3 Effective Ways To Clean Rust From Leather

how do you clean rust from leather

Cleaning rust off of leather is a delicate process. Rust can be very dangerous to the object that it’s on and can cause irreversible damage if not handled properly.

The key to removing rust from any surface is prevention, so make sure you are taking proper care of your leather article in the first place.

This blog post will teach you how to clean rust stains from leather without damaging your precious leather items.

So how do you clean rust from leather? One of the best ways to clean rust from your leather is by using 2 parts hydrogen peroxide and 1 part mild dish soap to gently scrub the rust stains from the leather. For much tougher rust stains, use a mixture of white vinegar and salt to clean the rust stains from the leather.

To learn the details and other helpful information on how to clean rust from leather goods, continue reading this article.

How Does Rust Look Like On Leather

It is important to understand if what you on your leather items is really rust as there are other stains that look like rust.

Rust is a brownish-red color and will often appear as an irregularly shaped smudge or mark on the surface.

To distinguish between rust and other stains, run your fingers across the mark – if it feels bumpy or rough, you know it is rust.

If you are unsure about the stain, wash the item with dish soap and water to remove any dirt or grime. If it is rust, the stain won’t come off with dish soap alone and will need to be treated by a professional leather cleaner or restorer.

How Does Rust Get Onto Leather Items

It is also important to know how rust got onto your leather object as this will give you a clue on how to best clean the stain.

Proximity To Metal Objects

Generally, you will begin to see rust stain on your leather items that are close to metals.

Rusting occurs when the metal oxidizes or rusts. As this happens, it releases microscopic particles which are very easily transferred to anything around it.

These particles are very small and can become attached to leather items that may come into contact with them, therefore transferring the rust particles to your leather items.

So, you may find that rust is on the back of a couch or chair if it was leaning against something with metal.

It is also common to find rust on furniture or accessories that are placed near radiators or heating vents which can release small particles of rust into the air that can attach to your leather items.

Rust Can Come From The Metal Parts On The Leather

Rust can also come from metal fittings and fasteners such as grommets, eyelets, zippers, buckles, etc.

Over time, these metal parts can rust which will cause the color of your leather to degrade. When this happens, you may notice stains on the surface of your leather item.

And, if you don’t clean and treat these stains quickly enough they can spread to other parts of your leather goods as the leather item becomes wet from time to time.

Leaving A Rusty Object On The Leather

Leather is a porous material and it can absorb moisture easily. This means that if you leave your rusting metal objects such as nails, tack, or a buckle on the leather for too long – it can rust right through your leather material.

Leather contains essential moisture and oils that can promote rust when you leave a metal object rusting on top of it for a long time.

If you have leather furniture, make sure not to leave metal parts or accessories on the surface for too long. This will leave an indelible mark on the surface of your leather.

How To Clean Rust From Leather

So now that you know how rust gets onto your leather items and what they look like, you can begin to clean your leather. It is important to note that the earlier you clean or remove those rust stains the better. Without wasting more time, here are my tried and tested methods for removing rust from leather.

1. Saddle Soap And Water

Saddle soap has been used for many years to clean leather items. It is available in liquid or bar form and can be found at most department stores or specialty leather goods shops.

You can use saddle soap to remove rust stains from your leather item especially if the rust stains are new on the surface.

To use saddle soap to clean rust from leather, follow these simple steps:

Things Needed:

  • Saddle soap
  • Clean cotton cloths                 
  • Cool Water


Step 1:

  • Mix a small amount of saddle soap with water to form a smooth paste.

Step 2:

  • Using your fingers, gently rub the mixture into the rust stains.

Step 3:

  • Let it sit for about a minute to allow the leather pores to soak up the mixture and loosen the rust from your leather item.

Step 4:

  • Using your clean cotton cloth, wipe the mixture off thoroughly. If there are still rust stains left on your leather, repeat this step.
  • Allow the leather item to dry completely before using it again.

Step 5:

  • Once the stain is gone, rinse your cotton cloth or microfiber cloth with clean water and wipe clean to remove any excess saddle soap.

Step 6:      

  • Dry the leather item with another dry cotton cloth or microfiber cloth.
  • You can leave your item to air-dry or use a hairdryer on low heat if you don’t have time to let it air-dry.

Step 7:

  • Follow up with a leather conditioner to restore the oils in your leather.

2. White Vinegar And Salt Method

Not all rust stains are created equal. Some forms of rust are harder to remove than others, but vinegar is an excellent way to treat rust stains on leather.

The way these ingredients will work to remove the rust stains is by creating a chemical reaction that dissolves the rust particles.

