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8 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Leather Furniture

Mar 18, 2019
8 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Leather Furniture

There is nothing quite like the timeless elegance of genuine leather furniture. When you invest in high-quality leather furniture, it changes the look and feel of the entire room. It adds a touch of luxury and alters the atmosphere of your home in the most amazing way. Over time, though, the texture changes, the rich “new leather” smell fades, and the unavoidable messes start happening. Whether you spill something on it or you just need to remove the dust that, inevitably, builds up as the months pass by, leather furniture requires special care when it comes to cleaning.

Taking care of leather furniture is not difficult, but certain mistakes can cause expensive and irreversible damage. Furniture upholstered in genuine leather is an investment and should be treated as such. With proper care, it will look and feel great for several years and provide you with decades of unparalleled comfort. Here are a few common mistakes to avoid when cleaning leather furniture to help you keep yours looking and feeling great.

Not Following the Manufacturer’s Instructions

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When you purchase a piece of high-quality leather furniture, you typically receive a booklet or packet that contains things like warranty information and a list of care instructions. At the absolute least, your furniture should have a tag somewhere that tells you how to care for it. While manufacturers almost always provide some type of information regarding how to properly care for their products, buyers commonly cause serious damage by ignoring the instructions. Many are good about abiding by the recommendations at first, but, as time wears on, they get careless or lazy. They decide that they don’t really need to use the recommended products when caring for their furniture. Or they simply forget to use the right products and end up making costly mistakes.

instruction manual paperwork

Before you travel down that road, stop. Manufacturers don’t provide care instructions because they are trying to get you to spend extra money on unnecessary cleaning products. They provide them to let you know what you need to do to ensure your furniture’s longevity. Familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s instructions and abide by them always. If you are dealing with a specific type or spill or stain and the instructions do not tell you how to clean it, it never hurts to get in contact with the company for more information. The company that made your leather furniture is the ultimate expert when it comes to caring for it. Failing to follow their guidelines could result in serious damage to your furniture and end up costing you a lot of money.

Using Household Cleaning Products

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Think the cleaning products that you use to clean other parts of your home will work well to clean your leather furniture? Think again. Things like wood furniture polish may seem like a great way to give your leather sofa a nice shine, but they can cause significant damage. Contrary to what many people believe, leather upholstery is absorbent. While it’s true that this material doesn’t absorb moisture as readily as, say, linen upholstery, it does still absorb it.

When you use furniture polish or other household cleaners on your leather furniture, it soaks into the upholstery and is likely to cause staining. You might save a few dollars by attempting to clean using household cleaners instead of specially formulated leather cleaning products, but you will end up spending a lot more trying to repair the damage.

Cleaning with Only Water

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Water is not suitable for cleaning, either, in most situations. If you just need to wipe a bit of dust off the surface of your furniture, you can get away with using a soft, damp rag. When you are trying to remove dirt or stains, though, the only thing water will do is force the mess deeper into the upholstery. Excess water can also damage leather upholstery, so it is best to avoid using it for cleaning as much as possible.

excess water cleaning leather quote

If you rely solely on water for cleaning, you also won’t be able to remove any odors. If you have kids or pets, this can, of course, be a big problem. Water is cheap and readily available, but it is not the right solution for cleaning your leather furniture, unfortunately. Like we said before, stick with products that are intended for cleaning leather upholstery.

Not Testing Cleaning Products in an Inconspicuous Area

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When you buy a bottle of leather upholstery cleaner, there is almost always a warning telling users to test the product in an inconspicuous area prior to cleaning a large area. Unfortunately, many of us ignore those warnings. The product is made for cleaning leather, so what could possibly go wrong? Leather furniture comes in many forms. It can be made from different types of leather, be colored using a wide range of dyes, and have other treatments and finishes. For these reasons, it is nearly impossible for anyone to create a cleaning product that is universally safe for all leather furniture. What works flawlessly on your tufted leather sofa could cause irreparable damage to your leather club chair. It just isn’t worth the risk.

brown leather couch in living room

Before you clean a large, visible area, use a little bit of cleaner on the bottom, back, or another hidden spot on your furniture. Use as directed, then wait. Give it a day or two to see if it causes any damage. It takes a bit of patience, but patience is significantly cheaper than repairing or replacing damaged leather furniture.

