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how to clean leather

We all have leather and suede in our closets: skirts, vests, jackets.

But if something happens while we're out, how would we clean leather ourselves?

For many of us, cleaning leather garments is still one of life's mysteries.

So here's a leather cleaning guide that will help you keep your rawhide looking tough - and clean.

know the four types of leather.

1. Aniline.

This type of leather (also called natural, naked, or unprotected) is glazed with a transparent dye that allows the glorious grain to show through.

It usually has no protective coating; although you can opt for a spray-on water repellant either before or after you purchase the garment. 

2. Protected

These are the toughest and most practical leathers. The leather is finished with pigments on the surface.

3. Nubuck

This is an aniline (also called distressed or bomber leather) that has been brushed to create a soft velvety surface.

It's very absorbent and will stain easily, although some nubucks, such as distressed or bomber, have waxed surfaces that offer some protection.

4. Suede

Suede is actually the flesh side of a piece of leather. But it looks like nubuck and needs similar care. You can also protect suedes and nubucks with a water repellant spray but it may darken the color.

how to clean leather by type.

Always follow the cleaning instructions on the leather garment itself. These high-end items are often embellished, treated, or otherwise added to; therefore any cleaning routine needs to take these additions into consideration.

Finished Leather:

Remove surface dirt and stains by rubbing with a damp sponge. If that doesn't work, apply a little saddle soap or liquid detergent and rub again.

Unfinished Leather

These garments will spot if wet. Rub off the stain with a suede brush or ultra-fine sandpaper. Leather rarely needs to be professionally cleaned. That's because professional cleaning is expensive and it may fade the color.

If you must send a leather garment to the cleaners, find one that specializes in cleaning leather. And if you have a two piece outfit, send both pieces so the color stays consistent. 

leather care and storage tips.

How to Prevent Wrinkles.

If the wrinkles in your leather garment don't hang out, try steaming them out. Hang the garment in the bathroom while you shower.

If you still have wrinkles, you can iron the garment with the iron on the lowest setting (no steam). Place brown paper between the iron and the leather garment to protect it.

How to Dry Leather.

Avoid getting leather garments wet. If a leather garment does get wet, blot the excess and gently roll with a towel.

Then dry it flat away from direct heat. Heat will dry out its natural oils and will make the leather hard and cracked.

Leather no nos.


  • Use hair sprays or perfumes near leather clothes.
  • Wear a leather collar against your skin (protect it with a scarf).
  • Put an adhesive sticker (such as a name badge) on leather. 

Visit the Clean Organized Home Store for the leather cleaning and care supplies you need to keep your garments looking their best.

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About the Author

Tara Aronson

Tara Aronson is a native Californian. Having grown up in San Diego, she studied journalism and Spanish to pursue a career in newspaper writing. Tara, whose three children - Chris, Lyndsay, and Payne - are the light of her life, now lives and writes in Los Angeles. She also regularly appears on television news programs throughout the U.S.