How to Clean Leather

There are two main types of leather: finished and unfinished.

Washing Finished Leather

  1. Apply a gentle, moisturizing soap such as Dove with a clean cloth.
  2. Work soap into a lather.
  3. Wipe away lather with clean damp cloth.
  4. DO NOT use water to rinse the lather off of the leather.
  5. Polish with a dry towel.
  6. Let dry completely.
  7. When the item is completely dry, treat with a leather conditioner.

Washing Unfinished Leather

  1. Rub saddle soap into the leather with a damp cloth or sponge.
  2. Work soap into a lather.
  3. Remove lather with clean cloth.
  4. Allow to dry.
  5. When completely dry, oil the leather with a preservative such a mink oil.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Always hang leather clothing on padded hangers, allowing them enough room in the closet to hang freely.
  • When storing leather handbags, stuff with tissue to help retain their shape.
  • Although at-home leather cleaning products are available, it is highly recommended that you have your leather apparel cleaned by a professional leather cleaner.
  • Never store leather in a plastic bag or other non-breathable cover as it will dry the leather out.
  • Avoid storing leather in very humid or very dry environments, and avoid placing in direct sunlight.
  • Never spray perfume or hairspray or other such products when wearing leather, as it may cause staining and spotting.
  • If you get any winter salt deposits from leather jackets, pants or footwear remove with a damp sponge; salt can damage the leather.
  • If a leather garment loses its flexibility, use a good leather conditioner to restore suppleness.
  • If the garment becomes wrinkled, allow wrinkles to fall out naturally by hanging the garment. If you absolutely must iron the garment, set the iron on “rayon” setting, place a heavy brown paper bag over the area to be ironed and iron very quickly.


  1. Lynn says:

    It’s not the best thing, but a personal cleansing wipe or even a baby wipe will work to clean smooth leather. Works on leather coats or bags too, anything where the leather is smooth. Don’t try it on suede.

  2. Lynn says:

    If you’ve got good leather, it’s an investment and you should treat it like one. Get yourself a leather care kit and be sure to read the directions – the ones in the kit and the ones that came with your leather. If the leather didn’t come with directions for cleaning, look up the manufacturer’s website and you’ll be sure to find cleaning suggestions there.

  3. Lynn says:

    The rest of the time, just sponge splashes and spills off the coat with a damp cloth or sponge, or use a leather cleaning solution. If you spill coffee on it though, go straight to the dry cleaner so they can get the stain out. I take mine to the dry cleaners at the start of winter too, so I start off with a perfectly clean coat. Make sure your dry cleaner does leather before you drop it off, especially if the leather is suede or a special finish. Don’t be afraid to ask them if they know how to handle it!

  4. Lynn says:

    Just because he cleans shoes for a living doesn’t mean he knows how to clean leather boots. And if he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he could absolutely destroy your boots – I’ve seen it happen. Watch his stand for a while and ask other people who use him before you trust him with your nice leather boots.

  5. Lynn says:

    Rubbing is bad; you can’t rub suede clean without hurting it, although sometimes you can rub flattened suede gently to bring the nap back up. You can get dry stains off with a soft brush if you’re careful. If the suede gets wet, blot the water off with a soft dry cloth. Try not to use terry cloth towels, which are too rough. If the suede gets really wet or nasty, take it to a professional to be cleaned.

  6. Lynn says:

    A friend told me she once used shaving cream to clean a pair of suede pumps she thought were a lost cause. She covered the suede with the foamy cream, brushed it in lightly and then wiped it off with a cloth. Once the shoes were dry, they looked pretty good.

  7. Barbie says:

    I clean all of my Coach purses and all other Coach accessories with their cleaner and follow up with their leather cream. Something that expensive could easily be ruined by doing it yourself! Most purses start at approximately $369.00 and some are as much as $600.00 and even higher, such as the briefcase I bought my husband.


  8. Maggie says:

    How can I get mildew out of leather pants?

  9. Nozuko says:

    My leather jacket has fabric sleeves; how do I have it cleaned?

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