How do I clean worn leather? (with photos)

Man wearing a worn out leather jacket.

Caring for and cleaning worn leather items can be tricky, and if you’re not careful, you could end up with a bigger mess than when you started. For example, trying to clean up spills is more likely to spread the mess than cleaning it up, and using inappropriate cleaning products, including soap and water, can create new stains. You are more likely to get good results by rubbing the stain with a damp cloth.

It is better to clean stains or spills from worn leather than to clean it.

Worn leather obtains its robust, “lively” appearance by being treated with chemical pigments that reveal the leather’s flaws. The idea is to create an item that looks old or rustic. Protective coatings, which give other leather items a polished shine, are rarely used.

Without this coating, your leather items are more vulnerable to stains. Spills that can be easily removed from polished surfaces are more likely to seep into worn leather. Cleaning worn leather requires different techniques and a more gentle approach.

Use a paper towel to soak up spills on worn leather.

When a spill or similar accident occurs, start by removing as much of the material as quickly as possible. Items that can cause stains will continue to cause damage until removed. To minimize stains, pick up dropped items, such as food, right away.

You shouldn’t try to clean your worn leather. Cleaning up spills will likely spread the damage even further. Instead, dry the spill with paper towels or a clean cloth to soak up as much of the liquid as possible.

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Water can damage worn leather.

Water can damage worn leather and attempts at cleaning it up with soap and water can leave stains more visible than the original spill. You can, however, use a damp cloth to blot the stain. Do not rub the stain. You are likely to rub the stain deeper into the leather rather than cleaning it.

A number of leather cleaners are also available. Dampening a cloth with cleanser instead of water can give good results. Before using any chemical cleaner, check the packaging to make sure it is safe to use on aged leather. Leather cleaners are only recommended for treating stains, and if used for general cleaning and care, they can cause the leather to fade.

Coats and jackets can be sold with pre-worn leather.

After drying as much as possible, let the stain dry completely. The stain will fade as it dries and you may find it fades into the texture of the leather. This fading will continue over time and the stain will continue to become less noticeable.

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