Is Soap And Water Bad For Leather? (11 Pros And Cons)

Is Soap And Water Bad For Leather

There are many different opinions out there about if soap and water are bad for leather. Some people say that it helps to keep the leather clean, while others claim that it is actually damaging to the material.

One thing is certain: cleaning your leather with soap and water can have a major impact on how long your leather item lasts. This article will examine both sides of the debate by discussing the 11 pros and cons of using soap and water on your leather goods.

So is soap and water bad for leather? Soap and water can be bad for leather if all soap residue is not cleaned properly and the water is not dried off well from the leather. pH neutral Soap and distilled water, on the other hand, can be good as it can be a great way to clean, remove bad odors, and stains from leather items without damaging them.

To learn more about the pros and cons of using soap and water on leather goods, keep reading this article.

The Pros Of Using Soap And Water On Leather

1. Soap And Water Are Good For Cleaning Leather Items

One of the pros of using soap and water on your leather is that you can clean it more easily. It will be a lot easier to remove dirt or stains more than if you were to use a dry cloth.

Cleaning is a very important part of maintaining the quality and the appearance of your leather item. This is because when dirt builds up on your leather item’s surface, it can cause damage to the leather material over time.

It is a must for leather products to be cleaned and using soap and water is one of the best ways to do so without damaging the leather material.

Using soap and water not only makes for easier cleaning but also helps keep your leather clean in general by removing oils from skin contact (which could seep into your leather item).

However, it is important to note that not all soaps will be safe for leather, and not every water will be safe for leather. This is because the pH level of soaps will vary and not all leathers are safe to be cleaned with soaps, nor would it make sense for water that is not pH neutral.

2. Soap Can Indeed Eliminate Bad Odors From Leather Items

Another benefit of using soap and water for leather is that they will help you eliminate odors from your leather product.

This is because the soap itself has a cleaning effect and also helps remove any perspiration or oils that cause bad smells on your leather items.

Leather as a material can absorb anything from moisture to smells. Using soap and water helps to get rid of any smells (especially bad smells) that the leather may have absorbed into its fibers.

Whether the smell is deep within the fibers of the leather or just about over the surface of the leather, using soap and water can help to remove the smells and leave the leather with a nice refreshing smell.

3. Stain Removal

The next advantage of using water and soap on leather is that they can also help to remove any stains from your leather products.

This is because the soap has cleaning agents that can tackle and neutralize any acids that could be in contact with the surface of your leather item.

This means that if you have had liquids or foods spilled on your leather items, using water and soap should do its job at removing those unwanted stains for you.

Using soap and water is a great alternative because most of the stain removal solutions tend to be too alkaline or too acidic for leather and can end up damaging the leather product.

4. Cheap Alternative

Leather care products can add up and get expensive very quickly. So using soap and water which are things that are used on a daily basis helps to keep the cost of leather care products down.

For example, the cost of things like saddle soap which is a specially formulated leather cleaning substance can range from $12 to $20 per bottle.

However, soap and water can be found for a fraction of the price at most grocery stores which makes it an affordable solution for your routine leather cleaning needs.

Soap and water are also great because you don’t have to apply any extra pressure or scrubbing on your item in order to get those stains out like with saddle soap which means that you are less likely to cause damage by being too rough with your leather items when using this cheap alternative method.

5. Less Chemical Exposure

Another advantage of using soap and water is that it is a non-toxic solution. The types of chemicals that are found in other products can be toxic to both the people and animals who come into contact with your leather items. So by choosing soap and water you avoid these potential hazards at all costs.

6. Easy Accessibility

Soap and water are also more accessible than other solutions. You don’t have to go out of your way or order this solution online because it’s something that you can always find in a household with some type of soap dispenser.

Soap and water also have an additional benefit for those living in colder climates like Canada, as they tend to experience harsh winters where salt, snow, or ice are common household ingredients that will damage your leather items if left on too long without being cleaned off properly.

Using soap and water is a quick and easy way to avoid such damages on leather items. This type of regular cleaning minimizes this risk while removing any stains that develop as well.

The Cons Of Using Soap And Water On Leather

There are certain downsides to using soap and water on leather.

1. Soap Removes Essential Oils Causing Leather To Dry

The second problem with using soap and water on leather is that it strips the natural oils from your leather. The animal skin which makes up most of our top-quality products has a layer of special oil.

These oils do a lot including naturally repels moisture, dirt, stains, and most important of all, it keeps the leather soft and supple. So when you use soap to clean them these important properties are taken away.

This means they will need more care in the future as well as an improvement in their appearance because without those oils they become susceptible to all kinds of damage including getting warped or cracked due to dryness if left untreated for too long.

2. Soap And Water Can Remove The Finish On The Surface Of The Leather

Soap and water can also remove the finish on the surface of leather. The finish is what protects the dyes or pigments place on the surface of the leather to give it a pleasant appearance.

The most common finishing agents in leather goods would be oils, grease, or waxes. These substances make up a large part of the leather protective and decorative makeup.

The finish also protects the leather surface from stains. The finish keeps moisture away from the surface so it maintains its softness and its new look.

This means the finish is what makes leather look good and stay in a good condition. If you want to maintain your leather’s appearance then you should be cautious when you use soap and water should not be used on them as they will need more care afterward.

3. Water And Soap Can Cause Leather Fading

Another downside to using soap and water on your leather is that it can cause the color of the leather to fade. As mentioned before, if the protective finish on the leather is removed, then it is pretty obvious the dyes and pigments on the leather will be affected.

Soap has a tendency to strip away any kind of protective coating from the surface, no matter how good they are. Most soaps can erode the color of the leather items you use them on. The way this happens is if the soap used is not pH neutral, then it can weaken the dyes and the water will gradually seep it away.

4. Discoloration

Another issue that may arrive when you use soap and water on your leather is that it can also cause discoloration. If the soap used is not pH neutral, then it can also cause discoloration on your leather.

This can happen generally in two ways. The water might have mold in it and when it is used together on the leather can introduce mold that can discolor the leather. That is if it’s also not pH neutral.

A second way discoloration could occur is when the soap you use has some colorants. Some soaps have added colorations that can change the color of your leather.

5. Water Usage

The first and most obvious disadvantage is that it can take a lot of water to clean leather items especially if your want to do it well. This will typically include rinsing sponges in between cleaning sessions and then replacing the water so that you do not leave any soap residue on the surface of your leather.

This is even worse when you have to use warm water for more effective cleaning. When cleaning with soap, the combination of hot water and liquid soap encourages dirt to dissolve more quickly, which means you need a greater volume of both than if you were simply using warm water alone to clean your 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!

Recent Posts