Knowing how to clean minor stains on leather yourself is convenient and cost-effective. There are many DIY options for leather maintenance. You can remove marks and restore shine without store-bought remedies, which can be pricey and toxic. Instead, try these common household products and supplies. From furniture to accessories, your leather goods will look like new and your pocketbook will thank you.

Begin by dusting leather with a soft cloth

Dusting is the first step to cleaning any leather product. If you skip it, dirt will stick to the leather when you apply your liquid cleanser. A microfiber cloth is ideal, but most soft materials will work. Avoid any materials that leave lint behind. You can also use your vacuum, just make sure to use the soft-bristle brush attachment.

prep leather with dust cloth


Spot test all leather cleaning methods first

Do-it-yourself leather cleaning is generally safe and easy, but it's always a good idea to perform a spot test before you tackle the whole thing. Choose an area that's not easily visible, like the bottom of your purse or the underside of a couch cushion. Follow all the instructions and wait until the leather is dry again. If it looks good, you can move on to the more obvious places.

man cleaning stain on leather JaniceRichard / Getty Images


Use lemon juice to remove stains from leather

Lemon juice is great for removing stains from leather. Consider this popular do-it-yourself method: combine one part lemon juice with one part cream of tartar to create a paste. Apply the mixture to the stain, let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe it off with a fresh, damp cloth. Repeat these steps as needed to remove more stubborn stains.

lemon cleaning leather naturally


Use white vinegar to remove road salt from leather

White road salt stains are common on leather boots and shoes during the winter months and can lead to long-term damage if you don't address them promptly. White vinegar is a great at-home option. Combine two parts water with one part vinegar. Dip a rag in the mixture and gently rub the stained leather. Wipe it again with a clean, damp cloth to remove the vinegar, then pat the material dry.

white vinegar and cleaning supplies Helin Loik-Tomson / Getty Images


Polish leather using a natural oil

Natural oil is great for polishing leather to restore shine; doing so regularly can even help prevent fading and cracking. Coconut, olive, and flaxseed oil are suitable for this purpose. Create a polish using one part white vinegar and two parts natural oil. Use a cloth to rub the solution onto the dull surface, then allow it to sit for several hours or overnight. In the morning, buff the leather with a dry, soft cloth and make sure all the oil is wiped away. Your leather product will look as good as new.

coconut oil leather polish


Condition and waterproof leather with beeswax

Solid beeswax is great for conditioning and waterproofing leather boots, shoes, and outerwear. You just need a block or chunk of beeswax and a cloth. Rub softened beeswax onto the leather surface in a circular motion. Wipe most of it away with the dry cloth. Pay close attention to any folds or creases -- don't let extra wax get stuck in these spots. Leave a very thin, even layer of beeswax behind to get your boots ready for the wet season.

small chunks of beeswax StevenStarr73 / Getty Images


Control moisture when applying to leather

Most leather cleaning methods require you to apply a liquid to the material. This is necessary for cleansing, but it's crucial to remove any excess moisture.

Moisture can damage leather in several different ways. It may cause mildew to grow, and this can ruin the material. Humidity can also cause the leather to crack over time.

Always use dry, lint-free fabric to fully remove liquid substances. You may need to dry a leather surface multiple times to completely remove moisture. Allow the material to air out in a cool, dry space.

leather bags and purses close-up Rosmarie Wirz / Getty Images


Deodorize leather with baking soda

If your leather furniture smells a bit unpleasant, baking soda is an easy and readily available fix, thanks to its ability to naturally neutralize odors. All you have to do is sprinkle a fine, even layer of baking soda over the couch or chair. Let it sit for a few hours, or overnight if possible. Vacuum up the soda in the morning and take a whiff of your fresh new furniture.

pairs of men's leather shoes yongyuan / Getty Images


Use gentle soap for general leather cleaning

Routine maintenance will keep your leather products in good condition. Use a mild soap, such as a baby body wash, for effective but gentle cleaning. Moisten a cloth with plain water, and add a small amount of soap. Rub the leather gently to remove everyday dirt, residue, and mild stains. Use a new damp cloth without soap to wipe away the cleanser, then gently dry the leather with a dry towel.

close-up of yellow leather bags David C Tomlinson / Getty Images


Never use harsh cleaning products or abrasive tools.

There are many cleaning agents and tools you should avoid when treating leather. Chemicals like bleach and ammonia will damage the fabric. Antibacterial sprays and wipes are often harmful, too. Don't use scrubbing brushes or firm sponges on leather surfaces, as they can cause the leather to crack. Finally, stick with a lint-free cloth or a dish towel to get the best results.

A man cleanining beige leather car seat with microfiber cloth - auto detailing and valeting concept Kritchanut / Getty Images


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