Can You Clean Leather With Water? (7 Pros And Cons)

Cleaning leather is a must for every leather owner and since there are a lot of do’s and don’ts when it comes to chemical cleaners for leather. So in this article, we will be answering the question can you clean leather with water and if so, how do you go about it.

So can you clean leather with water? You can clean leather with water because it is chemical-free and pH suitable for all types of leather. You can dampen a piece of microfiber with water and then use it to wipe over the surface of the leather to remove stains, dirt, and debris.

In the rest of this article, I’m going to go over 2 different ways you can clean leather with water. I’ll explain the benefits and drawbacks of each method so that by the time you’re finished reading, you’ll have a good idea of which method will work best for your needs.

The Pros Of Using Water To Clean Leather

1. Water Is A Chemical-Free Way To Clean Leather

Since you cannot use chemical cleaners on your leather goods all the time, water is a good alternative to clean them. You can use a damp cloth or cotton to wipe the surface of your leather.

Chemical cleaners often contain bleach and other chemicals which can react with the tanning agents in the leather over time. So knowing how to use only water and a piece of clean rag to clean your leather can save it from being damaged.

Water will not only clean the dust, dirt, and grime but will also keep the leather grain moistened, and after you condition the leather after cleaning with water, your leather will be supple, soft, and luxurious feeling.

2. Can Be Used To Clean All Types Of Leather

Water is a universal way of cleaning leather. If you have a smooth finished leather, semi-finished or rough out/nap leathers, water can be used to clean all types of leather.

Water is pH suitable for all types of leather. It is a neutral substance which means it will not cause any harm to your leather.

So you can use water even on your most prized and delicate leather goods.

But make sure to use a damp cloth or cotton when cleaning, and it is best to test the water in an inconspicuous area of the leather first before you actually use it on your entire piece.

3. It Is A Cheap Way To Clean Leather

As we mentioned before, water is a chemical-free way to clean your leather and this means you don’t have to spend too much money on cleaning your leather.

You can clean your whole piece of leather with just a few pieces of cloth, and if you have an already used worn-out piece of leather, you don’t have to spend much money on buying new cleaners when all it needs is water.

But make sure that before you actually go ahead and clean your leather goods, to test it first in a hidden area because some types of water can react with the tanning agents in the leather and can cause the color of your leather to fade.

4. Leather Will Be Left Smelling Fresh

Water is a natural deodorizer. It can also leave your leather smelling fresh and clean, and it will keep the moisture in the grain of your leather which is essential for keeping it soft and supple.

After you clean your leather with water, make sure to condition the piece of goods. You can use a leather conditioner to restore the natural oils in your leather.

The good thing with water is that it will not leave any chemical residues and will not cause any damage to the leather.

The only thing you need to keep in mind is that water can react with some types of leather and can cause the color of your leather to fade. So you need to test it first in a hidden area before using water on your entire piece.

5. Water Is An Eco-Friendly Way To Clean Leather

Water is a chemical-free way to clean leather which means it is an eco-friendly way of cleaning your leather.

It can help preserve your leather goods because it will keep the grain of the leather moisturized which is essential for keeping soft and supple.

Water alone cannot clean all types of dirt, grime, and dust from your leather. But it is a good start to being able to clean the surface of your piece of leather.

There are also other ways of cleaning leather if you do not want to use water, and the best way is to keep your leather goods clean all the time.

If you keep your leather goods clean, then it will reduce the need of cleaning them with water or chemicals because dust and dirt will not stick to them.

The Cons Of Using Water To Clean Leather

1. Fading

For certain types of leather, you do not even need harsh chemicals. But by simply using water, you can actually fade the color of your leather.

So if you have a colored piece of leather and use water to clean it, you will find the color of your leather fading.

Also to avoid this from happening, make sure to test the water on a hidden area first before you actually go ahead and clean your leather goods with water.

It is also good to know that for colored leather, water can also cause the dye to come off from your leather. So you need to be careful when using water on colored leather goods because it can be very harmful.

So if you have a colored piece of leather and use water to clean it, you will find the color of your leather fading.

2. Water Can Cause Mold Growth On The Leather

Another problem with using water to clean leather is that it can cause mold growth on your piece. This can be attributed to 2 main things; mold in the water and the leather not drying properly after cleaning.

It is common knowledge that some water contains mold and mildew which can cause mold to grow on your leather if the water comes in contact with your leather.

This is why most experts will advise that you only use distilled water when cleaning your leather goods because distilled water does not contain any impurities which could cause mold to grow on the surface of your piece.

