Does Rubbing Alcohol Damage Leather? How Do You Clean It?

Finding new ways to clean the leather surfaces in your home isn't always easy. For example, do you want to use an alcohol-based product to clean leather but don't know if that will damage it? What is the best way to clean leather?

Luckily, we've done plenty of searching and have the answer for you below.

Although rubbing alcohol may not damage leather right away, it can create issues with dryness and cracking over time. Generally, rubbing alcohol on leather furniture/surfaces isn't a good idea and can cause it to age faster than usual.

One misconception about leather is that it doesn't need much upkeep, but it can be very reactive to alcohol/drying products and everyday use. If you've used alcohol on your leather, we recommend conditioning it to prevent permanent damage.

As we start this post, we will cover all things leather and discuss whether you can use rubbing alcohol on it. If you've recently purchased leather furniture, have a dirty leather item you need to clean or have additional questions, we're here to help. With that said, let's dive right into this topic!

Does Rubbing Alcohol Damage Leather? How Do You Clean It?

Can I Use Rubbing Alcohol On Leather?

Detail of classic furniture sofa in living room.

No. Using alcohol-based products on your leather surfaces is not a good idea. According to experts, using alcohol or acetone on leather surfaces is a sure way to cause severe damage to your item.

Although many leather goods will become dirty over time, you don't want to try and wipe them down with rubbing alcohol. This may work for other surfaces, but with leather, you're risking peeling, cracking discoloration, and a ruined piece of decor or furniture.

One of the reasons rubbing alcohol is so detrimental to leather goods is that it strips away the moisture from the leather, leading to cracks.

Alcohol dries fast, taking whatever moisture it can find along with it. Since leather responds best to being moisturized at all times, taking that hydration from your furniture or surface can be devastating.

On top of that, most leather pieces will come with a top coat that protects them from damage. If you use too much alcohol to clean your leather's surface, it can strip away that seal.

Once your leather is no longer protected, stains, scratching, tears, and other damage becomes more likely. It's always better to take it easy on your leather, especially when cleaning it.

Is Isopropyl Alcohol Safe To Use On Leather?

You don't want to use isopropyl alcohol to clean leather goods. Since most rubbing alcohols are also made using isopropyl alcohol, you don't want this ingredient near your leather.

Most rubbing alcohols contain between 68-99 percent alcohol in water, which is far too strong to use on a leather surface.

Even though isopropyl alcohol is one of the less aggressive options for cleaning household items, it's still incredibly drying for leather.

Most professionals recommend using leather cleaning wipes or sprays on furniture because they'll also moisturize them. As we mentioned, leather loves being hydrated, so the more moisture a cleaner has, the better it will react once on the leather.

Isopropyl alcohol (in rubbing alcohol or alone) is not a good alternative to a leather-specific cleaner, so keep that in mind while shopping.

You may even be able to wipe down dirty leather with a soft, soapy rag and then condition it, so this doesn't always need to involve complicated products.

What Happens If I Dump Rubbing Alcohol On Leather?

Female hand cleaning the surface of the leather bag.

If you have an accident and get rubbing alcohol on your leather surfaces, you want to wipe it off immediately. Because rubbing alcohol can dry and eat away at leather, removing it from your surface is crucial.

Even if you tried wiping down your leather furniture with an alcohol-soaked rag and overdid it, you should be able to reverse any damage if you work fast.

We recommend grabbing a separate damp, soapy cloth and using it over the spot where the alcohol was dumped. Once that is done, grab a leather conditioner and massage it into your surface.

Doing this will replenish the moisture that may have evaporated when the rubbing alcohol dried, which will help keep your leather's elasticity. Hydrated leather is happy leather.

What Is The Best Way To Clean Leather Furniture?

Woman hand cleaning leather sofa at home.

We recommend a simple cleaning solution of 50/50 vinegar and water when cleaning your leather furniture. Using vinegar to clean debris and oil from your leather pieces won't harm them and should do a nice job reviving them.

In general, leather responds better to gentle cleaning products and methods. Therefore, skipping chemicals and moving toward a natural alternative is the best long-term idea.

Once you have your water and vinegar mixture, wipe it onto your furniture using a microfiber cloth. Apply the mix in circular motions on your leather, as this helps lift dirt and grime from its fibers.

