Can you steam clean leather? – A short answer

Image showing leather car seats.

You can steam clean leather, provided you do it the proper way. Incorrect use of a steam cleaner may lead to shrinkage, drying-out, cracking, or even rotting of leather accessories. What’s more, steam cleaning shouldn’t be done too often, experts think of it more as a once-per-year practice. That being said, it’s a chemical-free method to get rid of bacteria, odors, or deeply embedded dirt.

Steaming leather articles is not the most popular method of cleaning. Many people stick to regular cleaning methods such as mild soap and water (which should be good enough in most cases). Steam cleaning comes in handy when you can’t get rid of viruses, allergens, funky odor, mold, and mildew. Those can be a problem, especially in hot and humid climates.

Dangers of steam cleaning leather

Before we go any further, it’s important to highlight the possible dangers of steam-cleaning leather. Below we present you a list of possible risks, that you should be aware of. Nevertheless, those shouldn’t happen as long as you follow our instructions.


Leather can shrink by immoderate heat, especially after being exposed to the sun or a heater when wet. Once it has shrunk, the leather can no longer be repaired. Regardless of that, it can be softened using suitable care products. A good way to minimize shrinking is by applying various leather oils and grease.

Drying and cracking

When used regularly, leather absorbs sweat and natural oils from our skin, resulting in dirt and grime buildup. Those bound with water molecules draw out any oils present in leather. Due to this, with time it gets abrasive and eventually cracks, which can be prevented by regularly applying leather conditioners.


Dry rotting is bound to the lack of lubricity in a product. Once the leather cracks it can no longer be fully repaired, therefore, prevention here is necessary. Regular maintenance with proper care products should be enough to keep leather from rotting.

An important note: Improper steam cleaning can accelerate each process, therefore, proper prevention measures are obligatory. All the details are covered in the guide steam cleaning guide below.

How to steam clean leather in 5 steps?

Steam cleaning leather is not a complicated process, although, it may be quite overwhelming when you first start. Proper prevention measures need to be taken, to keep your leather items safe. Without further ado, let’s get into details.

Before you even start steam cleaning, thoroughly vacuum the furniture you will be cleaning. If that’s not an option, grab a brush and sweep any dust or dirt.

1. Apply proper care products

Using proper leather maintenance products will not only make steam cleaning more effective but also will protect the leather. You can choose a high-quality, ready-to-use cleaning agent or make one yourself.

To create an effective cleaning solution, start by mixing half a cup of linseed oil with white vinegar in a bucket of water. Smaller furniture may require only a quarter of each liquid, while big leather sofas and couches may need a full cup. After that, check whether the solution doesn’t damage your type of leather by applying it to an inconspicuous place.

If everything looks good after a couple of minutes, the mixture then can be applied to your leather upholstery, but don’t overdo it. We don’t want any excess moisture on our leather furniture. Leave it to dry completely, which shouldn’t take more than 30 to 60 minutes.

Keep in mind, that white vinegar can be both great and devastating when cleaning leather, it all depends on the proportions you use. Too much of this substance can dry out the leather, leading to cracking over time.

2. Get your steam cleaner ready

Now you need to prepare your steam cleaner by securing the right attachment and filling the water tank. Do so, according to the instructions given by the manufacturer. We would highly recommend using a nylon triangle brush, wrapped in two microfiber towels.

If you want to be on the safe side, the steam cleaner should be set to the lowest possible steam setting, to prevent any damage to soft leather. Keep in mind though, to get rid of germs a temperature of at least 250° Fahrenheit (121° Celsius) is necessary. Another thing to remember is when wrapping the nylon brush, be sure to use only clean cloth.

3. Steam clean your leather items

You should steam clean leather with only quick wipes, so it doesn’t shrink or dry. Each wipe can be then followed by swabbing away any excess moisture using different a cloth. Remember – the water from vapor can’t stay on leather material too long!

If there are any worn-out or already damaged parts on your leather, be careful around them and do not steam clean them. Filling cracks in leather with any extra hot temperature steam will only make the damage worse.

Grab a clean cloth and put it on the steam from your steam cleaner. Then wipe the damaged parts with the said cloth. Alternatively, you can use a small bucket of hot water with some cleaning products.

