Does Apple Cider Vinegar Stain Leather? (A Must Know!)

Does Apple Cider Vinegar Stain Leather?

Vinegar is a very popular cleaning solution for leather. But as you’re well aware, there are different types of vinegar with different strengths and properties. While white vinegar will treat stains, odors, and dirt without damaging the leather, apple cider vinegar is a bit more acidic and can actually damage leather if not used correctly.

So, does apple cider vinegar stain leather? The short answer is yes, apple cider can stain or darken light-colored leather. This is the reason why apple cider vinegar is often recommended for brown or dark-colored leather goods. But it really depends on how diluted the vinegar is and how long it’s left on the leather.

Generally speaking, any vinegar will have the potential to stain leather if it’s not used correctly. This is because vinegar is an acidic substance, and leather is a natural material that can be damaged by acids.

Continue reading to find out more!

Reasons Apple Cider Vinegar Stain Leather

While it’s true all type of vinegar has the tendency to stain leather, there are a few reasons why apple cider vinegar is more likely to cause staining than other types of vinegar.

1. Apple Cider Vinegar Is More Acidic

Acidity is one of the main reasons why any type of vinegar can stain leather. The acidity in vinegar will interact with the proteins in leather, causing them to break down and leading to discoloration.

Leather as a material requires cleaning, conditioning, and protecting protects used on them to be pH neutral to ensure there is no adverse reaction or effect on the leather. The ideal pH for leather is around 6.5 to 7.5, which is slightly acidic.

Apple cider vinegar has a pH of around 2.9 to 3.0, making it much more acidic than white vinegar (which has a pH of around 2.5). This means that apple cider vinegar is more likely to cause staining and damage to leather if it’s not used correctly.

On top of that, the acidity in apple cider vinegar has a corrosive effect that can break down the protective coating on leather, making it more susceptible to staining.

2. Apple Cider Vinegar Contains Natural Dyes

Another reason apple cider vinegar is more likely to stain leather than white vinegar is that it contains natural dyes. These natural dyes are what give apple cider vinegar its dark brown color.

These dyes can rub off on leather, causing staining. The longer apple cider vinegar is left on leather, the greater the risk of staining. This is why it’s important to always dilute apple cider vinegar before using it to clean leather.

Also, this is more reason why apple cider vinegar is suitable for cleaning brown or dark-colored leather as it is a good way to enhance the color of the leather.

On the other hand, white vinegar does not contain any natural dyes. This means that it’s less likely to cause staining on leather.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar Has Sugar

Another factor that contributes to apple cider vinegar’s staining ability is the fact that it contains sugar. Sugar is a natural sweetener that is often used in baking and cooking.

While sugar doesn’t have the same staining power as natural dyes, it can still cause discoloration if it’s not diluted properly. This is because sugar is a food source for mold and mildew.

If apple cider vinegar is not diluted correctly, the sugar in it can feed mold and mildew, causing them to grow and spread. This can lead to staining and discoloration on leather.

Also, the sugar can make the leather surface sticky, which can attract dirt and dust, leading to more staining.

How To Remove Apple Cider Stains From Leather

Now that we know why apple cider vinegar can stain leather, let’s take a look at how to remove those stains.

1. Using Leather Cleaner

Your best bet to effectively removing an apple cider vinegar stain from leather is to use a leather cleaner.

The only catch is you need to use a good quality leather cleaner to be able to remove the stain without damaging the leather.

Many commercial leather cleaners on the market today are filled with harsh chemicals that can strip away the natural oils from leather, making it dry and brittle.

Step One:

  • Leather cleaners are designed to clean leather without damaging it.
  • They usually come in the form of a spray or cream that you can apply directly to the stained area.

Step Two:

  • Once you’ve applied the leather cleaner, use a soft cloth to wipe away the stain.
  • You may need to repeat this process a few times to remove the stain completely.

Step Three:

  • Following up with a leather conditioner after cleaning the leather is always important to replenish the natural oils that were stripped away.

