How to Care for Your Leather Sofa

How to Care for Your Leather Sofa

There’s nothing quite like the feel and smell of leather. It’s undoubtedly the best choice for furniture upholstery because it lasts up to five times as long as fabric upholstery. It can resist stains, wear, tear, and spills.  The natural glossiness of the material makes it even more desirable. It’s easy to maintain leather and with time it only becomes more durable.

If you’re the proud owner of a leather sofa, or if you’re considering purchasing one, you want to know the best way to take care of the leather. We’re here to give you step-by-step instructions on how to care for your sofa and keep it looking its best for years to come.

Leather Types

First, let’s talk about leather types and grades. There are three main types of leather used for furniture upholstery, and they’re differentiated by how they’re finished.

  • Aniline leather – This is the most natural looking leather, with the unique surface characteristics of the animal hide remaining visible. Pure aniline leather is coloured only with dye and doesn’t have any surface conditioners or coatings.
  • Pigmented leather – This leather is the most durable type used for furniture. The surface of the leather is treated with a polymer surface coating which contains pigments. This coating allows a greater resistance to soiling, scuffing, and fading.
  • Semi-aniline leather – This type is more durable than pure aniline but still retains a natural appearance. This increased durability is provided by a light surface coating that contains a small amount of pigment. This leather has a more consistent colour and adds additional protection to the furniture.

Leather Grades

There are no official standards for grading leather. Rather, most tanneries use their own systems of grading based on cosmetic imperfections, not quality. However, there are five common categories based on how a hide is finished and which section of the cowhide is used. Those categories, listed in order of quality are:

  • Top grain leather – This leather is taken from the best quality part of the hide. It’s buffed, sanded, and pigmented to provide a more uniform and smoother look to the end product. Water and oils don’t absorb into top grain leather, and they can be wiped away since the leathers natural pores have been sealed in the colouring process.
  • Full grain leather – This is also taken from the best part of the hide. It’s less processed and leaves the entire grain of the hide intact, including natural scarring or blemishes. Full grain leather will absorb moisture and oil, and over time it will develop a wonderful leather patina that looks better the longer it ages.
  • Split grain leather – This leather doesn’t contain any of the hides natural grain or markings. The most common split grain leather is suede, which is used when a soft and pliable leather is needed.
  • Genuine leather – This leather isn’t as durable or beautiful as high quality leather, and it’s considered by experts in the industry to be a very low quality product.
  • Bonded leather – This isn’t really leather at all. Instead, it’s a combination of leather dust, vinyl, leather scraps, plastic, and glue that have been bonded together through a complex process. It’s a relatively cheap product that doesn’t really hold up very well over time.

Cleaning Your Leather Sofa

The best way to care for your sofa is to clean it regularly. Here are the basic steps to follow in cleaning your sofa.

  • With a soft cloth, go over the leather to brush off any dirt or dust that may have settled on the surface. If you have a soft bristled vacuum attachment, you can use that to get into the nooks and crannies of the sofa.
  • Next, use a damp cloth to wipe down the leather. It’s best to use distilled water, as chlorine in the water can damage the finish of the leather over time. Before you do this the first time, however, test a small inconspicuous area to see how the leather on your couch reacts to water.
  • About once a month, clean the leather with a specialized cleaning product. The Stressless Furniture Company has a highly recommended leather cleaning kit on offer.
  • Once you’re done cleaning the sofa, let the surfaces dry completely before using the sofa. This will ensure that the material will stay shaped around the contours of your sofa with no wrinkles or creases.

Conditioning Your Sofa

Leather contains oils that need to be replenished from time to time. These oils help to keep the upholstery soft and supple, but regular use can diminish it’s natural properties. That’s why it's important to use a specialised conditioning product to keep it looking great and to prevent drying out or cracking.

  • Go over your sofa with a product specific to the type of leather on your sofa. Stressless Leather Protection is a water based product for most types of leather and protects against oil, water, and alcohol stains as well as everyday dirt and grime.
  • Buff your leather sofa to preserve its natural shine. Use a soft cloth to keep the leather from looking dull. Buffing can also help to hide the small surface scratches that come with everyday use.