4. Remove the extra moisture

Removing any extra water is vital for the overall health of your leather upholstery. When not wiped, large amounts of water can accumulate from vapor, and lead to mold, cracking, and dry rotting. A clean microfiber cloth should be enough to get all the surface water from the leather fabric.

5. Apply leather care products again

After cleaning, you need to once again apply leather care products to keep the fabric from damage. You need to keep in mind, that this material is very fragile if not properly taken care of. Spray leather with special oil or conditioner from a respectable cleaning brand.

Following those instructions should save your leather from any accidental damage. Once again, be sure to constantly wipe any excess water from the fabric, and stray away from using too much heat.

Steam cleaning leather – 5 tips you need

If you are steam cleaning your leather for the first time, here are some tips which can help you make the process easier.

  • Use two microfiber towels over the steam cleaner’s brush attachment.
  • Make your own cleaning detergent by mixing half a cup half vinegar and half a cup of water. Test it on an inconspicuous area first, as vinegar can be too harsh for very delicate leather.
  • Moisturize leather with proper conditioner before and after cleaning. All leather items, including car upholstery, leather seats, and leather interior, should be treated regularly
  • Treat new stains as quickly as possible. To start, wipe any leftover liquid with a clean cloth, and at the same time, be careful to not rub in the liquid. Now spray the stain with a reputable leather cleaner, and gently dab it with a damp cloth. We recommend using warm but not hot water.
  • Use linseed oil after cleaning your leather items. It’s an excellent moisturizer, that can make a huge difference when it comes to the condition of your fabric. Regular moisturizing can prolong the life of leather, and prevent cracks or dry rotting. Important side note: Keep in mind that linseed oil doesn’t prevent stains. What’s more, if it gets onto regular fabric, it can create a permanent stain.

Why you should steam clean your leather?

Steam cleaning leather done once or twice a year is a great way to refresh the fabric. Regular hand-cleaning may not be enough to bring out all the stains and dirt embedded deeply inside your leather upholstery. Steam loosens all the grime particles, that are hard to get remove using standard cleaning methods. It also serves as a chemical-free way of removing germs, bacteria, and allergens.

If you are wondering, most leather furniture can be steam cleaned using the methods described above, the same goes for leather interiors in your car.

Can you steam clean leather accessories?

Steam cleaning leather couch

Can you steam clean the leather couch? – You can steam clean the leather couch or sofa, by using a proper technique. It’s important to invest in high-quality cleaning products if you want to be 100% risk-free. Otherwise, try your cleaning detergents on an inconspicuous area of your leather sofa first. You shouldn’t use high temperatures on your couches or cushions, as it can make the leather dry and crack. Trying the lowest possible setting is usually a safe bet, keep in mind tho, a temperature of 250° Fahrenheit (121° Celsius) is necessary to remove germs.

After you are done with the cleaning, don’t forget to apply leather care products.

Steam cleaning leather car seats

Can you steam clean leather car seats? – You can steam clean leather car seats, and it’s a great way to remove germs and viruses accumulated on the surface of your leather interior. Before you start cleaning, you need to know, that there are different leather types, some of which, can be very delicate. If you use the wrong cleaning products or keep the steam cleaner too long in one place, you can actually damage the interior.

Cleaning car upholstery doesn’t differ too much from cleaning leather sofas or cushions. The frequency of cleaning should be about the same approximating two times a year. Various car detailing services can be found on the internet, offering steam cleaning leather seats, or car upholstery overall.

Be sure to first vacuum your vehicle, and spray any stubborn stains with leather cleaner. We also recommend using a brush attachment when steam cleaning leather seats. After each run with a steam cleaner, wipe any excess water with a clean cloth to prevent drying cracking.

Steam cleaning leather jacket

Can you steam clean leather jacket? – You can steam clean leather jacket, and it is completely safe. In fact, it’s a great way to limit the extra moisture, which would be necessary when hand cleaning. Hot steam will remove any bacteria or viruses, that may exist on the surface of your leather jacket as long as you set the right temperature. Be sure to apply proper leather conditioner before and after cleaning, so you don’t damage your jacket.

Steam cleaning leather jackets can also help get rid of any wrinkles. Simply hang your leather item on the hanger and steam it lightly. For the best results, the item needs to be dry. There’s also another method for people who don’t own a steam cleaner. All you need to do is hang the item on the hanger in your bathroom, while you take a hot shower.

