Can You Use Milk to Clean Leather? The Surprising Answer

Can You Use Milk to Clean Leather?

You’ve probably heard that milk is a great way to clean leather. But is it true? Or is this just an old wives’ tale? In this article, we will explore the answer to that question. We’ll talk about what milk does to leather, and whether or not it’s a good idea to use it as a cleaning agent. So if you’re curious about using milk to clean your leather furniture or shoes, read on.

So can you use milk to clean leather? The answer is yes and no. Yes! because milk is a natural product and contains lactic acid and enzymes that can break down dirt, stains, and grime. This makes it a great option for cleaning hard-wearing leather surfaces such as shoes, boots, etc. And No! mainly because milk residues on leather can go rancid causing the leather to become discolored, moldy, and sticky.

Personally, I wouldn’t advise using milk to clean leather as the downsides to its use far outweighs the positives. There are plenty of other, safer, and more effective, ways to clean leather that doesn’t involve using milk.

But hey, I’m not here to only thread on the side caution and discouragements. I’m mainly here to present you with all the facts so that you will be able to make an informed decision for yourself.

To learn more about the pros and cons of cleaning leather with milk, what type of stains can milk clean from leather, and how to properly use milk to clean leather.

The Pros Of Using Milk To Clean Leather

Despite the fact that there are a few drawbacks to using milk to clean leather, there are also some benefits that should not be ignored.

1. Milk Removes Stains From Leather

One of the main benefits of using milk to clean leather is that it can remove stains. Milk contains lactic acid, which is a natural cleaner. This ingredient among a few others is the reason why milk is also used as a cleanser for our face and skin.

It is able to remove dead skin cells and dirt without damaging the leather. The same tender and loving care we give our skin can be given to our leather furniture and other belongings.

When you apply milk to a leather surface, the lactic acid will help to break down any dirt or stains that are on the leather. This makes it much easier to clean the leather and restore it to its original condition.

If you have a stain on your leather couch or chair, you can try using milk to clean it up. Just apply a small amount of milk to a cloth and rub it into the stain. Then, wipe the area clean with a damp cloth.

You can also pour a small amount of milk directly onto the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping it away. Be sure to test this method in a small, inconspicuous area of the leather first to make sure that it does not cause any damage.

2. Milk Can Remove Scuffs From Leather

Another awesome benefit to using milk on leather is that it can help to remove scuffs. Milk is effective at doing this because milk is a natural astringent. Astringents are substances that can help to tighten the skin and reduce the size of pores.

This also means that when milk is used on leather, it will help to remove any dirt or debris that may be causing the scuffs.

This is an awesome property because you do not need to get a special leather cleaner to remove scuffs – you can just use milk.

To use milk to remove scuffs from your leather, all you need to do is:

  • Dampen a cloth with some milk
  • Rub the cloth on the affected area in a circular motion
  • Let the milk sit on the surface of the leather for about five minutes
  • Wipe the area clean with a damp cloth
  • If the scuffs are really bad, you may need to repeat these steps a couple of times.

The scuff marks on your leather should be noticeably lighter after using milk.

3. Help To Maintain Leather’s Natural Sheen

The last and final benefit of using milk to clean leather is that it helps to maintain the natural sheen of the leather. Usually, when you clean your leather items using leather cleaners, you will notice a significant difference in the appearance of the leather. It will usually become less shiny than it was before.

The simple reason is that the cleaning agent in those products strips away the oils and waxes that have built up on the surface of the leather over time, leaving it looking dry and dull.

However, the natural oils and fats that are present in milk help to condition and protect the leather, it will keep its original sheen after cleaning.

So if you’re looking for a way to clean your leather items while maintaining a nice original appearance, milk is a good option to consider if you do not have any other alternatives.

The Cons Of Using Milk To Clean Leather

While there are quite a few things to say about using milk to clean leather, there are also a lot of major concerns you shouldn’t ignore when it comes to this method.

1. Milk Can Cause Leather To Become Discolored

One of the first things you would want to be aware of if you’re considering using milk to clean leather is that it can often cause the leather material to become discolored.

This means that if you’re not careful, your beautiful leather piece could quickly become an unsightly mess. The discoloration will range from the milk itself staining the leather to the area becoming darker or lighter than the rest of the piece.

If you’re not too bothered by this potential side effect, then go ahead and use milk as your cleaning solution. However, if you want to maintain the original color of your leather, it’s best to avoid this method altogether.

2. Milk Can Cause Leather To Become Moldy

This is for me one of the main issues of using milk to clean leather. Leather, especially if it’s not regularly used and/or is stored in a moist environment, is susceptible to developing mold.

And as we all know, mold can be incredibly difficult to get rid of – often requiring special cleaning solutions and a lot of elbow grease.

So if you’re not prepared to deal with mold (which can often result in an unpleasant odor), then you should avoid cleaning your leather with milk.

3. Milk Can Cause Leather To Become Sticky

Another potential issue with using milk to clean leather is that it can often cause the leather to become sticky.

This is because milk contains proteins and fats, both of which can coat the surface of the leather and make it difficult (or even impossible) to polish or shine.

We all know how luxurious feeling leather is – and having it become sticky will definitely take away from that feeling.

If you’re not fussed about your leather becoming sticky, then go ahead and use milk as your leather cleaner of choice. But if you want to keep that luxurious feel, it might be best to steer clear of this method.

