Can I use shoe polish on an aniline leather couch?

Updated April 17, 2017

Aniline leather couch upholstery is soft, supple and luxurious. With care and routine cleaning, it can provide years of comfort. Over time, your aniline leather couch develops worn spots and may need a conditioning agent and colour touch-up. Shoe polish, a dyed emollient agent for shoe leather, might seem a logical product. Ingredients included in major shoe polish brands can damage your couch's aniline leather surface, however.

What Is Shoe Polish?

Shoe polish, most commonly found in cream or solid form, is a colloidal emulsion, one where volatile solvents such as turpentine and naphtha are suspended in a lanolin/wax base. Dyes are added along with other preservatives and conditioning agents. When applied to leather, the polish deposits dye and leaves a protective lanolin coating. Once excess polish is wiped away and polished, the polish leaves a shiny, water-resistant, protective coating.

Features of Aniline Leather

Aniline leather is the highest grade of leather used in couch upholstery. To produce it, leather manufacturers immerse hides in a bath of dye. The dye penetrates the leather, which not only colours it throughout but also leaves the leather soft and supple. Because aniline leather is usually natural and unprotected, some leather couch manufacturers add protective agents such as "Scotchguard" to the dye bath, which improves the leather's resistance to oil and water spills.

Shoe Polish and Aniline Leather

Opinions vary concerning the use of shoe polish on leather furniture., a leather-cleaning specialist, cautions against the use of shoe polish, or any other shoe leather product, on leather upholstery. Distillates in the shoe polish can stain the leather, and, the waxy emollients such as lanolin can actually attract and embed dirt and oils into the aniline hide. If you absolutely must use shoe polish on your aniline leather couch, choose one without dyes, harsh distillates or petroleum-based products. Wipe the surface clean with special leather wipes and apply the shoe polish sparingly with a soft, clean cloth in a circular motion. Remove, paying special attention to creases, cracks and seams.

Alternatives to Shoe Polish

Most leather retailers recommend lines of aniline leather cleaners and conditioners that clean without darkening the leather. If your aniline leather is worn and needs a colour touch-up, get leather-dye kits through leather furniture retailers. recommends you dust and wipe leather surfaces daily. Regularly vacuum with a hand attachment between cushions and in seams where food particles and dirt can embed in the leather.

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About the Author

Merle Huerta, an adjunct instructor of English skills, began writing during her husband's combat deployment to Iraq in 2003. Her articles have appeared in "The Jerusalem Post," and USA Travel Tips, among other publications. Huerta has an M.A. in instructional media and technology from Columbia University and is a graduate of CUNY's The Writers Institute.