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Tips For Cleaning Leather And Suede

by Clare Kaufman
Repair Home Columnist

Leather and suede can last a lifetime--if you give them the TLC they need. Leather and suede garments, shoes, and even furniture benefit from a thorough professional cleaning at least every two years. In the meantime, follow these tips for maintaining leather and suede.

Better Leather

Here are a few techniques for keeping leather in its prime.

  • No sun. Keep leather out of sunlight, which can cause it to fade.
  • Cleaning. Clean leather regularly by brushing it with a microfiber cloth. For a more aggressive cleaning, dampen the cloth and add a little moisturizing soap. Don't rinse--simply buff to shine.
  • Conditioning. To keep leather supple, apply leather conditioner with a soft cloth. 'Queen of Clean' Linda Cobb suggests a homemade solution of 1 part white vinegar, 2 parts linseed oil.
  • Storage. Store leather or suede garments in a dry, well-ventilated area.

Spot-cleaning leather calls for another bag of tricks. Home improvement web sites can be a big help in troubleshooting specific stains. For all-purpose stain removal, try these leather-cleaning solutions:

  • Rubbing alcohol. Swab alcohol on leather with a cotton ball. This often works for ink stains.
  • Cuticle Remover (not nailpolish remover!). Leave this on overnight and wipe off with a damp cloth.
  • Lemon juice. Cobb suggests a solution of equal parts lemon juice and cream of tartar. Work the paste into the leather and wipe off gently.

Great Suede

Suede's nappy texture requires a gentle touch. Professional cleaning is best, but careful home care can be effective too. Some tips:

  • Pretreat suede with a leather protection spray.
  • Rub suede gently with a soft towel or microfiber cloth to restore its nap and remove any debris. Suede brushes are also available for this purpose.
  • Stubborn stains can sometimes be removed with a pencil eraser. Wet stains should be blotted with an absorbent cloth.
  • If necessary, rub suede with a cloth soaked in a small amount of white vinegar.

Leather furniture, garments, and shoes can be loyal, lifelong companions if treated right. If these techniques for cleaning leather and suede are not intensive enough, it's time for professional care. Consult home improvement web sites for referrals and professional cleaning advice.


About the Author
Clare Kaufman is a freelance writer specializing in education and career advice. She has a graduate degree in English.