Can You Clean Leather With Alcohol? 10 Pros & Cons Plus Tips

can you clean leather with alcohol

You have a beautiful leather couch, and you want to take good care of it. You are wondering if you can clean your leather with rubbing alcohol? Let’s discuss this further!

Can you clean leather with alcohol? Yes, but not all the time. The best way to clean your leather is by using a neutral cleaner. However, you can use rubbing alcohol in an instance where you spilled wine or coffee on your leather and traditional leather cleaners seem not to work. You can use rubbing alcohol. This, however, comes with some caveats like drying up the leather.

In the remaining part of this article, I’m going to share with you the pros and cons of using rubbing alcohol on your leather goods and some alternatives to consider.

The Pros Of Using Rubbing Alcohol on Leather

1. Rubbing Alcohol Removes Stains

Rubbing alcohol is great for removing tough stains from leather. Things like wine, coffee, etc are generally very difficult to remove. In most cases, the traditional leather cleaners will not be able to deal with such tough stains.

Using rubbing alcohol can be a quick and easy solution to remove tough stains without having to visit a professional.

Its application on stains is also very easy. All you do is soak the stained area with rubbing alcohol and remove it a few minutes later.

By using rubbing alcohol, you should be able to remove light stains such as fruit juices like orange juice, grapefruit juice, etc, and even the much tougher stains like coffee from light-colored leather goods such as furniture, apparels, and more.

2. Rubbing Alcohol Is Cheap And Easily Accessible

Another great thing about using rubbing alcohol is good for leather is that it is cheap and easily accessible. When you find yourself having an emergency with your leather item, rubbing alcohol will always come in handy as you’re likely to have one sitting on your shelves right now.

There are many ways to purchase it, with the cheapest being at your local drugstore (or pharmacy). You can also find rubbing alcohol in supermarkets or even hardware stores. Lastly, you could go online for a cheaper deal on a bulk of rubbing alcohols!

3. Rubbing Alcohol Can Be Diluted

Another great thing about rubbing alcohol is that it can be diluted. This means you could mix a small amount of rubbing alcohol with water to make your own leather cleaner or conditioner depending on the type of job you’re trying to do!

This means that you’ll not only be able to clean stains from your leather but also dilute the rubbing alcohol to a specific solution you can use to clean your leather.

What makes this even better is that you can use this solution on other surfaces in your house, such as your hardwood floors or even upholstery.

4. Rubbing Alcohol Is Not Abrasive

A great thing about rubbing alcohol is that it’s not abrasive. This means you don’t need to worry about leather scratching if you use a diluted solution of rubbing alcohol on your surface.

This makes cleaning much easier and more convenient because when you’re trying to clean stains from your leather, there’s almost no risk of damage!

In fact, this makes it perfect for people with sensitive skin who might have problems using harsh chemicals or strong detergents like vinegar or bleach on their items.

If you have sensitive skin or small children and pets at home, you’ll want to keep this in mind when looking for ways of caring for your leather. You don’t need any fancy supplies like a specific type of cleaner – just plain rubbing alcohol will do the trick!

You can also dilute it with water if you’re worried about harsh chemicals being an issue. The key is to use what works best for your needs because there are plenty of options available.

5. Rubbing Alcohol Is Excellent For Removing Grease And Oil

Rubbing alcohol can also be used to remove grease and oil stains from leather. Just spray a little on the stain, rub it in with your fingers or a sponge, and then wipe away any residue when you’re done.

You’ll want to make sure that the rubbing alcohol has had time to dry before putting your items back into storage; otherwise, they might pick up new dirt and grime as soon as they come into contact with them!

This is an excellent way of removing stains without causing any damage if you use plain rubbing alcohol instead of more harsh chemicals like bleach or vinegar.

Rubbing alcohol can cut through any type of grease or oil stains on leather. If the stain is fresh, it should work on the spot without any scrubbing or rubbing involved.

If your stains are older and set in, you may want to try a little elbow grease because they’re likely much harder to remove with just alcohol alone.

It’s also important to remember that if you use too much rubbing alcohol, it can dry out your skin as well as cause an allergic reaction in some people who suffer from eczema! You don’t need very much at all for this type of cleaning so be careful not to overuse it!

The Cons Of Using Rubbing Alcohol on Leather

There are a couple of reasons not to use rubbing alcohol on your leather items.

1. Causes Leather To Dry

One of the most common things rubbing alcohol is known to do to leather is dry it out. This can be very problematic because leather is generally made from animal skin, so if the moisture isn’t locked in then you could end up with cracking and breaking of your leather item!

Leather contains natural essential oils which get eroded when you apply rubbing alcohol on them. You want to make sure the essential oils contained in leather are maintained to prevent the leather from drying out.

2. Rubbing Alcohol Can Affect Your Skin

Using rubbing alcohol on leather does not only have an adverse effect on the leather it is being applied on. Rubbing alcohol can also dry out your skin as well as irritate you if you have eczema.

If you’re the kind who easily gets eczema, then you may have to wear gloves while cleaning with rubbing alcohol. If you have sensitive skin then this might not be for you as well since there are some reports noting that when used in excess, rubbing alcohol may dry out your skin.

3. Can Remove The Top Finish Of The Leather

Rubbing alcohol if not properly diluted can knock off the protective layer on the surface of your leather items. It can happen by simply using too much rubbing alcohol, rubbing a bit too much, or if you’re not careful and allow it to completely dry on the surface.

