How to clean a leather couch and remove everyday stains

A brown leather couch in a living room
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Googling how to clean a leather couch is something we only do when it really needs doing. Maybe your couch feels sticky and you need to de-tack it in time for the holidays. Or perhaps a frustrating pen mark has appeared out of nowhere, which is all too obvious on cream leather. Whatever the reason, you need help and you need it fast. You’ve come to the right place.

It’s not as complicated as you’d think, and a lot easier to clean than some other surfaces, such as how to remove red wine stains from carpet. Nevertheless, your leather couch still or leather items needs some TLC from time-to-time and you want to avoid making any cleaning mistakes. Here’s how to clean a leather couch. 

If you can't find your corkscrew to open wine bottles, try one of these 7 hacks to remove a cork without a corkscrew. Also be sure not to make these cleaning mistakes that will ruin your home

Before you start cleaning your couch, always check the care label as well as your manufacturer’s instructions.

What you'll need

Microfiber cloths

Dish soap

Leather wipes and conditioner

Vacuum cleaner

Your couch might be dry clean only, or perhaps it can only be cleaned with certain products, otherwise you risk voiding your warranty.

Always test any cleaning products on an inconspicuous area of the couch first — some are strong enough that they can discolor or damage leather.

How to clean a leather couch — everyday cleaning 

If you just want to give your couch a quick refresh and remove sticky residue, follow these steps: 

1. Give your couch a onceover with a microfiber cloth to remove dust and small debris. 

2. Next, remove the cushions.

3. Using the upholstery attachment on your vacuum, give the inside a quick vacuum to remove any crumbs that have accumulated.

Cleaning a couch with a vacuum cleaner

(Image credit: Future)

4. If your leather feels sticky, you can use leather wipes to clean it, such as Weiman Wipes ($10.95, Amazon). Leave to dry before moving onto step six.

5. Alternatively, you can simply wipe down the couch with warm soapy water and a clean microfiber cloth. Remember to clean the armrests and the back as well as the cushions. Rinse afterwards with a damp cloth and then dry thoroughly by buffing with a dry microfiber cloth. Remember, just use a lightly damp cloth — you don't want to saturate the leather. 

6. If your wipes act as a conditioner, as the above ones do, then that’s great. But, if not, you should buy some leather conditioner to protect it after cleaning, such as Leather Honey Leather Conditioner ($19.99, Amazon). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

How to remove everyday stains from a leather couch

1. When dealing with stains on leather, the go-to method is straightforward. Apply warm, soapy water directly to the stain using a damp microfiber cloth. 

2. Work in small circular motions, being sure not to scrub or apply too much pressure as you don’t want to damage the leather. 

3. Rinse with a damp cloth, dry thoroughly and then condition the leather. 

A leather couch being cleaned with a damp microfiber cloth

(Image credit: Future)

How to remove ink stains from a leather couch 

1. Grab a cotton ball and apply a few drops of rubbing alcohol to it. 

2. Gently blot at the stain, being very careful not to further spread it. 

3. As the stain begins to lift, use fresh sections of the cotton ball so you don’t reapply it.

4. Dab it dry with a clean microfiber cloth and repeat if necessary. 

How to remove grease stains from a leather couch 

1. Apply baking soda to the stain, be sure to completely cover it up.

2. Let it sit for a few hours or ideally overnight. The baking soda will slowly absorb the oil.

3. Vacuum it up using the upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner, or wipe away with a microfiber cloth. 

4. Give it a final wipe with a damp microfiber cloth, then dry and condition. 

Baking soda on a leather couch

(Image credit: Future)

How to remove dark stains from white leather

1. Combine equal parts of lemon juice with cream of tartar and mix into a paste.

2. Apply the paste directly to the stain and leave it to sit for around 10 minutes.  

3. When time is up, wipe the paste away with a damp microfiber cloth. 

4. Dry thoroughly and condition.  

Your couch should now be looking pristine again — remember to apply leather conditioner every so often to keep it protected. If none of the above works, it might be time to call in a professional, otherwise you risk doing more damage. 

Katie Mortram
Homes Editor

Katie looks after everything homes-related, from kitchen appliances to gardening tools. She also covers smart home products too, so is the best point of contact for any household advice! She has tested and reviewed appliances for over 6 years, so she knows what to look for when finding the best. Her favorite thing to test has to be air purifiers, as the information provided and the difference between performances is extensive.