Just make sure to follow any additional information stated on the leather cleaner’s packaging.

2. Using Saddle Soap

Another great alternative for removing an apple cider vinegar stain from leather is saddle soap.

Saddle soap is a type of cleaning product that is also specifically designed for cleaning leather. It’s usually in the form of a bar or a liquid, and it generally comes with three main ingredients: soap, waxes, and oils.

So, saddle soap can clean, condition, and protect leather. To use saddle soap to remove an apple cider vinegar stain;

Step One:

  • Dampen a soft-bristled cleaning brush with water.
  • Rub it on the saddle soap to create a lather.

Step Two:

  • Once you’ve created a lather, apply it to the stained area of the leather and use the brush to work it into the leather in a circular motion.

Step Three:

  • After you’ve given the saddle soap enough time to work into the leather, use a clean cloth to wipe away any excess soap.
  • You may need to repeat this process a few times to remove the stain completely.

Step Four:

  • Once done, condition the leather, and voila! The stain should be gone.

3. Using Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning is one of the most effective ways of cleaning and treating stains on leather because it does not involve any chemicals.

There is no fear of the cleaning product reacting to apple cider stain on the leather.

However, this works best on leather couches, car seats, or other large pieces of leather furniture.

To use steam cleaning to remove an apple cider vinegar stain from leather;

Step One:

  • Fill up your steamer with clean distilled water.
  • You don’t want to use tap water as it contains minerals that can damage the steamer.

Step Two:

  • Once the water is boiling, hold the steamer about 6 to 8 inches away from the leather and start moving it in a circular motion.
  • Do not keep the steamer in one spot for too long, as this can cause the leather to warp.

Step Three:

  • After you’re done steaming, use a clean, dry cloth to wipe away any excess water and allow the leather to air dry.

4. Using White Vinegar And Rubbing Alcohol

Another awesome remedy for removing an apple cider vinegar stain from leather is to use a mixture of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol.

The ratio you’ll want to use is 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts rubbing alcohol. Simply mix these two ingredients together in a bowl or spray bottle.

Step One:

  • Once the mixture is ready, take a clean cloth and saturate it with the solution.

Step Two:

  • Gently rub the cloth over the stained area in a circular motion.
  • You may need to do this a few times to remove the stain completely.

Step Three:

  • Once you’re done, use a clean, damp cloth to wipe away any excess solution and allow the leather to air dry.
  • Follow up by using a clean, dry tissue paper or rag to remove any excess moisture from the leather surface.

Step Four:

  • Finish off by using conditioning your leather for the best results.

Other Types Of Vinegar That Stain Leather

Before you head out, allow me a few minutes to talk about some other types of vinegar that can also potentially stain leather.

Balsamic Vinegar

First, we have balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinegar is a dark, thick vinegar that’s made by slowly cooking down grape juice until it reduces by about 60%.

What’s left is a sweet and syrupy vinegar with a slightly sour tang. Just like apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar can also potentially stain leather if not used properly.

So, if you’re going to use balsamic vinegar as a salad dressing or for another purpose, be sure to keep it away from your leather furniture or clothing.

Red Wine Vinegar

Next, we have red wine vinegar. Red wine vinegar is made by, you guessed it, fermenting red wine.

The fermentation process breaks down the sugars in the wine and turns them into acetic acid, which gives red wine vinegar its sour taste.

Just like balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar can potentially stain leather so must be avoided on leather surfaces.

Wine Vinegar

Wine vinegar is made in a similar way to red wine vinegar, except with white wine instead of red.

The fermentation process breaks down the sugars in the wine and turns them into acetic acid, just like with red wine vinegar.

However, because white wine doesn’t have any pigment in it, wine vinegar is usually much lighter in color than red wine vinegar.

But, even though it’s lighter in color, wine vinegar can still potentially stain leather, so should be avoided on leather surfaces as well.


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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