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How to remove sweat stains from leather

Updated February 21, 2017

Removing any kind of stains from leather garments or furniture can be a daunting task. Leather is an absorbent material that can easily become discoloured by contact with cleaning agents, including oil and water. The best way to clean leather depends partly on how it has been produced and treated. Raw leather is more absorbent than polished leather, and suede or nubuck must be treated differently than fine leather. Dyed leathers present their own set of problems. In general, though, cleaning sweat stains and odours from leather requires the use of water.

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  1. Test an inconspicuous area of your item by rubbing it with a damp cloth and a small amount of baby shampoo. Rinse by rubbing with a clean damp cloth, and pat dry, removing as much moisture as possible.

  2. Allow the item to dry before proceeding further. If additional stains or rings were created by the washing, bring the item to a leather cleaning professional. If not, proceed to the next step.

  3. Add a few drops of baby shampoo to a bowl of warm water. Dampen a clean cloth and massage the shampoo into the leather. Pat dry and allow to dry thoroughly.

  4. If the stain and odour are gone, treat the leather with a commercial leather conditioner, buff and spray with a leather protectant. Otherwise, go on to the next step.

  5. Wash the area by rubbing with a soft cloth dampened with warm water to which a few drops of fabric softener has been added.

  6. Wash the area with saddle soap according to the package directions. Dry, condition, buff and protect as before.

  7. Warning

    Use as little water as practically possible when washing your leather. Leather tends to dry slowly, and when not dried thoroughly, can develop mildew, which is very difficult to eradicate. If a mildew smell does develop, rub the leather with a clean cloth dipped in a mixture of equal parts rubbing alcohol and water. Be sure to test first and to finish with leather conditioner. It is always best to preserve and refer to manufacturers' care recommendations when dealing with leather.

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Things You'll Need

  • Cloth
  • Baby shampoo
  • Fabric softener
  • Saddle soap
  • Leather conditioner
  • Buffing cloth or soft brush
  • Leather protectant spray

About the Author

Lois Lawrence

Lois Lawrence is an attorney and freelance writer living and working in Stonington, Conn. She has written on many subjects including travel, food, consumerism, relationships, insurance and law. Lawrence earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1976, and a Juris Doctor degree from Boston University School of Law in 1979.

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