Leather can be one of the trickiest fabrics to keep clean, and it is usually a rather challenging to remove any spills or stains on your sofa when they do happen.
Leather is made from animal skins and so tends to require very specific care.
There are two types of leather upholstery: unprotected leather and protected leather. Since every leather sofa is different, the best way to start your cleaning process would be to test a small patch first, ideally somewhere less visible!
One of the most common, easy DIY leather cleaning tricks is to use Fairy Liquid to clean these spills in a quick, cheap way. However, is this method actually causing damage to your leather?
Cleaning Unprotected Leather
Unprotected leather is also known as aniline or unfinished leather. This leather has more of a soft-to-the-touch feel and contains little or no protective coating except sometimes as a mild treatment for dirt resistance.
This unprotected leather tends to be more expensive and is more likely to pick up stains or marks. It also scratches much more easily so it is advised to treat it with extreme care.
The best way to keep this leather clean is by vacuuming it with a soft brush attachment or wiping it regularly with a dry cloth.
It can also potentially be wiped down with a clean damp cloth or with a proper, approved leather cleaning product.
It is not recommended to use any at-home cleaning remedies on this type of leather – in fact, some cleaning professionals even say to only use distilled water when dampening your cloth!
Cleaning Protected Leather
The most common type of leather is protected or finished leather. This leather is also known as semi-aniline, aniline plus pigment, or pigmented leather.
This leather is much sturdier and harder to damage, but it can still be stained, especially if exposed to cleaning products containing ammonia or alkalis, such as bleach.
It is on this type of leather that some professionals would recommend using a household detergent.
Generally, this technique is most effective on any stains that did not easily wipe off with a clean, damp cloth.
For the harsher stains, try mixing one part Fairy Liquid and five parts lukewarm water and using a soft cloth or sponge to apply the mixture to the leather.
It is important to then wipe this moisture off the leather again with a clean cloth before drying it with a soft cloth.
Unfortunately, the handy Fairy Liquid method will not be useful for any type of oil-based stain. These types of stains are more severe and should not have any water placed on them.
If they don’t dissipate on their own over time, your best chance would be to try an approved leather cleaning product.
Is Dove Soap the Real Hero Here?
If you’re unsure exactly what type of leather your sofa is, then it would probably be best to skip the Fairy Liquid method. Leather can be very sensitive and washing-up liquid has the potential to strip leather fabrics of their natural oils.
If a damp cloth is not doing the trick, your next option could be a trusty bar of Dove soap. While many other household soaps contain alkaline, Dove is pH neutral, which means it should not cause any damage to your leather.
Try not to put the Dove soap directly onto your sofa, but first work the bar into a lather with some water (again, distilled is best), and put the foam onto your damp cloth before gently wiping the leather.
In the end, the best way to clean your leather sofa depends on the type of leather that it’s made from. Don’t forget to do your patch test if you’re unsure, and then give the Fairy Liquid or Dove DIY tricks a try.
If all else fails, it may be best to invest in a product that is specifically designed to safely clean leather.
An adventurous book lover with an animal obsession and a proclivity for travel and spontaneity. Used to passionately despise cleaning but has grown to enjoy it thanks to learning all the best tricks and shortcuts to guaranteeing a stress-free routine and a spotless home.