It is important to note that you will need both white vinegar and salt for this method. Below are the things and processes you need to follow to use this method.

Things Needed:

  • White Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Microfiber Cloth
  • Mild Dish Soap


Step 1:

  • Clean any dirt, dust, debris, or rust particles sitting on the surface of the leather.

Step 2:

  • Put some white vinegar on your microfiber cloth and dampen the surface of your leather.
  • Leave the white vinegar on the leather for about 2 minutes.

Step 3:

  • Take a pinch of salt and put it over the white vinegar.
  • The salt should be table salt and should be as fine as possible.
  • Put just about enough to cover the rust stains and leave it to sit on the white vinegar for a few seconds.

Step 4:

  • With the help of your microfiber cloth, gently rub the salt over the stain.
  • Repeat this process until you feel that the rust has disappeared.

Step 5:

  • Wash and rinse the microfiber cloth under cool running water.
  • Wring it out and use it to wipe the surface of the leather to remove the salt and white vinegar residue.
  • Rinse the microfiber cloth one more time and wipe the surface.

Step 6:

  • Put 2-3 drops of dish soap into a bowl of cool water and swish it to lather.

Step 7:

  • With the help of a clean microfiber cloth, now use the lather from the soap mixture to clean the surface of your leather.
  • This will remove traces of salt, white vinegar, and any remaining rust stains from the leather surface.

Step 8:

  • Once you have thoroughly used the soap solution to clean the rust-stained leather surface, use a water-damp microfiber cloth to clean the soap residue.
  • Use a dry cloth to dry the surface of the leather and then leave it to air-dry.

Step 9:

  • Once dry, apply your leather conditioner. Now enjoy your rust-free leather item!

Pro Tips:

Do not use soap directly on the surface of your leather item as this could discolor it or leave a residue.

Make sure to use regular or white vinegar and not apple cider vinegar as this will leave your leather items with a strong smell.

3. Hydrogen Peroxide And Dish Soap

Hydrogen peroxide is a very versatile product that can be used to remove many different stains. Rust is no exception.

Hydrogen peroxide combined with dish soap will make rust stains fall off your leather with ease. Below are the things and processes you need to follow for this method.

Things Needed:

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Dish soap
  • Cleaning Brush or Toothbrush (if necessary)
  • Microfiber Cloth


Step 1:

  • Add 2 parts hydrogen peroxide and 1 part dish soap into a bowl and mix them together.

Step 2:

  • Dampen the rust-stained area with the hydrogen peroxide and dish soap solution and leave it for 5-10 minutes.

Step 3:

  • Put the hydrogen peroxide and dish soap mixture on your microfiber cloth or toothbrush and scrub the surface of your leather where the rust stains are.
  • Continue rubbing and rinsing and wringing the brush or microfiber cloth in the solution.
  • Rub or scrub gently and watch as the rust stains start to disappear.

Step 4:

  • Once the stains are gone, use a damp clean microfiber cloth to wipe away the hydrogen peroxide and dish soap residue.
  • Be as thorough as possible and do not leave behind any residue.

Step 5:

  • Use a dry clean cloth to dry the leather surface and leave it for some time to air-dry.

Step 6:

  • Condition your leather. You’re all set, now, enjoy your rust-free leather item.

How To Prevent Rust From Leather

The best way to clean rust stains from your leather items is by preventing them in the first place. There are various different things you can do to prevent rust from appearing on your leather items.

Below are some of these preventive measures you can follow.

  • Keep your leather items in a dry environment as much as possible. If the air is damp, the moisture in it can cause your leather items to react with metals that can result in rust.
  • Always approach rust stains on leather using saddle soap or a similar product that is designed for cleaning and conditioning your leather items. This will protect your leather from rust and other stains, while also improving its appearance.
  • Avoid leaving metals on leather surfaces for long periods of time.
  • Regularly cleaning your leather items with a leather conditioner will make them more durable and help protect against rust stains.
  • Make sure your clean your items thoroughly before storing them away. Dust and other impurities can also cause rust stains.
  • Store your leather items in a cool dry place like a drawer or cupboard instead of a damp area like a bathroom.
  • Avoid using soaps and other harsh chemicals on your leather items to prevent further damage or worsening the rust stains on the leather.
  • Make sure to dry your leather items completely after cleaning them before storing them away, especially if they are wet or damp when you store them.

Final Thoughts

This article showed you 3 simple ways to clean rust from leather. These methods are easy to follow and will not damage your item in any way.

I hope this article has been helpful in answering the question of how to clean rust from leather. Thanks for reading.


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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