Removing Leather Stains
When Good Leather Turns Bad: Leather can be a beautiful (and quite costly) part of your life. From your shoes to your handbag to your couch, leather can leave you feeling like royalty. But leather also has the tendency to stain rather easily, and it can seem like the stains won’t come off no matter what you do. You don’t need to despair – when your good leather turns ugly, there’s still hope!
What Type of Leather is It?
The first step to knowing how to treat the stain on your leather is knowing just what kind of leather it is. If it’s a suede Nubuck, you should only use specialty cleaners labeled specifically for Nubuck leather. Anything else is likely to damage the texture of the leather. For polished leathers, there are usually more options available to you as the leather’s texture isn’t as much of a concern. But using the wrong kind of cleaner for your type of leather can make the initial stain look like child’s play, so please be careful! And since leather is such a temperamental material, it’s more important than ever to ensure that you test any cleaner on a non-visible area prior to using it to remove the stain.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense
One of the best defenses you have against stains on your leather is a good commercial leather cleaner followed up with a strong leather protector. Most leather manufacturers offer their own version, or you can find a more general option at your local shoe or discount store. Leather that is protected from the elements is much less likely to stain than the alternative.
Therein Lies the Rub
One of the keys to treating a leather stain is what cloth you use and how you rub on any treatment. The only fabric that should be used on leather for treatment is a lint-free soft cloth such as a micro fiber cloth. When it comes time to rub in the treatment, look at the leather carefully and see if you can find the lie of the leather. You should be able to see that the leather “runs” in a certain direction. If you’re able to find the lie, rub any cleaner in the direction of the lie. If you’re unable to find this, rub the cleaner from the outside of the stain towards the center. Never rub the cleaner in a circular fashion.
Get The Stain While it’s Hot
While we have stated over and over again that a fresh stain is easier to clean than an aged one, this has never been more true than with leather. In many cases, a stain that is not cleaned within a few hours of its occurrence is likely to make itself a permanent home on your leather. Again, it goes back to the previous statement – protect your leather while it’s fresh and clean, and it’ll make your job much easier once something does happen.
Got a Greasy Oil Leather Stain?
One of the most common spills on leather is grease in some form or fashion. The first step is to sop the grease up off the leather as quickly as possible. For well-protected leather, this is often all that’s needed. However, if you are able to see some remnants of the grease on your polished leather, the absolute best trick is to pour (not lightly dust) some white talcum powder on the grease stain to completely cover the stain, and let it sit overnight. The talcum power will work by drawing the oil or grease spot right out of the leather. This works really well and will not damage your item.
General Soil and Stain Removal – Keep it Damp, Not Wet
If you’re doing a general soil removal on your leather, it’s always recommended to use a specific leather soap. However, in a pinch, a mild detergent may work well. Use your lint-free cloth, and wipe in the direction described above. Make sure not to use too much water – keep your cloth only lightly damp, not wet. If the dirt is ground-in, an old toothbrush can be used to lightly scour the leather grains to remove the dirt.
Leather is an exceptionally temperamental material to clean. When it comes to homegrown cleansers, these are often more harmful than good since most are water-based and water is extremely destructive to leather. Instead, read your care labels carefully, and choose the appropriate leather treatment product to ensure that your leather item remains beautiful for years to come.