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Leather sofa care: How to clean and maintain your furniture upholstery

If you’ve just ordered your new leather sofa, it’s a time to be excited — you’ve just invested in something that will last for a lifetime, looking better and better as the years go by. You can look forward to welcoming an elegant piece of furniture into your home that will only gain character with use.

To make sure that your sofa maintains its timeless looks, you will need to give it the care and attention it deserves. Leather is sometimes thought of as high maintenance, but with the right approach, you can keep your piece in great condition with little need for expensive cleaning or rejuvenation.

With this in mind, we’ve put together this guide to cleaning and maintaining your leather furniture upholstery. Follow the advice here, and you can keep your sofa or chair looking like new for many years to come.

Clean your leather sofa or chair regularly

Leather is a hardy material that, if cared for, will only get better over time. However, without a regular cleaning routine, your sofa can soon begin to look a bit worn out.

You should put some time aside at least once a week to take care of your leather furniture, though you might need to up this to twice a week if your sofa sees a lot of use. Be sure to clean every part of your sofa or chair, as there will most likely be a slight alteration in the color of your leather when it has been treated. This way you’ll avoid having furniture with mismatched upholstery.

Follow these steps:

1. With a soft cloth, go over your upholstery to brush off any dirt or dust that might have settled on the surface. To get into the smaller areas of your sofa, use a vacuum equipped with a soft brush attachment.

2. Next, use a damp cloth to wipe the upholstery of your sofa. It’s best to use distilled water if you can, as the chlorine in tap water can damage the finish on leather over time. Before you do this for the first time, test how your material takes to water on a part of the couch that is hidden from sight. Take great care not to soak your sofa, as leathers do not take kindly to large quantities of liquid.

3. At least once every two to four weeks, you should use a specialized cleaning product to treat and cleanse your sofa’s upholstery. Steer clear of using all-purpose wipes and sprays from the store, as they can contain chemicals that can damage your sofa. Instead, use a soft cleaner that is proven and tested to work on leather — we recommend the Soft Cleaner for Leather included in our leather care kits, which can be safely used on all leathers, including aniline, semi-aniline, and pigmented.

4. Leave your sofa to dry naturally, and avoid sitting on it until it is finished. This way, the material will stay shaped around the contours of your sofa with no creases. You can speed up this process by opening a few doors and windows to create a good flow of air through your home.

Please be aware that dye from none color fast clothing and garments can transfer onto leather/fabric and is usually more noticeable on light leather/fabric colors such as whites, creams and ivory. We also recommend to always check your labels on your clothing and garments for further information.

Regularly condition your leather sofa

Leather contains oils that need to be replenished every so often. They help to keep the upholstery soft and supple to the touch, but regular use can diminish its natural properties. This is why it’s important to use a specialized conditioner on your sofa, which will give it a new lease of life and help prevent it from drying out and cracking.

Our cleaning kit, which we’ve already mentioned, also contains Leather Protection Cream that will condition your upholstery and protect it during day-to-day use. Not only does this cream re-fortify the material, but it also applies an invisible coating that resists any spills that make contact with the surface. Thanks to this extra layer, stains will be easier to clean should they occur, while dye transfer will also be reduced. This specialist product is designed with all types of leather in mind, including aniline, semi-aniline, and pigmented.

Position your sofa away from sunlight and other heat sources

We’ve mentioned that conditioning your sofa helps to keep it soft and supple, but many people don’t realize that extended exposure to sunlight and other heat sources is one of the root causes of dryness and cracking. Positioning your new couch in a spot away from windows that get a lot of sunlight, fireplaces, air conditioning units or radiators can preserve the look and condition its upholstery. Of course, it’s impossible for your sofa to avoid light and heat completely, but minimizing contact can really prolong its life.

Buff your leather sofa to preserve its natural shine

One of the best things about a brand-new leather sofa is its beautiful, natural shine. The most effective way of preserving this quality is to regularly buff its upholstery with a microfiber or soft cloth, which will make sure the leather keeps shining and doesn’t end up looking tired. Buffing is also a great way of reducing the appearance of scratches and scuffs that your sofa will pick up with regular use. The easiest way to remember to do this is to carry it out once your sofa is dried after cleaning.

