - Bring it Back to Life in 4 Easy Steps

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Leather is very tough and durable.  It has been used for a very long time in coats, books, shoes and furniture and more.  It is actually a product that can look better with age, such as a leather bound book or with some coats.  But a couch can look worn out quickly as it is in constant use and can get dirty especially if pets and kids are involved.  It is more durable to dirt than upholstered fabric is, but still needs some attention.

We have a green leather couch that has been moved many times over the years, as well as countless hours spent on it with the kids and the dogs.  After our last move, I realized just how sad it was looking.  Amazingly enough, there was not one tear, but many areas looked worn out and abused.  I thought it was time to retire this couch, but thought I would take the time and try and give it a good clean to see if it was possible to save this heirloom as they can be expensive to replace!

I had over the years vacuumed it and wiped it down, but never really did a “deep clean”.  I thought I would take an hour or so on the weekend and give it at go to see if it could be saved.

1. Vacuuming

This was where I started.  I pulled the leather cushions off the couch so I could get right down there with the hand tools of our vacuum cleaner, I was impressed with the loose change I found, so ended up getting paid to clean it!  We were not the best at training our dogs, so they ended up on the couch with us many evenings, so long hair and dirt had migrated between the seams as they are big dogs.

So, make sure to get right into the seams and folds depending on the style of your leather furniture.  

2. Damp Cloth the Dirt

I was embarrassed to see dried mud on parts of it from the dog, so after I did a good vacuuming I took a damp cloth (really wrung out so not to be too wet) and wiped the leather surface to get rid of obvious dirt and dirt film.  Dirt film is when the leather looks very dull.  You may have wiped it with a dusting cloth or vacuumed it occasionally, but a dull film can form over time from constant dirt and dust being rubbed in.  More dirt will then be attracted to that area, and so goes the cycle.

cleaning a leather couch

3. Leather Cleaner

Now that you have done the basics, vacuuming and slightly damp cloth, it is time for the big guns as I call them.  A good quality leather cleaner.  You may wonder why you don’t just use this right from the beginning; well you don’t want to be rubbing obvious dirt and dust into the pores.  I just found this leather cleaner would work its best after removing obvious dirt, so it could get to work on the not so obvious. 

This cleaner gets right into the pores and gets out the rest of the dirt your vacuum and damp cloth leave behind.  It was at this stage that I realized those “worn” spots that made it look old and beat up actually was in fact, dirt that got into the pores.  I was really impressed that it got rid of that dullness.

So, cleaning a leather couch should be done in stages like above to really get the best results.

cleaning a leather couch

4. Leather Conditioner

After you have vacuumed, then wiped with damp cloth, and then used the cleaner it is time to protect your good work with a good conditioner.  This is when your couch comes back to life.  After all that cleaning, this conditioner is like putting wax on a car, the icing on the cake.  It is best to use a conditioner designed for leather as you don’t want to be sliding off your couch!  You don’t want it to be slippery just well nourished.  If you follow the instructions on the bottle, it won’t be slippery but it will look awesome.  It is also best to use the same brand of cleaner and conditioner for best results.

So awesome in fact, you may decide it is not time to retire this furniture yet.  After I spent an hour or so on mine, even the minor wear marks were less noticeable and it fit nicely in with the décor.  

cleaning a leather couch

We tried to keep the dogs off the couch, but after too many years of letting them on, I didn’t have the heart to kick them off.  I now have a great procedure for cleaning a leather couch, so I can pass the torch to others in the house to do this job, the lure of finding loose change helps.  I have the procedure figured out; it is time for others to give it a go as well!

I decided this was going to be a seasonal thing in our house.  I would do the normal quick vacuum in between and then once again at the start of each of the four seasons I would do this deep clean using the 4 steps (vacuuming, damp cloth, cleaner, and conditioner) and hopefully we have this big old green leather couch for years to come.

This system will also work well on other products such as boots, purses, jackets and more.  A little easier to do as they are smaller, but the same process works.  Doesn’t hurt to empty that purse out each season and give it a good clean inside as well as outside.  Cleaning your leather jacket this way works well especially if you are putting it away for a season.  Don’t put it away dirty.  Leather can be a serious investment; you want to protect it, especially with furniture as I find they get more comfy with time.

It doesn’t take long to do this.  Just write it on your list for an hour and if you can bribe someone in the household to help you, even better, they may be some more loose change.

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