How to Clean Faux Leather: Step-by-Step Guide

A homeowner cleaning spills from their faux leather sofa using a soft yellow cloth.
  • 1-2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-40
What You'll Need
Paper towels
Warm water
Dish detergent
Clean, soft rags
Baby wipes
Faux leather polish (optional)
What You'll Need
Paper towels
Warm water
Dish detergent
Clean, soft rags
Baby wipes
Faux leather polish (optional)

Faux leather is false or imitation leather. It is cheaper than real leather but pretty much provides the same texture as the real thing. This material is used in many products such as sofas, bags, shoes, and clothes. If it is well taken care of, it offers a nice, classy look that is desirable for many. If it stains, however, it will end up looking cheap.

The faux leather can get dirty, in which case it will need to be cleaned in order to look its best. In order to clean stains or remove contaminants off of faux leather, follow the helpful steps below.

These steps and tips will help you ensure your faux leather looks the best it possible can for years to come and thus prolong its life as well as its attractiveness.

Step 1 - Blot the Stains

If any faux leather goods you may have are contaminated with liquids, vomit, food, or any other contaminant, make sure to start off by blotting the impacted area with paper towels as quickly as possible. This way, the stain that will need to be cleaned is minimized substantially, thus saving a lot of cleaning time. A little effort early on will mean less effort in the long run and will increase your chances of being able to completely clean the stain off of the faux leather item in question.

In some cases, the blotting may even be enough to get rid of the stain or dirty area completely on the faux leather. This depends, though, on just how bad the stain on the item in question is. If the stain has not disappeared from blotting alone, you will need to move on to the next steps described below in order to more completely rid your faux leather items of their stains.

Step 2 - Prepare Soapy Water

You can next try cleaning the faux leather with a basic solution of water and soap. To prepare soapy water, fill a container with warm water halfway up. Add a good dish detergent to the container and mix it well until it forms bubbles.

Never use harsh detergents as this may damage the material. A basic dish detergent, like Dawn, will do the trick for this particular job. The benefit here is that these material are something everyone has lying around their homes already making this a cheap, easy way to go about removing stains from faux leather goods.

Step 3 - Wipe the Stains

washing a leather car seat

Dip a clean, soft rag in to the soapy water you just created and squeeze off the excess water back into the container filled with the soapy water. Never allow there to be so much water on the rag that it is dripping off the rag. This will help you to avoid over-saturating the fake leather with water, which can actually further damage it. Do not skip this step.

Once you have dipped a rag in the soapy water, gently wipe the faux leather stains clean with the damp rag that was dipped in the soapy water until the stain is removed. Make sure to wipe off the area with a clean, dry, soft rag afterward. Do not use the same rag you used to remove the stain which will still be damp.

The trick is to dampen the leather with only enough moisture to allow efficient cleaning so it can dry quickly to minimize the risk of damage. Too much water can hurt your leather and cause splotches so avoid using too much water. Fully ringing out the sponge after you get it wet with the soapy water and drying the area after will both help with this goal and decrease your chances of damaging the faux leather item by using too much water on it.

When working on a large surface area, such as on a big stain on a couch, work on the stain or stains one portion at a time. Take care to never wipe a large portion all at once. Again, this could cause water damage to the faux leather item you are trying to clean and actually make it look worse than it did when you first started the spill removal process.

Use the damp rag on a small area first and wipe it dry. Afterward, proceed to the next spot, following the same procedure until the entire surface has been covered. This will ensure that the leather does not get wet for any long period of time. Letting faux leather stay wet too long may cause it to get damaged. For the same reason, you should never allow the leather to be saturated or soaked with water.

Step 4 - Use Baby Wipes for Instant Cleaning

When wearing faux leather outside the home, fear not. There is actually something easy you can do to remove the stains on the go and keep your faux leather clothing looking great. To do this, you will need to carry a pack of baby wipes with you in case of stains to the leather. Experienced users of faux leather goods recommend this product because it provides an instant cleaning solution while on the go.

Baby wipes contain just enough moisture to clean stains away while maintaining the necessary short dry time. The product is intended for delicate baby skin and is therefore safe to use on delicate faux leather or real leather. Although the product may be quite expensive to use for larger areas, it is ideal for small stains on shoes, bags, and clothes.

Baby wipes are actually great for a lot of things other than just wiping babies and keeping a small pack in your car or in your purse is a great idea to deal with a variety of potential issues.