In addition to vinegar, you can also try using these cleaners on leather furniture:

  • Saddle soap
  • Leather cream
  • Leather conditioner

With these products, you can remove impurities from the fibers on your leather without stripping its natural oils or coating. There's a difference between natural leather oils and dirt/grime, which specialty leather products can tackle.

Although some people may recommend using a bit of rubbing alcohol to disinfect leather surfaces, this only ends up in dryness, cracking, and damage to your pieces, so skip it.

If you can find a cleaner that also includes a moisturizer, that's also something we'd suggest trying on your leather furniture.

Weiman Leather Cleaner & Conditioner Care Kit

This leather care kit comes with a cleaner, conditioner, and microfiber cloth, protects your leather from damage, blocks UV rays, restores any leather surface, and has excellent customer reviews.

Follow this link to see it on Amazon.

How Often Do I Need To Clean Leather Furniture?

Depending on the color of your leather furniture, the cleaning schedule will vary. Experts say you want to clean a light-colored leather sofa/furniture every six months.

In contrast, darker leather furniture is okay with a once-annual cleaning. So think of this as light leather needs to be cleaned twice yearly and dark leather once.

This is mainly because light leather will show dirt easier than dark leather will. For example, if your light-colored leather couch develops a grease stain from someone's hair, you'll notice it more than on a darker-shaded option.

However, that doesn't mean light leather gets dirtier than dark leather. We can't see the dirt and grime on darker pieces, which in a way, might not be an advantage.

So, it might be better to clean all your leather furniture, light or dark, two times each year. The only thing to be aware of is that cleaning too often can strip the natural oils from leather, which you want to avoid doing.

Although regularly cleaning a sofa or chair may seem helpful, with leather, this can do more harm than good.

Should Leather Have A Sealer On It?

Yes, leather products should have some sealer on them. Generally, leather goods have a top coating to protect them from everyday wear and tear.

According to Liberty Leather Goods, using a sealer for leather can prevent dye from rubbing off as the product is being used. Furthermore, sealing leather can prevent scratches, cracks, and moisture from reaching the surface of your item.

Instead, these problems will stay at the top layer, leaving the leather unscathed. This is especially true for moisture, as the sealer is usually waterproof.

So, by having your leather sealed, you also protect it against moisture, which can keep it looking new longer. Although leather likes to be hydrated, when it gets wet, the water evaporates. That also takes moisture from your leather, which can become a problem.

Think of sealing leather as giving it a bubble of protection. One of the reasons we don't recommend alcohol cleaners on leather is that they eat away at this protective coating.

Most, if not all, chemical products do.

Does Rubbing Alcohol Remove Leather Finish?

Hand holding ethyl alcohol bottle and cotton piece backgroud

Yes. Unfortunately, rubbing alcohol can eventually cause your leather's finish to disappear. Most times, the extreme drying effect of rubbing alcohol can cause your item to become dehydrated.

On top of that, the top sealer/protective layer of your leather furniture may get eaten away by the alcohol, especially in high concentrations.

Suppose you regularly use rubbing alcohol to wipe down your leather chair or sofa. Each time you do this, you're stripping away its protective top layer/seal, which can become detrimental.

Long-term, a leather item can't sustain itself without being protected against the elements. If alcohol-based products destroy your leather sofa, chair, or surface, reversing the effects can be nearly impossible.

Therefore, avoiding chemicals and drying products is crucial when caring for leather items. Even though you want to disinfect your leather, it's not worth potentially ruining it.

Of course, using rubbing alcohol occasionally to wipe down a leather item won't destroy it, but we do not recommend making a habit of this. Less is more.

To Wrap It All Up

Whether you have a leather sofa, chair, headboard, or other surfaces in your home, it's always good to know how to maintain it. We found that rubbing alcohol is not good for leather, as it is extremely drying.

On top of that, rubbing alcohol is often highly concentrated, which can strip your leather of its natural oils and sealers/finishes. Moreover, using too much-rubbing alcohol on leather can cause cracking, peeling, discoloration, and irreversible damage to your furniture.

You only want to use leather-friendly cleaners like white vinegar, saddle soap, leather conditioner, or leather cream for upkeep. Also, remember to apply your leather cleaner in circular motions and try and do this once or twice yearly. Good luck!

Made it to the end? Check out these helpful related leather articles:

How To Repair a Leather Couch [8 Actionable Solutions]

How To Fix A Cracked Leather Couch

14 Living Room Color Schemes With Brown Leather Furniture

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