4. Milk Proteins Can Stain The Leather

Another thing to be aware of if you’re considering using milk to clean leather is that the proteins in milk can often stain the leather material. The way this happens is that the milk could react with the dyes used in the leather, causing the dye to leach out and create a permanent stain.

Even if you’re not too concerned about discoloration, it’s important to keep in mind that milk proteins can also cause irreversible staining. So if you’re not prepared to deal with stained leather, it’s best to avoid this method.

This means that if you’re not careful, not only could your leather become discolored, but it could also start to look patchy and uneven.

Again, this will depend on how careful you are when using milk to clean leather – if you’re attentive and take your time, the staining may not be too bad. However, if you’re sloppy in your cleaning, you could end up with some pretty ugly results.

5. The Leather Might End Up Smelling Bad

Last but not least, using milk to clean leather can often cause the leather to start emitting an unpleasant odor.

There are a few ways this can happen. The milk can potentially cause the leather to develop mold which can lead to a bad odor, or the milk itself can go rancid and create an unpleasant smell.

Also, if the milk is not fully cleaned off the leather, it can often lead to a sticky and sweaty smell.

So if you’re not prepared to deal with any of the above problems, it’s best to avoid using milk as a cleaning solution for your leather.

How To Safely Use Milk On Leather Items

If you’re bent on using milk to clean your leather, then there are a few things you can do to minimize the risk of any of the above problems occurring.

Important Tips:

  • First and foremost, make sure that you’re using whole milk – not skimmed or reduced fat milk. The proteins and fats in whole milk are what help to clean the leather, whereas skimmed and reduced fat milk don’t have these same benefits.
  • Secondly, make sure that you’re not using too much milk. A little milk goes a long way, so you don’t need to douse your leather in it. Apply the milk sparingly and rub it in with a soft cloth – this will help to minimize the risk of any staining or discoloration.
  • Finally, make sure that you’re fully cleaning the leather after using milk. This means wiping off any excess milk with a damp cloth, and allowing the leather to dry completely.

If you follow these tips, you can safely use milk to clean your leather without having to worry about too many potential problems. Now that you’re fully equipped with some of the most important tips, go ahead and try out this method for yourself. Here’s what you need;

Things Needed:

  • A soft cloth
  • Whole milk
  • A bowl
  • Water


  • Step 1: Pour a small amount of milk into a bowl.
  • Step 2: Dip the soft cloth into the milk and wring it out until it’s damp, but not wet.
  • Step 3: Rub the milk into the leather using circular motions.
  • Step 4: Make sure to apply gentle pressure – you don’t want to scrub too hard or you could damage the leather. You can also leave the milk-damp rag over the stained leather for a few seconds in-between scrub.
  • Step 5: After a minute or two of scrubbing, take a look at the cloth – if the stain is fading, then you’re doing a good job. Continue until you’re satisfied with you results.
  • Step 6: Once the stain is gone, use a clean damp cloth to remove all of the milk residue.
  • Step 7: Dry the leather completely with a clean soft cloth and let it air-dry.

Cheap & Foolproof Alternatives To Using Milk On Leather

If you’re discouraged by all of the downsides of using milk to clean your leather, don’t worry – there are plenty of other alternatives that you can try.

Mild Dish Soap

Dish soap is a great, cheap way to clean leather without having to worry about any of the potential problems that milk can cause. Simply mix a solution of mild dish soap and warm water and wet a soft cloth with the solution and wipe down your leather – it’s as easy as that!

Vinegar And Water

One popular method is to use a mixture of vinegar and water. The vinegar helps to break down any dirt or grime that’s built up on the leather, while the water helps to rinse it away. This is also a great method if you’re trying to remove a stain from your leather.

Just mix equal parts vinegar and water in a bowl, dip a soft cloth into the solution and wring it out well. Rub the cloth over the stained area until the stain is gone, then rinse off any residue with a clean, wet cloth. Allow the leather to air-dry completely.

Another option is to use a mixture of vinegar and olive oil. The olive oil will help to condition the leather and protect it from future staining.

Commercial Cleaners

If all of these home remedies sound like too much work, you can also buy a commercial leather cleaner from your local hardware store or online. Just make sure to read the instructions carefully and test the cleaner on an inconspicuous area of the leather first to make sure that it doesn’t cause any damage.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are a lot of downsides to using milk to clean leather. However, if you’re careful and take the necessary precautions, it’s still a viable option.

There are plenty of different methods that you can try when it comes to cleaning leather and milk is definitely not one of the most popular – and controversial.

If you’re looking for a cheap & easy alternative, then mild dish soap is definitely the way to go. So why not give it a try?

Frequently Ask Questions

Does milk remove ink stains from leather? To effectively remove ink stains with milk, the item has to be soaked in a bath of milk for 6-12 hours for it to work. However, you cannot do that with leather as it is not advisable to submerge leather in liquids – and leaving milk on the ink stain can worsen the initial stain on the leather.

Can I use milk to clean suede? Milk will not clean suede as it is a porous material and milk will only soak into the fabric. Suede should be cleaned with a dry brush or with a suede cleaner.

Can I use milk to condition leather? No, milk should not be used to condition leather as it will leave a residue on the surface and may cause the leather to crack. There are commercial products that are specifically made for conditioning leather.


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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