Plump Your Cushions

Regularly plump up your sofa cushions. Plumping them will help them to retain their original shape. In addition to maintaining the good looks of your sofa, plumping them daily will make them more comfortable. This is especially important if the fill in your cushions is fibre or feathers, as these fillings won’t spring back to their original shape like foam filling.

How to Clean Up Spills or Stains

Leather is very sensitive to spills, especially liquids, so any spills need to be removed from the surface as quickly as possible to keep them from soaking into the leather.

  • If your sofa is finished with unprotected leather, blot the surface with a clean and dry white cloth to absorb it. Before you do anything else, check with the sofas manufacturer or retail store where you purchased it.
  • If your sofa is covered with protected leather, recovering from spills is much easier. If the spill is water based such as soft drinks or juice, you should be able to wipe it off with a soft sloth dampened with distilled water. Then let the area air dry. For a stubborn stain, you can scrub it gently with a soft cloth or sponge moistened with a mild nondetergent soap and lukewarm distilled water.
  • Whether the leather on your sofa is protected or unprotected, oil based stains such as butter or body oil should be blotted with a clean, dry white cloth. For these stains, don’t use water. The stain will dissipate into the leather over time.

Sunlight and Your Sofa

Direct exposure to bright sunlight can cause cracks in your leather sofa, and it can also cause the colour of the sofa to change. It’s best to keep your sofa away from windows or fireplaces. If you’re not sure that you’ve chosen a good spot for the sofa, test it with your hand. If the surface of the leather is hot, you should move it to a different location. In addition to sunlight, heat from a fireplace or radiator can work to dry out the leather, so be aware of that when positioning your sofa.

Leather Do’s and Don’ts


  • As mentioned earlier, plump up your cushions regularly, even as often as once a day.
  • Keep dust and dirt at bay. Dust or vacuum your sofa at least once a week. When dusting, a slightly dampened soft white cloth will do the trick. If you want to use your vacuum, use an attachment with soft bristles that won’t scratch the sofa.
  • Before you use any type of products on your sofa, test them. Find an inconspicuous spot to test the reaction of the leather before using it on the entire sofa.


  • As already mentioned, don’t position your sofa in direct sunlight or near a radiator, fireplace, or any other heat source. Also, don’t rest your hot cup of tea or coffee on the arm of the sofa.
  • Don’t’ over do it with cleaning products. If you use a cleaning detergent or other products which contain harsh chemicals, you’re likely doing more harm than good. Stick to specialized cleaning and conditioning products.
  • Don’t sit down on your sofa with any sharp objects in your pockets. Objects such as keys, jewellery, or belt buckles can scratch or tear the leather surface.
  • Don’t let your pets get on the sofa, as their claws can also damage the leather.

Our Thoughts on a Leather Sofas

Leather is the perfect material to use on your sofa. It’s beautiful, durable, long-lasting, timeless, and has the classic look you can’t get with any other material. With proper cleaning and conditioning, your leather sofa will look good for years to come.

At Carters Furniture, we have two large showrooms in Kidderminster, stocked with the finest brands of sofas and any other furniture items you may need. Our sales associates are always happy to offer counsel and advice in choosing the furniture items that you need.

We pride ourselves on the vast selection of furniture that we offer, along with our outstanding customer service. Our highly trained staff can provide you with the right advice and information so that you can make the most of your furniture purchase. Because of the special relationships we have with our suppliers, we are able to source furniture from all over the globe, as well as products that are manufactured locally, and we can offer the lowest prices on all of the products we sell. In fact, we have a low price guarantee that states that we will match or beat any competitors price on identical products. We have 2 large showrooms full of the most stylish, practical, and high quality furniture and bedding, and our stores are open seven days a week to serve you.

If you’d like more information about the products and services we offer, visit our website or call us at 01562 5408620  (Carters Furniture Store) or 01562 66396  (Carters Bed City). Even better, stop by either of our locations to see for yourself. We look forward to serving you!