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How to Remove Stains from Leather Furniture

Published March 11, 2011 | Updated June 17, 2015

Whether it was a guest who spilled a drink or a child who wasn't careful with a pen, there's a stain on your leather furniture. Don't panic! Stains may not come off leather easily, but a few tricks can help. As long as you know what created the stain, you can choose the right method to clean it up.

Leather Furniture Cleaning Tips:

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  • Consult the Care Instructions

    Before attempting any of cleaning methods, consult the care instructions for your furniture. Pay attention to any warnings in the documentation or any cleaning methods that may void a warranty.

  • Test First

    Always test stain removal methods in an inconspicuous area first to test for color-fastness.

  • Keep Leather Cleaner on Hand

    If you have leather furniture, keep leather cleaner on hand at all times. It's good for regular maintenance, and when a spill does happen, you'll be prepared to clean it immediately. Saddle soap is an affordable and effective leather cleaner.

  • Never Soak Leather

    To help make sure your cleaning method doesn't cause more damage, don't get the leather too wet, dry it thoroughly when you're done cleaning, and use a leather conditioner to restore suppleness.

  • Removing Specific Stains from Leather:

  • Markers and Ink

    For fresh ink marks that you're sure are not oil-based, you can soak a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover and gently rub the stain, taking care not to soak the leather. Once you're finished, dry the leather with a clean cloth, and then condition it with leather conditioner.

  • Greasy Food

    For the best chance of success, treat the stain when it's fresh. First, try gently wiping the leather with a damp cloth and mild soap; baby wipes also work well. If the stain is greasy, try to absorb as much of it as possible, as quickly as possible by blotting the stain with a clean cloth. Next, shake a generous amount of talcum powder or corn meal on the spot, let it sit overnight, and then brush it off with a dry cloth. The powder should pull the grease out of the leather.

  • Liquid

    Immediately blot any spilled drinks to keep the liquid from soaking into the leather. To remove water or other clear drinks, roll a piece of white bread into a ball and blot the stain with it. Dark drinks will need specific care methods.

  • Cleaning Dark Drinks from Leather

    Coffee or tea: If the stain is fresh, try cleaning it with a mild dishwashing soap diluted in water and dabbed with a clean rag. If the stain has dried, try using white vinegar diluted with water; dab it with a rag, and

    Red wine: Blot the spill with a dry cloth, then use a cloth moistened with white wine to blot the spot. Cover the spot with baking soda and allow it to sit for about 20 minutes, then clean that off with a third clean cloth.

  • Gum

    Dab the gum with olive oil to loosen it and rub the spot with a clean, dry paper towel.

  • Paint

    Removing paint from leather is tricky, and you may not always be successful. Most solutions used to remove paint will also remove the pigment from your leather furniture. You can try water and mild soap if the paint is water based. If you're feeling confident, wait until the paint is completely dry and use rubbing alcohol or non-oil nail polish with a cotton swab. If the paint is oil-based or if you're hesitant to try other methods, consult a professional.