How to Clean Fake Leather Furniture

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Keep your artificial leather sofa and chairs clean and stain-free for years.

Clean, black, tufted Chesterfield-style fake leather sofa in a modern loft apartment

Artificial or faux leather furniture features the same elegant look and supple feel as real leather. Thanks to manufacturing improvements, “pleather” — as it’s sometimes called — is often indistinguishable from the real stuff. For those who avoid animal products, this cruelty-free “vegan leather” is an excellent substitute. It’s also far easier to clean and keep in like-new condition.

Before You Begin

It takes about ten to fifteen minutes a week to clean an artificial leather sofa and removing stains is almost as fast, which is why this material is ideal for those with kids or pets. You’ll want to set aside enough time to vacuum, wipe and dry every surface. If you need to disinfect it, add additional time.

Equipment and Materials

  • Vacuum with crevice and soft brush attachment
  • Baking soda (optional)
  • Clean microfiber cloths
  • Mild liquid soap (Castile is great)
  • Water
  • A bowl
  • Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol or distilled white vinegar
  • Faux leather conditioner or coconut/olive oil (optional)

Step 1. Vacuum weekly

Dirt, dust, and other debris can scratch the finish of fake leather. Once a week, use the soft brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to clean it from top to bottom. Be sure to lift cushions and clean beneath them, too. Switch to the crevice attachment and go over any seams or tufted areas. If you want to deodorize your faux leather, sprinkle it all over with a layer of baking soda a half-hour before vacuuming.

Step 2. Wipe as Needed

Use mild soap and warm water to clean faux leather, then go over what you’ve cleaned with a microfiber cloth dampened only with water so you aren’t leaving a soapy film. Be sure you choose a soap that doesn’t contain anti-bacterial or degreasing agents, which can dry out fake leather. This is a great use for Castile soap. Although water won’t damage artificial leather surfaces, you should still dry it with a fresh cloth to avoid water spots.

Step 3. Remove Stains

A little rubbing alcohol on a lint-free cloth removes ink, crayon, and food stains from fake leather. But note, stains due to dye transfer (from sitting on your pleather sofa in new jeans, for instance) can become permanent. If rubbing alcohol doesn’t remove a stain, wipe the area clean with water then go over it with straight white vinegar on a cloth. You may need to repeat this several times to remove the stain completely. Once it’s gone, wipe the area with water and buff it dry.

Step 4. Disinfect if Necessary

Unlike genuine leather, disinfecting vinyl furniture or faux leather is straightforward. Mix a solution of roughly 1 part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water and use a damp cloth or spray bottle to apply enough to get the surface visibly damp. Wait 5 minutes for disinfection, then wipe it with another cloth damped in plain water. Buff dry.

5. Keep it Moisturized

If neglected, faux leather will dry out and crack. You should protect all furniture from direct sunlight, but artificial leather also needs moisturizing to prevent cracks. Twice a year, or more often in dry climates, apply an artificial leather conditioning product. You can try coconut or olive oil on a soft cloth if you’d rather but spot-test a hidden area first since these oils are likely to darken the color of your faux leather.

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