If this happens, your leather items will lose much of their protection from everyday stains that come with living in a world full of dirt and grime!

4. Strong Smell Of Rubbing Alcohol

I have a 3 years old son and he hates the smell of rubbing alcohol so much. He can’t stand the smell and will tell me to stop using it right away if he catches a whiff of it!

It’s not just young children that don’t like the strong, harsh smell of rubbing alcohol either. It seems to be something that many people dislike.

Not only because they get headaches from smelling it but also because its scent is difficult to remove immediately once applied to your leather goods.

You will need to wait for a couple of days for the unpleasant smell to subside.

5. Rubbing Alcohol Is Not Suitable For Dyed Leather

Another downside to using rubbing alcohol on leather is that it can damage the color of your leather goods. The alcohol contains a type of chemical that can remove dye from the surface of your item.

If you have a piece of furniture or clothing with an intentional design, using rubbing alcohol will cause irreversible damage to these items and ruin their appearance permanently!

The same goes for leather products that have synthetic finishes such as polyurethane and PVC. If this is what you’re working with, make sure to steer clear of alcohol or any substances containing alcohol in order to avoid ruining them forever.

How To Use Rubbing Alcohol To Properly Treat leather Items

Rough up the surface of your leather item with a clean cloth. This will help break down any oils and dirt that may be interfering with the success of this process.

Apply alcohol to a dry cloth or cotton ball, then rub it into the entire area in both directions until you no longer see dirt on the surface anymore.

Then wipe away as much remaining liquid as possible before allowing it to air-dry naturally overnight.

If desired, repeat these steps using either an all-cotton shoe brush or nylon scrubber pad for stubborn stains like mud or other ground-in materials!

Safety Tips On How To Use Rubbing Alcohol On Leather

You always want to use specially formulated leather care products first before going ahead to use rubbing alcohol. These special leather care products are designed to safely take care of leather items without causing any damage to them.

  • You don’t want to use it on a new leather item because the alcohol will dry out and wear away that brand-new exterior look.
  • Never spray rubbing alcohol directly on your leather surface.
  • You also never want to douse your leather surface with rubbing alcohol no matter the type of stain you’re dealing with.
  • Dilute rubbing alcohol before using it on your leather. 25 to 50 percent concentration of rubbing alcohol is safe for use on leather. The lower the concentration, the better!
  • You can dilute rubbing alcohol with water
  • Remember that whenever you dilute rubbing alcohol, its drying time generally increases.
  • Always use rubbing alcohol to spot treat specific areas of your leather items.
  • It’s also important not to rub too hard when cleaning your leather items using rubbing alcohol on leather items.
  • If you’re using rubbing alcohol to clean leather, make sure the rubbing alcohol is not too old. If the alcohol is more than a year old or so and has an expired date on it, then don’t use that because doing so can cause damage.
  • Condition your leather items whenever you use rubbing alcohol or any alcohol-based product on your leather.
  • Also, note that there are also other products outside of just water or rubbing alcohol which work great for cleaning certain types of stains from leather items like Leather Honey Cleaner and Saddle Soap.”

Rubbing Alcohol Alternatives

Mild Dish Soap And Warm Water

Soap and water are an excellent alternative to rubbing alcohol for cleaning leather. You just need a sponge, dish soap, and warm water to cleanse the surface of your items.

Apply a small amount of detergent on dry or wet microfiber cloths before scrubbing in an alternating circular motion with good pressure along seams and folds where dirt is most likely hidden.

Rinse in-between scrubs and clean excess residue with a clean damp cloth. Allow the leather to air-dry naturally before you put them back into use!

The advantage to using a mild soap solution instead of rubbing alcohol is that it is a lot gentler because it doesn’t contain harsh chemicals which can affect color pigments if used too often or improperly applied. Also, the cost of this alternative is also equally low.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is also another great alternative to rubbing alcohol because it is natural and safe to use on leather clothing, furniture, or any other leather items.

It also acts as a mild soap agent so you can clean your items without having to buy excessive products for the job! Plus, vinegar smells great while doing its work!

Another advantage of using white vinegar instead of alcohol is that if you have an allergy then this will be better suited for you in comparison with rubbing alcohol which contains chemicals that could cause skin irritation like itching, redness, and rashes.

The cost of white wine vinegar (most commonly used) when purchased from grocery stores or supermarkets are cheaper than buying rubbing alcohol plus they last longer too so there’s no need to purchase more after every few times.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t remove dirt and grime as well so you’ll need to still purchase a leather cleaning agent.

The most important part of the process is to always test an inconspicuous area prior to using any type of product on your item, whether it’s rubbing alcohol or white vinegar.

This will ensure that there are no reactions occurring that could potentially damage your item.


Personally, using rubbing alcohol will be one of the last options I will consider as there are many other ways like using special leather care products, white wine vinegar, a mild soap, and water for example.

Alcohol can be bad because of its numerous downsides as discussed in this post. I hope this article has been helpful to you and I wish you a great day.


Hi! I’m Kwabena, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leathercraft enthusiast and I’ve been that for almost 13 years now. I'm excited to share my experiences and all the new stuff I learn each day about leather craft, leather cleaning & care, and everything in-between!

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