How to choose a leather cleaner

Just like everything that we touch or use on a daily basis, leather gathers grime, oils and perspiration from our skin, dust from the air, and marks and stains from spills and other accidents.

Leather cleaning is about much more than aesthetics alone. It's also about the health and longevity of your leather. With regular care, leather can last around 3 times longer. Some soiling is visible. It looks unappealing and is unhygenic. Other types of soiling are not visbile. Body oil, hair oil and perspiration can penetrate coatings into the fibrous structure causing greasiness and dryness. They eventually weaken the protein bonds that hold the fibres together tightly. These factors compromise the inherent strength and ultimately, lead to coatings delamination and structural tears.

Choosing the right leather cleaner

First consider:

- What type of leather you have

- The type of soiling you want to remove

- The purpose of cleaning; general care versus surface prep before colouring

It’s not a matter of which one is the best leather cleaner, but rather which is the best cleaner for your type of leather and your purpous. Let’s look at Leather Hero’s 6 cleaners:

compare cleaners

Nubuck, Suede & Aniline Cleanse (No.10)

Unfinished and unprotected, these leathers typically gather a patina of permanent stains. This cleaner is a mild, pH neutral cleaner formulated for the regular care of nubuck, suede, aniline & semi-aniline. It cleans surface soiling and is ideal for treating spills as they happen to help prevent permanent stains. Some existing stains can be minimised with regular use of this cleaner. Avoid rubbing as it can damage the colour and stretch the leather.

Cleanse (No.1)

A general purpose cleaner formulated for pigmented (painted/coated), waxed and faux leathers. This cleaner suits lots of regular cleaning applications; furniture, cars, handbags, and some apparel. Use a brush to agitate into the grain then wipe away soiling with a white mircrofibre cloth. Ideal for use on man-made materials such as vinyl and faux leather and can be used on waxed & some semi-aniline leathers. When spills happen, treat the area with this cleaner and without rubbing.

Transferred Dye Remover (No.22)

Formulated for pigmented (painted/coated) leathers, this cleaner can remove transferred dye before it 'sets-in' (penetrates the coatings). Use a brush to agitate into the grain then wipe with a white microfibre cloth. Keep it on hand so that dye can be removed before it is absorbed into the coatings. It may be suitable for use on other leather types.

Mould Remover (No.29)

Formulated to kill mould, mould spores, and germs, this specialist cleaner can be used on all leather types. From shoes to bags and car seats to sofas, it also inhibits future outbreaks of mould. After treating mould, use Cleanse (No.1) or Nubuck, Suede & Aniline Cleanse (No.10) to remove the organic matter that feeds mould.

Ink Remover (No.)

Keep this cleaner on hand to address ink marks as they happen. Some leathers aborb stains faster than others. Ink can be removed whilst ever it is on the surface. Once it has penetrated the coatings, the stain may be covered with new colour coatings.

Spot & Prep (No.4)

This strong leather cleaner is the one you need when preparing leather for repair and recolouring. It can remove soiling, silicones, waxes, surface oils. A clean surface is vital to good coatings adhesion. Scrub thoroughly with a medium bristle brush. Although uncommon, Spot & Prep (No.4) can remove leather colour. As such, use with caution if undertaking a deep spring clean. This cleaner is too strong for regular maintenance cleaning.

The golden rules of leather cleaning

- Use a cleaner that is formulated for your leather type.

- Light and regular cleaning beats a harsh spring clean hands down.

- Maintain a 3 monthly schedule or more frequently on high traffic areas. When done regularly, the work can be quick and easy.

- Never rub. This action removes colour coatings, can cause stretching and flattening of the grain - it's the best way to render a bald patch.

- Use a brush that suits your leather. For soft apparel leather, use a soft brush. For robust, thick or heavily coated leathers, a medium bristle brush can be used

- Avoid household cleaners, steam cleaning and machine cleaning

- After cleaning, use a leather conditioner that's made for your leather type then follow up with Protect (No.3) to minimise future soiling.

In summary

Consider what type of leather you have and then what you need from your leather cleaner:

- General care for cars, pigmented sofas & apparel - go for Cleanse (No.1).

- General care for nubuck, suede or aniline leather - opt for Nubuck, Suede & Aniline Cleanse (No.10).

- Before recolouring or for a deep spring clean, choose Spot & Prep (No.4)

- For mould and mildew - opt for Mould Remover (No.29).

- Manage transferred dye before it sets-in with Dye Remover (No.22) .

- Treat biro marks with Ink Remover (No.) before it sets-in.

Kits: Some cleaners are also available in kits with leather conditioner

Test first

There are many variables with leather; different makers, different finishes, different grades of leather, different states of wear and tear to name a few. Before proceeding with any leather product, it’s wise to do a quick test in an inconspicuous area to ensure compatibility with your unique leather. Having been scientifically developed and tested and widely used in the marketplace, Leather Hero products are known to be broadly compatible with most substrates.

More help

Not sure what type of leather you have? Here's our guide to the 5 main types.

Got a specific question? Try searching our FAQs. Enter a key word or phrase or scroll through the categrories and answers.