Steam cleaning leather chairs

Can you steam clean leather chairs? – Leather chairs can be steam cleaned in the same way as any other leather item. Firstly, pretreat your leather upholstery with a homemade, or reputable leather cleaner. Be sure to test it on an inconspicuous place first, before spraying it on the whole furniture. After applying, let it air dry for at least an hour before you start the cleaning process.

Now fill the steam cleaner with water and set the right temperature. It’s best to check the settings in the user’s manual, however, we usually recommend starting from the lowest possible temperature.

When cleaning, try to do small and quick motions, so the steam doesn’t soak through the leather chair. Wipe excessive moisture after every run with your steam cleaner. A brush attachment can really come in handy when cleaning upholstery.

Steam cleaning leather shoes

Can you steam clean leather shoes? – You can steam clean leather shoes as long as you do it the proper way. Firstly, remove shoelaces as those are usually made out of fabric, and standard leather cleaner can stain them. If they are dirty, you can toss them into the washing machine, preferably inside a mesh bag.

Use a soft brush to remove any accumulated dirt and grime, avoiding too much pressure not to scratch the leather. To make the shoes stiffer, therefore easier to clean, you can put stretchers inside. Apply leather cleaner or a homemade solution and wait for it to completely dry. Now you can start steam cleaning your shoes, however, be sure to not soak them in the vapor.

After you are done with cleaning, condition the leather with proper leather care products. Doing this prevents leather from drying out and cracking. Applying those regularly also prevents ruining your shoes from unfavorable weather conditions.

Other cleaning methods

While steam cleaning leather may be a good idea to remove dirt, bacteria, and some stains, it can also lead to water damage. There is no best way to clean leather, however, there are other, less risky cleaning methods.

The safest way to clean leather is cleaning by hand. Using professional cleaning solutions from reputable brands is necessary if you want to keep this process risk-free. Those allow you to get the right content for your type of leather, as some materials can be too delicate for homemade detergents. That being said, always wipe any dust with a clean cloth before using cleaners. Cleaning by hand is usually a preferred method when you want to remove stubborn stains.

Vacuuming is another safe way to remove accumulated dirt and grime, although you won’t be able to thoroughly clean your leather upholstery. It’s a quick and simple way to regularly refresh your leather items.

An important side note: Don’t use a carpet cleaner when cleaning leather. Chemicals found in carpet cleaners may do permanent damage to the leather fabric. Those also thoroughly soak the leather, while steam cleaners only vaporize the surface. Large amounts of water can lead to drying, cracking, and rotting.


Is steam cleaning good for leather interiors?

Leather car interiors can be steam cleaned, provided you do it the proper way. Using too much heat, too hot water, or the wrong brush attachment can actually damage the leather interiors. If you are not unsure about doing this yourself, read our guide or give your vehicle to specialists.

It’s also a reliable way to remove stains from the leather without using chemicals. Be sure to always give a quick vacuum to your vehicle first.

Can you clean leather seats with steam?

Steam cleaning leather seats are okay, as long as you do it once or twice per year. Also, be sure to use the proper technique and steam temperature. You should also avoid any damaged parts, as getting moisture into the cracks can make them bigger.

Can steam damage leather?

Steam can damage leather, therefore, it’s not the best way to clean this fabric. Using mild soap and water will be safer, however, it won’t disinfect your leather that well. We recommend steam cleaning once or twice a year to keep the upholstery fresh.

What is the safest way to clean leather?

The safest way to clean leather is probably to use warm water and mild soap. Spray the mixture on your cushions, carpets, or any other house item. Be sure to keep the moisture to a minimum, as it can excessively dry this material.


To sum up, steam cleaners are a reliable tool to remove bacteria, viruses, germs, allergens, mold, or just this one deeply embedded stain. Using them for leather is a good idea, as long as you use the right brush attachment, regulate the steam, and spray the leather with conditioner.

It’s also completely safe to clean leather seats, cushions, or carpets, however, remember that this shouldn’t be done more than once or twice a year. If you are worried about damaging the soft fabric, you can give your vehicle or upholstery to professionals.

Steam cleaners are also great tools to clean floors, and do regular chores around your house.