How to Clean Leather and Remove an Odor

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Leather pattern
Leather pattern (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Leather is a solid investment, be it a leather couch, a jacket, a pair of shoes, or the upholstery in your car. It is a strong, often elegant looking material that lasts a long time. Most leather that is manufactured today and available to the public is finished leather so it is safe to clean. Before you clean leather furniture, it's important to remove mold and mildew and the odors they cause. You can also freshen the smell of leather clothing that has been exposed to smoke and other odors. Most leather cleaning products that you can buy contain the same three ingredients: olive oil, lanolin and neatsfoot oil. However, you can make your own safe, effective and less expensive version of these products.

Things You'll Need

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup rubbing alcohol
  • Spray bottle
  • 6-8 white lint-free cloths
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 2 cups neatsfoot oil or raw or food grade linseed oil
  • Small bucket or bowl
  • 3-1/3 cups olive oil
  • 1/3 cup castile soap
  • 40-60 drops of scented oil
  • 8-12 drops of grapefruit seed extract
  • 1/2 gallon of water
  • Bucket
  • Spray bottle

Removing mold and mildew odors

Combine water and rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle, screw the top on tightly and shake vigorously.

Spray the leather furniture and wipe down. Rub gently but firmly with the cloth.

Repeat the process in step 2, replacing the cloth once it is soiled.

Cleaning leather furniture

Mix the vinegar and the neatsfoot oil or linseed oil in a bowl or bucket. Gently spin and churn the container in your hands to mix the ingredients.

Dip a lint-free cloth into the mixture and apply to the leather, using a circular motion. Repeat. Let this mixture soak into the furniture overnight.

Polish with a dry lint-free cloth the next day.

Refreshing leather clothing

Mix olive oil, castile soap, scented oil, grapeseed extract and water in a bucket for leather jackets and other articles. Pour a fraction of this into a spray bottle.

Spray the mixture your leather item.

Rub vigorously with a clean lint-free cloth.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can use a small fan instead of allowing the leather to air dry.
  • Consult a professional dry cleaner if your garment states that it should only be professionally cleaned.

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