How to Get Stains & Smells Out of a Leather Couch

Updated March 23, 2017

Leather is a natural material that requires careful cleaning and care. Improper methods to remove stains and smells from your leather couch can change its colouring, texture and overall appearance. Leather couches are finished with an aniline or semi-aniline process. Aniline finishes are usually found on top-grade leather sofas, are soft and pliable and involve a single dye process. Semi-aniline finishes are more durable and less prone to staining, but often less comfortable and stiffer than aniline finishes. Both finishes require cautious cleaning methods to avoid damaging the richness of the leather.

Blot up spills at once with a dry cloth, removing as much moisture from the leather as possible. Allow the couch to thoroughly dry before attempting to treat it--with the exception of grease or oil stains.

Clean most soiling and stains--including blood and animal urine--with a simple solution of real soap and distilled water. Only real soap such as Ivory Snow powder should be used to clean the surface of your couch. Add one tbsp to one gallon of distilled warm water. Stir the solution until bubbles form on the surface of the water.

Dip a soft cloth into the soapy water mixture, wringing it out completely to remove as much liquid as possible. Lightly run the cloth over the suds that have risen to the surface of the water.

Clean the leather with the suds, lightly swirling with the cloth. Never oversaturate the leather and only used a well-wrung cloth when applying. Rinse the cloth as needed in the soapy solution as you clean.

Follow your soapy cleaning with pure distilled water on a lightly dampened soft cloth, removing any residual soap from the surface of the leather.

Dry your leather couch with a clean, dry cloth to remove residual dampness. Buff the surface of the couch with an additional dry cloth to restore the grain.

Wait until the couch has completely dried and apply a leather conditioner following the manufacturer's recommendations. Leather conditioners can help with general odour removal in addition to the overpowering new leather smell that often accompanies a recent purchase.

Treat water stains by applying a rolled-up piece of white bread over the stain. Massage the bread until if forms a dough ball. Rub the ball over the water stain to remove. Any residual marks can be removed with a clean cloth lightly dampened in distilled water. Start from the centre of the water stain and work outward, blending the area with the other fibres of the couch.

Remove grease or oil stains by blotting up as much of the oily residue as possible with a clean cloth. Sprinkle cornflour over the greasy stain, allowing the oils to absorb into the cornstarch for a minimum of four hours. Remove the cornstarch with a dry cloth.


Remove small scratches on leather surfaces with a lightly moistened chamois cloth rubbed and buffed over the surface of the scratch. Leather conditioners should be applied to your couch every six to 12 months to maintain the lustre and sheen of the leather. Remove urine stains that have soaked through the cushions by removing the leather cushion covers and treating both cushion and cover separately. Clean the foam with soap and water and allow to dry before returning it to the cover. Wash the underside of the leather cover with a damp, soapy cloth.

Things You'll Need

  • Distilled water
  • Natural soap
  • Clean cloths
  • Cornstarch
  • White bread
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About the Author

Abaigeal Quinn works as an international entertainment broker in the United States. She is a former news editor and insurance agent who began writing for a daily newspaper in 1995.