It is also important to make sure that your leather dries properly after cleaning it with water. If the moisture is not allowed to evaporate from your piece, then mold will begin to grow on your leather.

How To Clean Leather With Water

Now that we have gone through the pros and cons of using water to clean leather, let us go ahead and look at how you can actually use water to clean your leather goods.

The Warm Water Technique

You can use warm water to clean your leather goods. And the best part about using warm water is that you can save time while doing it because it will act as a disinfectant and will also be able to loosen dirt from your piece.

But when using warm water, make sure that it is not too hot as it can cause damage to your leather. Here’s how to use warm water to clean your leather;

Things Needed:

  • Warm Water
  • Microfiber Cloth
  • Leather Conditioner

Procedure:

Step 1:

  • Start by brushing off any dust, debris, and grime from your piece.
  • Make sure that you do this gently because it can cause damage to the surface of your leather goods.

Step 2:

  • Soak your microfiber cloth in the warm water for a few seconds, wring it out, and dampen the surface of the leather and wait again a few seconds.
  • This will help to loosen any dirt on the surface of the leather.

Step 3:

  • Now use the microfiber cloth to rub the surface of the leather to clean it.
  • You can also use a soft brush to work on stubborn stains.

Step 4:

  • Once the surface of the leather is clean as you’d want, use a dry clean microfiber cloth to wipe the surface of the leather to remove any excess water or moisture.

Step 5:

  • While the leather is still damp, apply your leather conditioner following the instructions on the particular type of leather conditioner you have.
  • Make sure to apply the leather conditioner in very thin layers.

Step 6:

  • Once you’re done, allow your leather item to air-dry.

Cool/Lukewarm Water And Dish Soap

If you have tougher stains, dirt, or very old leather goods, then you can use dish soap and cool water to clean your leather.

This method is very similar to the warm water technique, but instead of using warm water, you use cool water with the addition of mild dish soap.

And because dish soap is an alkaline-based solution, it helps remove tough stains and dirt from your leather.

Here’s how to use this technique to clean your leather goods;

Things Needed:

  • Cool/Lukewarm Water
  • Dish Soap
  • Microfiber Cloth

Procedure:

Step 1:

  • Put 1-2 drops of dish soap in your water and mix well.

Step 2:

  • Soak your microfiber cloth in the soapy solution for a few seconds, wring it out, and dab it over the surface of the leather.
  • What this does is loosen any dirt on the surface of your leather.

Step 3:

  • Now use the microfiber cloth to gently rub over the surface of the leather to remove any dirt and grime.
  • Make sure that you do this in a gentle motion so as not to damage the surface of your leather.
  • Continue wiping until your leather is clean.
  • If you have stubborn stains, apply a little more soap into the soap solution and use a soft brush to gently scrub the surface of your leather.

Step 4:

  • Once you’re done, rinse off all of the soap residues with clean, cool water.
  • To do this, dampen wash, rinse, and wring out your microfiber cloth in clean cool water, and then use it to wipe the surface of the leather to remove all soap residues.

Step 5:

  • Now use a dry cloth to wipe the surface of your leather again to remove excess moisture and allow it to air-dry.

Step 6:

  • Apply your leather conditioner following the instructions on your particular brand.
  • Make sure to apply it very thinly and in thin layers so as not to form a film over the surface of your leather.

Step 7:

  • Allow it to air-dry and then use a soft cloth to buff away any excess conditioner.

Tips When Cleaning Leather With Water

  • You should never get your leather surface completely wet with water when cleaning.
  • Always condition the surface of your leather with a good leather conditioner after cleaner leather with water.
  • When cleaning leather with water, always clean it in a gentle motion.
  • It is also advisable that you do not use any abrasive sponges or brushes to clean your leather with water.
  • If you have very tough stains on your leather, then apply a very small amount of dish soap to your water and rub using a bit of elbow grease to get the stains out.
  • Always allow your leather to dry thoroughly after cleaning it with water.
  • If you would use warm water, make sure the water is not boiling hot as this can cause the leather to wrinkle or warp.
  • Always use a plain colored or clean cloth or rag when cleaning your leather with water. You do not want to use any colored cloths that could cause serious color transfer on your leather.
  • Always air-dry your leather item after cleaning with water. Never use any form of heat source to dry your leather. It can cause your leather to dry out and crack.

Macwilliam K. Appianing

Hi! I’m Macwilliam, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leatherwork 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!

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