Step 5 - Polish the Material

Polishing the faux leather material is an optional step but is necessary if the leather material needs to be rebuffed. If after removing the stain the leather isn't looking so hot, spread a small amount of faux leather polish on a clean, dry, and soft rag and use it to wipe cleaned faux leather surfaces.

This will ensure that the faux leather looks not just clean but also shiny and new. Faux leather can be expensive to purchase, so you should do your best to ensure it looks its best so you can get years of use out of it and do not need to make a new faux leather purchase to quickly after purchasing the first faux leather good you bought.

What Can Ruin Faux Leather?

If you've had to clean your faux leather frequently, you may be wondering what can actually ruin the faux leather. For starters, too much water can ruin faux leather so be careful about the amount of water you use when cleaning your faux leather and getting rid of stains. Do not use water on it if you do not need to and prevent getting it wet if possible. If you have a pool, for example, do not get out of it and immediately sit on a faux leather chair without drying off completely first. If you have faux leather boots, do not wear them out on a day that is raining heavily.

Similarly, make sure not to store your faux leather in a damp area as that can also harm your faux leather items. After spraying faux leather shoes, for example, do not leave them in an area where they will get doused by sprinklers aimed at your lawn later that day.

In addition to water, too much exposure to the sun can also damage faux leather goods. Do not have a faux leather couch, for example, in the brightest part of your home like on a screened in porch. This can damage the couch and shorten its life significantly.

If you are cleaning the faux leather, make sure to be careful. Do not use a rough sponge or other rough, abrasive cleaning device. This can damage the faux leather as you are attempting to clean it. Instead, simply use a cloth and be very gentle with it. The faux leather needs blotting and wiping--not scrubbing in order to be cleaned. Don't overdo it by being too vigorous with cleaning the faux leather. Take your time and go easy on the faux leather in order to keep it looking its best for years to come.

Does Faux Leather Clean Easily?

If you follow the previously mentioned steps, you can clean your faux leather fairly easily. It is easier to clean than some other materials, making it a preferred material for many. You have to be gentle with your cleaning though and not too vigorous in order to ensure your faux leather looks the way it should for a long time.

Does Vinegar Damage Faux Leather?

Vinegar is a preferred cleaning product for many. The benefits of vinegar is that it's cheap, many people already have it laying around the house, and it's smell isn't as strong as some other cleaning products on the market. As such, you may be wondering if vinegar will work on your faux leather items as well.

Distilled white vinegar can be used to treat stains on faux leather but is not full proof. Before you start using vinegar to treat a stain in a noticeable area, test it somewhere less conspicuous, like the back of a couch to make sure it has the desired effect on your particular faux leather item.

Make sure not just to pour vinegar directly onto the couch or other faux leather item you wish to clean. To use distilled white vinegar, start by mixing it in a container with equal parts water and distilled white vinegar.

You can now dip a cloth into the solution, making sure it is not too wet, just like you did with the soapy water solution above. You can use this vinegar and water mixture to clean the faux leather item in question. Make sure not to let it get too saturated with the cleaning solution.

Can I Use Coconut Oil on Faux Leather?

Once your faux leather is clean, you may be wondering how to properly care for and maintain the faux leather. One way to do so, is by using coconut oil.

To do so, use a clean cloth on the faux leather first to make sure it is totally dry and does not have any excess moisture. Once you have taken this step, dip a clean cloth into melted coconut oil.

The exact amount necessary will depend on your faux leather item. Shoes, for example, may only need a teaspoon of coconut oil while a couch will require much more coconut oil due to its large size.

You should then gently rub the coconut oil in to your faux leather. This will help it maintain its shine.

Other oils, like lemon and baby oil, can also be used for this purpose.

Is There a Conditioner for Faux Leather?

As previously mentioned, coconut oil can be used to condition faux leather. So can a store-bought faux leather conditioner, unscented baby oil or even Petroleum jelly.

These conditioners should be applied every six months or so to avoid damage to your faux leather. They will make your faux leather shine and look like new. More importantly, though, these conditioning options for your faux leather will serve as a protective treatment for your faux leather. It adds a think protective layer making the surface of your faux leather item easier to clean if issues arise.


By following the above steps, you will be able to remove stains from faux leather. Do so as soon as stains occur instead of waiting to do so. This will help keep your faux leather looking great for years to come and make the stains easier to remove.

Faux leather, while not as expensive as real leather, is rarely a cheap purchase so make sure your faux leather items are in the best shape possible but keeping them looking clean.