Plump your sofa cushions each day

Keeping your couch nice and clean is important, but so is maintaining its shape so it looks great and provides maximum support. Plumping your sofa's cushions up at the end of every day of use will go a long way towards keeping everything in its right place, and it doesn’t take long to do at all. Furthermore, carrying out this simple act will also keep unnatural creases from forming in the leather. If your sofa has a feather of fiber filling, plumping is absolutely essential, as they don’t have the inherent ability to bounce back like foam does.

How to clean up a spill on your leather sofa

Leather has a reputation for being more durable than other upholstery materials, and rightly so. However, it is still vulnerable to staining when some liquid or food is spilt. Thankfully, reacting quickly to a spill and cleaning it up in the right way can vastly reduce the chance of your sofa becoming marked. This makes it essential to always have the right know how and items at hand to swiftly clean up any mess.

The first thing you should do is to take a dry cloth or piece of kitchen roll and carefully blot the spillage area — take great care to avoid wiping, as this can ingrain the liquid into the leather. If you are quick enough, the majority of the spill can be absorbed into the cloth before it soaks into the upholstery, removing the need for deeper cleaning. A protective treatment, such as the cream we mentioned in the conditioning section, can also slow any staining. If you need to do a little more than blotting, a damp cloth can be applied gently. However, please note that greasy or oily spillages can be made worse when encountering water, so this should be avoided.

You can tackle more severe spillages with a specialist leather cleaner, which can often take care of the problem without any stain forming. Therefore, you should always be sure to keep a good stock of this product in a place you can reach quickly whenever you need it. This is an important point to remember, especially if you haven’t previously owned any leather furniture. If you buy a new type of cleaner, remember to try it out on an inconspicuous section of your sofa first, just to check it doesn’t have an adverse effect.

How to tackle stains on your leather

Unfortunately, there will be occasions when you can’t quite get to a spill in time or you aren’t aware of it happening, and it will result in a stain that you will struggle to get rid of. When the worst happens, it often depends on what was spilt to determine the course action that you should take. Let’s have a look at some everyday stains and how best to remove them.

Removing ink stains

Dropping a pen on your leather sofa can sometimes leave you with an unsightly ink blotch on your upholstery. You can deal with one of these stains easily if you follow the general spill advice above. However, if you aren’t able to clean it all up and the ink sinks in, it’s best to employ the services of a professional cleaner, who will be able to use deeper cleaning methods to save your sofa.

Removing grease or oil stains

We’ve already discussed how grease and oil stains can be made worse by applying water, which makes them one of the most troublesome blemishes to deal with. Our advice would be to hire a professional cleaner, as they often have effective treatments that don’t use water to tackle the stain. Removing wine stains If you are quick enough to deal with a red or white wine spill with this technique, you can avoid a stain setting in. Remove the excess wine by blotting it up with a clean cloth, then mix up a solution of water and mild soap so there are plenty of suds. Use a sponge to apply just the foam to the spillage area, before dabbing away everything with another cloth and leaving to dry. Afterwards, condition your sofa all over to make sure it looks nice and even. If the wine stain is still visible, it’s wise to consult with a professional cleaner about removing it.

Keep an eye out for other dangers to your leather sofa

Alongside spills, there are a few other dangers that you need to keep an eye out for that could damage your leather sofa’s upholstery. You should be wary of clothes, blankets, and pillows that are not color-fast. This means that the material they are made from does not hold its dye very well, becoming prone to transferring markings to everything you sit on or brush up against. This can be problematic when these materials are wet or damp. Should you own any items like this, you should keep them well away from your new leather couch.

You should also be aware of any inconspicuous items that could scratch or scuff your leather upholstery. Things like keys, scissors, and even clothing studs, buckles, and buttons can all cause damage that you might not anticipate, so it’s best to keep a keen eye out if you want to preserve your beautiful new sofa.

You should also consider whether you will allow any pets to jump up onto the sofa, as they could accidentally scratch the surface with their claws. It all depends on your own judgement, but it may be worth investing in a special blanket or cover if you do encourage them up.

At Sofas by Saxon, we use the finest materials in our leather collection to upholster your handmade sofa, chair, sleeper sofa, sectional sofa, or footstool. Because our expert team only handmake quality products, your sofa will always be worth going the extra mile to keep it in top condition.

By taking this guidance on board, you will be much better equipped to care for your new leather furniture. If your sofa has a both a leather and fabric upholstery, you may also be interested in some of our other buying guides, like our fabric care guide, for some extra pointers.