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” option is an excellent substitute. It’s also far easier to clean fake leather and keep it in like-new condition.

How to Clean Your Faux Leather Furniture

Time Required: 10 minutes

A little weekly attention is all your artificial leather furniture needs to stay looking new. Removing stains is almost as easy, which is another reason this material is ideal for those with kids or pets.

Step 1. Vacuum weekly

Dirt, dust, and other debris can scratch the finish on your fake leather furniture. So, 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 first and wait for a half-hour before vacuuming.

Step 2. Wipe as Needed

Use mild dish 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. Castile soap works well for this. Although water won’t damage artificial leather surfaces, you should still dry it with a fresh cloth to avoid water spots.

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Step 3. Remove Stains

A little rubbing alcohol on a lint-free cloth is all you need to remove stains from fake leather, even faux white vinyl sofas and chairs. 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, go over the area 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 a cloth dampened in plain water, then dry it with a towel.

Step 4. Disinfect if Necessary

If a family member gets ill or your pet has a housetraining accident, you may want to disinfect the furniture they’ve been in contact with. 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 damp. Wait 5 minutes for disinfection, then wipe the surface with another cloth damped in plain water.

5. Keep it Moisturized

If neglected, faux leather will dry out and crack. Even if you’re good about not protecting it from direct sunlight, as you should with all furniture, you should still moisturize it to prevent cracks. Twice a year, or more often in dry climates, apply a product specifically designed for vinyl or artificial leather conditioning. 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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