It’s officially the season for knee-high boots, cross-body satchels, and luxe leather belts—which means it’s also the season to finally learn how to clean leather. Like many of fashion’s most beloved materials, leather has an unfortunate habit of picking up dirt and showing wear.
Similar to the items themselves, outsourcing your leather cleaning can be expensive. Luckily, cleaning leather on your own may be easier than you think and can be achieved using natural, nontoxic ingredients. Whether you’re planning a major cleaning session with your latest vintage find or hoping to salvage that favorite pair of leather flats just in time for the holidays, there’s never been a better time to learn how to clean leather.
Read on to learn how to clean leather in just four simple steps, without any harsh chemicals.
As a note, if you’re looking for a specialized substitute for dish soap, there are also a handful of nontoxic leather cleaners on the market. These can also be used to clean leather effectively and tend to be applied in the exact same way.
2. Get to Work
Mix a very small amount of dish soap (1/8 cup should be sufficient) into one of the bowls of warm water. By opting for nontoxic soap, you’ll avoid chemicals found in harsher detergents that can damage the quality and color of the leather.
Next, dip one of the cloths into the soapy water and gently wipe down the leather in the direction of the grain. If you can’t visually determine the direction of the grain, don’t worry: Simply keep your motions gentle and consistent.
Finally, dip a second cloth into the clean water and carefully wipe down the leather, following the same direction and pattern. Make sure your cloth is only damp, not soaking wet, as too much moisture can create further damage.
3. Allow the Leather to Dry Naturally
Once the cleaning solution has been applied and removed, use your dry cloth to wipe down the leather, again in the direction of the grain.
While it might go without saying, avoid using rough or textured cloths, and instead opt for soft, smooth variations like microfiber.
Allow the leather to fully air-dry away from heat or direct sunlight. Never ever use a blow-dryer to expedite the process, and always ensure that the leather is 100% dry before you wear it again.
4. Protect Against Damage
One of the best things you can do to protect your leather against future wear is using a high-quality leather conditioner. Be sure to look for something water-resistant, and avoid harsh chemicals like heavy-duty saddle leather.