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How do I clean leather upholstery?

Leather upholstery is practical, durable, and easy to clean and maintain. Depending on the type of leather your furniture is upholstered with, regular cleaning requires little more than vacuuming the exterior with the brush attachment, wiping it down thoroughly with a microfibre cloth (dry for unprotected leather, and wet for protected), and occasionally applying some leather conditioner. Properly caring for your leather upholstery ensures that your furniture will continue to look its best well into the future as it develops its own unique appearance and character.

Follow our step-by-step guide to get the most from your leather furniture.

1. Identify your leather.

There are two main types of leather used in upholstery – unprotected (aniline) and protected (semi aniline and pigmented). Each provides a different appearance and feel, and both surfaces will slowly change over time to give your furniture a unique finish. Check the label for the type of finish used in your upholstery, and if you can’t find it, check the manufacturer’s website for the product details. Next, gather your cleaning supplies.
As mentioned above, cleaning your leather should normally require little more than a cloth and a vacuum. However, for the
optimal finish, here are the tools you’ll need.

  • Organic, non-detergent liquid soap, or a specialised leather cleaner
  • Clean microfibre cloth
  • Vacuum cleaner with brush attachment
  • Leather conditioner

Once you’ve gathered your materials and identified the finish of the leather material, you can begin cleaning your

2. Vacuum clean the exterior.

With the brush attachment, thoroughly clear any dust and dirt from your upholstery. Be sure to explore your furniture’s
nooks and crannies and leave no mess behind.

3. Wipe with a cloth.

This is where the approach diverges based on the type of leather in use. Unprotected leather will not respond to water as well as protected leather, so if your leather is a pure aniline product, wipe thoroughly with a dry microfibre cloth. Protected leather can withstand moisture, but should not be left wet, so after cleaning it with a microfibre cloth using a solution of non-detergent soap and water, be sure to dry it thoroughly with a separate clean, dry cloth.

4. Treat with leather conditioner.

Good quality leather is hardy and durable enough to survive decades of use with minimal maintenance, but to keep your upholstery looking its best, we advise intermittent treatment with a leather conditioner. When choosing a commercial leather conditioner, be sure to check the ingredients and avoid products that contain wax or silicone as these can make your finish feel sticky. Apply a coat of leather conditioner once or twice a year as required to keep your upholstery moisturised and healthy.
Leather is special among upholstery materials, as rather than becoming worn and tired with use, it can develop its own
unique patina and grows more beautiful and refined with time. Regularly cleaning and caring for your leather furniture will make sure it will continue looking its best for years to come.

For suppliers of leather aftercare products we’d recommend having a look at Buffalo Leather’s range of cleaning and aftercare products.