How to clean distressed leather

Updated February 21, 2017

Distressed leather is created by applying a pigment to top grain leather in order to create the appearance of defects in the leather that might normally occur after years of use. Distressed leather is rarely treated with a protective coating as that would make the leather shiny and eliminate the purpose of creating an aged look. Because distressed leather does not have a protective coating applied, the cleaning process is different than the process for cleaning protected leather.

Remove staining objects, such as food, from the distressed leather as soon as possible. The longer the staining object is allowed to rest on the leather, the more the stain will spread as the leather absorbs the oils from the object.

Blot the stained spot with a paper towel to absorb as much of the stain as possible. Do not rub the stained spot or you will spread it on the surface of the leather.

Allow the stained spot to dry completely. Over time, the spot will likely disappear into the leather and will not be noticeable given the distressed appearance of the fabric.

Wipe the leather with a microfiber cloth to remove dirt and dust. If the distressed leather object is large, such as furniture, vacuum it with the upholstery attachment for regular maintenance.


If the stained area is from adhesive or other sticky items, purchase a commercial leather cleaning product to remove the adhesive from the distressed leather. Make sure the product you purchase is recommended for distressed leather.


Do not clean distressed leather with water, soap or non-leather cleaning products, or you may create a larger problem.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper towel
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About the Author

Kaye Morris has over four years of technical writing experience as a curriculum design specialist and is a published fiction author. She has over 20 years of real estate development experience and received her Bachelor of Science in accounting from McNeese State University along with minors in programming and English.