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Ways to Clean Light Coloured Leather

The choice for leather furniture in the home or in your vehicle, or even with shoes, apparel or handbags is often made because of its natural beauty, durability and feel.  Good quality leather items will last many years, and sometimes a lifetime when cared for properly.

Regular cleaning using the right type of products is the best way to care for your leather goods and ensure they maintain their look and feel.

When looking at leather furniture, upholstery, clothing, or other items, we can often tell right away that there is a quality to it just by looking at it, even before touching and feeling the surface.  One of the great appeals of having leather, apart from its durability, is the wide range of colours and textures available.  All leather is treated to achieve the desired finish for the item it’s being used for.  These treatments can be minor, maintaining the natural colour and textures in the hide, or more often, it an include adding colour finished to the hide.

These colours can be endless and allow a wide range of choice.  However, one hurdle that people often come up against when choosing a colour for their leather items is thinking that light coloured leather will get more dirty than darker colours, therefore they steer away from that choice and often compromise what they take home.

This is a common misconception.  Leather will get dirty, regardless of its colour.  Typically, this is from household dust, perspiration, dirty clothes, pets, food and drink spills and a whole bunch of other things that may come in contact with the leather surface.

So, while all colours get equally dirty, that is, darker colours don’t have the magical ability to repel dirt, it is true that lighter colours will show the dirt more than darker colours.  But don’t view this as a problem.  Instead, this can be a great little helper.  Remember the adage, ‘out of sight, out of mind’?  This is true with respect to darker coloured leather. If you can’t see the dirt, you’re less likely to be motivated to clean it.  Lighter coloured leather will show the dirt and so be more of a prompt to clean it regularly and thus being more likely to last longer.

So now that we know that cleaning is the key to maintaining the life of your leather, how do we go about doing a good job, and keeping it quick and easy?

There Are Three Types of Cleaning to Remember

  1. Weekly – light
  2. Monthly – wipe
  3. Quarterly – deep

The first step is weekly light clean.  This is simply removing any loose particles that may be on the surface.  A soft brush or vacuum is good for doing this.  Furniture and car seats in particular can collect food particles in the folds and creases.  Each week, use the vacuum to remove these so they don’t build up.

The monthly clean is also quick and simple, however this time we recommend using a clean damp cloth to wipe over the leather surface to remove light dirt and dust build up.  Furniture and car upholstery will gather dust from everyday use and shoes, clothing and handbags will also hold onto dirt from use and coming into contact with the outside world.  Using a clean cloth, preferably a microfibre lint free cloth, rinsed out under a tap, wipe over the leather surface to remove light dirt and dust.  Pay attention to folds, seams, or buttons where dirt can collect.

The quarterly clean is going to take a little more time but is still simple if the first two cleaning steps are done regularly.  When doing the quarterly clean it is important to use a high-quality leather cleaning product.  It can be tempting to use a general-purpose surface cleaner. Don’t do this!  General cleaning products for the kitchen or laundry contain strong chemicals and are designed for hard surfaces like bench tops and floors.  These products will strip the topcoat off your leather and potential strip our the colour finish. This can seriously harm the leather making it susceptible to drying out and cracking, let along losing its colour.  So, avoid these cleaning products.

Instead, use a specialty leather cleaning product, like the Care Cover Leather Cleaning Solution.  Water based products are the best and safe to handle as well as being gentle on your leather surface, but tough on grime.  Specialty leather cleaning products, like the Care Cover range, have the right pH balance to also care for the clear topcoat that protects most upholstery, clothing, and accessory leathers.

Begin by testing the cleaning product on an inconspicuous area of your leather item.  For example, on a leather sofa, spray a small amount of cleaner onto the rear bottom corner of the sofa and wipe off to check there are no adverse effects to the leather.  Inspect the cloth to make sure no colour has come off the leather surface.  If you do see colour on the cloth, stop using the product and contact the manufacturer for advice.

Sometime colour will come off the leather surface when wiping it with a damp cloth only.  If this happens, it means the leather has lost its clear protective topcoat.  This can be reapplied but will need a professional leather technician to do this.  We recommend The Leather Doctor company.  Their team of over 100 leather techs come to your home and can restore the leather’s surface finish on the spot. They can also repair all types of other damage, including rips, cuts, tears, burns and even colour loss.

Back to our cleaning tips.  Once you’ve tested the leather cleaner on a hidden part and find no adverse effects, begin at one end of the item and spray the cleaner onto a single panel.  If this is a sofa, spray one seat cushion first.  If you’re cleaning a handbag, spray one side panel first.  We recommend this approach so that you can manage the area with the cleaning liquid preventing it from running, dripping, or drying out.

Once the cleaning liquid is on the surface, use a soft brush to lather the cleaner in circular motions removing the dirt from the leather.  Once a good lather has been achieved, use a clean cloth (preferably terry towelling) to wipe off the lather.  If the leather is very dirty, repeat this process.  You should be able to see the dirt easily on the towelling cloth.

When the section is clean, move to the next section.  For example, the adjacent seat cushion on a sofa, or the next panel on a bag.  Continue in this manner until the entire surface is clean.  Check in between cushions and in folds to ensure the cleaner hasn’t dripped or left runs. Wipe out any runs you do find.

Following this cleaning schedule will keep your light coloured leather looking great and each step in the cleaning process should be easy and quick when you keep up the schedule.  An easy way to remember is to choose a day each week when you have a vacuum out, each month either on the first day or last to wipe down the surface, and the change of each season for the deep clean.  If you don’t have the time, you can always book in the professionals to come and take care of it for you.  They’ll even do the reminding.



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