How to Clean a Leather Couch & Chair to Freshen the Smell

Updated April 17, 2017

Leather furniture can trap the smells of food, sweat and pets as easily as other furniture fabrics. Unlike other fabrics, though, leather cannot usually be cleaned with odour-freshening powders and a vacuum cleaner. Consumers tend to try to use heavy-duty cleaning products like Pledge and Windex on their leather furniture, which may be damaging since those cleaning solutions are not formulated for cleaning leather.

Vacuum the surface of the leather furniture or, as suggested by The Leathernique website, which sells a leather-cleaning product called Leather Rejuvenator, “use a soft brush to remove large particles of dirt, food, crumbs, paying particular attention to seams, folds, and cracks.” This will leave the leather surface prepared for deeper cleaning and freshening.

Remove any mould or mildew from the leather furniture before using a cleaning solution. Spray one part rubbing alcohol and one part water onto the furniture, as suggested by the Mrs. Clean professional home-cleaning company, and rub gently with a white lint-free cloth. Allow the furniture to dry out of direct sunlight by air or with the help of a fan.

Purchase or make an effective cleaning solution. Beware of silicone-based products, which can harden leather. Most effective leather-cleaning solutions on the market contain olive oil, lanolin and Neat's-foot oil as common ingredients. Make your own solution by combining one part white vinegar with two parts Neat’s-foot oil or food grade linseed oil. Simply swirl the solution onto leather with a lint-free white cloth, leave overnight and buff the next day.

Scrub toothpaste into the leather and wipe it off, which should help remove light stains.

Remove ink stains with non-acetone nail polish remover. It may be easiest to use wipes instead of a bottle of polish remover that must be applied with a cloth.

Spray hairspray onto tough stains and wipe it away. Repeat as necessary.


Clean and condition leather furniture about once every three months.


When using heavy-duty cleaning products, wear gloves and, if applicable, protective eye gear to avoid harmful chemical effects on the skin or eyes.

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum or soft brush
  • Leather-cleaning solution
  • White lint-free cloth
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Water
  • Toothpaste
  • Non-acetone nail polish remover
  • Aerosol hairspray
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About the Author

Rebecca Nelles holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Eastern Illinois University. Additionally, she has earned minors in both creative writing and women's studies. She has been published on and also in Eastern Illinois University's literary journal, "The Vehicle."