Tips on Cleaning Soft Leather

leather image by Zbigniew Nowak from

Soft leather items like furniture pieces or handbags can pick up dirt and stains, and a simple cleaning process using household items like hand soap and olive oil is a cheap and easy solution. Because soft leather is a delicate material, these nonabrasive materials won't damage the leather while still removing any dirt that has collected.


Testing the leather you're working with to make sure it can handle the cleaner you're using will save you the headache of damaged leather. Test an area of the leather that is hidden, so any mistakes won't be visible afterward. Rub a small dot of the cleaner you're using on a hidden spot to make sure it doesn't remove any of the leather's color or damage the material. If it is good to go, you can continue cleaning all of the leather. If the cleaner is too harsh, test different cleaners until you find one that works.


Gentle hand soaps are one of the best materials to use when cleaning soft leather. Use a wet rag and drip a few drops of hand soap onto the rag, then rub the cloth against itself to cause the soap to foam up. Rub this rag over the dirty spot on the leather until it begins to lift the stains or dirt. Next dampen a second rag and rub this over the soaped-up area of the leather, to remove any soap residue sitting on the material. Rub a dry rag over this spot to remove any excess water and help the leather dry.


All leathers should be conditioned after cleaning, which just means adding some moisture to help it retain its smooth finish. You can use a number of items for the conditioning process, but olive oil is a good natural conditioner that most people already have on hand. Rub a small amount of olive oil over the treated area of the soft leather and let it sit, not wiping it away. Do this every time you clean the leather for the best results.