Caring for your leather furniture

Leather is one of the more durable, low-maintenance surfaces for home furnishings. Keeping your leather sofa, chair or ottoman clean is relatively simple if you follow the proper steps. But different types of leather upholstery have different cleaning requirements, so you first need to know what type of leather you have. Here’s how to identity, clean and maintain your leather upholstery to keep it looking great.

Unprotected leather. Aniline leather — also called pure aniline, full aniline or unfinished leather — has a soft, luxurious feel. The leather is dyed through with aniline dye but has no surface pigment colour added. It has little or no protective coating other than perhaps a dirt-resistant treatment. Natural surface grains and markings may be seen on the leather, which can develop a patina.

Aniline leather is more sensitive to staining than protected leather and typically is pricier as well. Other types of aniline leather include pull-up leather, which is injected with oils and waxes, and Nubuck leather, which has been distressed or buffed to create a soft, velvety feel.


Protected leather. Most leather furniture is made with protected, or finished, leather. These leathers may be labeled semianiline, aniline plus pigment or pigmented leather. Protected leather is more durable, stain-resistant and uniform in appearance than pure aniline.

Semianiline leather is aniline-dyed and topped with a layer of pigment colour. It has a soft feel like pure aniline leather but is a little more durable due to the protective pigment coating. Other protected leathers are coated with thicker layers of pigment and polymer. They have a stiffer feel and stand up to more wear and tear.

Caring for Your Leather Upholstery

Skip the home potions. When it comes to cleaning leather upholstery, keep it simple and avoid DIY remedies. Homemade solutions using mayonnaise and vinegar are best kept to salads and sandwiches, and not the leather-cleaning menu. Donna L. Frehafer, from Wellington’s Leather Furniture in Port Ludlow, Washington, has seen clients harming their furniture with everything from hair-care products to Pine-Sol. Keep in mind that warranties can be voided if the wrong cleaner or conditioner is used on leather furniture. The most important thing is to avoid applying anything that is not endorsed by the tanneries, Frehafer says.

Cleaning Materials:

– Vacuum cleaner with brush attachment

– Distilled water

– Mild, neutral-pH nondetergent liquid soap, such as Neutrogena or Dove, or a leather cleaner designed for furniture upholstery

– Soft white microfiber cloths

– Tarp or drop cloth

– Commercial leather conditioner (optional)