Not Cleaning Up Spills Immediately

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Because leather isn’t quick to absorb liquids, many people do not feel that cleaning up spills on leather sofas is urgent. As previously mentioned, though, leather upholstery is porous. It may take a bit longer for a liquid to soak into your leather furniture, but it is still extremely important to clean up all spills immediately—even if the spill is just water. As soon as a spill occurs, clean it up using a soft cloth. Blot at the spill rather than wiping or scrubbing. This allows you to remove the spill without potentially rubbing it into the upholstery. The sooner you react to spills, the less likely they are to cause permanent damage.

Keep leather cleaning products on hand at all times. This ensures that you will have what you need to deal with stains before they have a chance to set. When it comes to things like red wine, pasta sauce, grease, and grape juice, time is definitely of the essence. It is much smarter to have the cleaning products you need than to have to run out and buy them and risk stains becoming permanent. If you purchase a new product, be sure to spot test it in advance so you can be certain that it’s safe to use in the event of a spill or stain.

Drying Leather Furniture Using Heat

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Liquids can cause serious damage to leather furniture, so it may seem logical to dry it using a hair dryer, space heater, or another source of warm air. Unfortunately, doing so is a recipe for disaster. Heat dries out leather too quickly and can cause it to crack. For this reason, it is much safer to carefully soak up as much liquid as possible and allow the rest to air dry. If you absolutely must speed up the drying process, switch on your ceiling fan.

Forgetting to Dust

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dusting leather furniture with cloth

It’s easy to remember to dust your coffee table, bookshelves, and other hard surfaces in your home. It is not always so easy, however, to remember to dust your leather furniture. Dust may not seem like a big deal, but it can cause significant damage. When ignored, it can build up and become surprisingly difficult to remove. It can also cause scratches. Plus, dust contains all sorts of allergens and other harmful things that can be detrimental to your family’s health.

To keep your home looking great and keep allergens and potentially toxic contaminants to a minimum, leather furniture needs to be dusted weekly. If you keep up with the task, you just need to wipe your furniture down with a damp microfiber cloth to get rid of the weekly buildup of dust. If you would prefer to use a vacuum cleaner, go for it. Just be sure to use the soft brush attachment to avoid damaging the upholstery.

Not Knowing When to Enlist the Help of a Professional

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The do-it-yourself approach is not always your best bet when it comes to caring for leather furniture. When you are facing a particularly challenging stain—such as oil or grease—or a stain that’s covering a large area, it is best the enlist the help of a professional.

It is also best to contact a professional if you are dealing with something like discoloration. There are kits available that promise to restore color to faded leather furniture, but they often cause more problems than they solve. If you have a stain, discoloration, or any other type of problem with your leather furniture that you cannot solve using basic techniques, it is better to contact a professional leather cleaning company than to risk making the problem worse.

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Other Common Leather Furniture Mistakes

Most damage to leather furniture occurs as a result of mistakes made while cleaning. There are, however, plenty of other mistakes that people commonly make. Just like cleaning errors, these mishaps can lead to serious damage that is costly or impossible to repair.

Putting It in the Wrong Spot

Not every spot is the right spot for leather furniture. If you put it in an area where it is exposed to direct sunlight, the color is likely to fade. Exposure to direct sunlight can also cause your leather furniture to dry out and lose its suppleness. Placing it near a heat source can lead to damage, too. Heat dries leather upholstery out and can cause it to crack. Before you buy a leather sofa, recliner, club chair, or headboard, make sure there is a spot for it that is out of direct sunlight and at least two feet away from heating vents, radiators, etc.

Leaving Printed Materials on Leather

The print from newspapers, magazines, and even some books can transfer onto leather furniture. Yikes! Unfortunately, many of us love relaxing on a leather recliner or sofa when reading, and we tend to leave our reading materials lying on the furniture when we get up. If you do this, however, you could end up with an extra copy of what you were reading in the last place you’d ever want one.

brown leather sectional couch


Real leather furniture is an amazing addition to any home. When properly cared for, it lasts for several years—even decades. It is soft and supple, and it adds a touch of class to any room. Without proper care, however, it can become stained and discolored. The leather may also dry out, crack, and start peeling away. Special care must be taken when cleaning leather. It is unlike fabric upholstery and requires special products and techniques. Cleaning it with regular household cleaners is a recipe for disaster and can lead to irreparable damage.

Your owner’s manual is the best place to look when it comes to finding advice on how to properly clean and care for your leather furniture. At Club Furniture, we manufacture high-quality leather furniture that is made to withstand the test of time. We provide detailed care instructions for all products we sell, and we are always more than happy to help our customers better understand the products and techniques they should use when cleaning their leather sofas, chairs, etc. Explore our selection today, and feel free to contact us for additional information.

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