6 Things You Can Use To Scrub Leather Without Any Damage

what can i use to scrub leather

Do you have a leather item that has some stubborn stain, dirt, or grease you would want to clean and you’re wondering what you can use to scrub it so that you do not damage the surface?

Here are 6 things you can use to scrub leather;

  1. Horse Hair Brush
  2. An Old Toothbrush
  3. Microfiber Cloth
  4. Lint-Free Towels
  5. Leather Cleaning Wipes
  6. Cotton Balls or Q-Tips

This is a very important thing to figure out because you can have all the perfect cleaners like saddle soap, dish soap, or shampoo but if you use the wrong thing to scrub your leather, it could damage and discolor your precious leather.

So, in the rest of this article, I’m going to share with you;

  • some important factors to consider when choosing things you can use to scrub leather,
  • the kind of damage that could occur if you do not scrub your leather with the right items,
  • and the details on the best and safe items you can use to scrub your leather item.

I will start by saying that not all products are made for all types of leather. So, it is important that you identify the type of leather that you are trying to clean and then use a product specifically made for that type of leather.

Leather is made from the skin of different animals and each animal has a different kind of skin which makes it durable in different ways.

While this is true, there are some tools you can use to scrub your leather and it is safe to say that these tools will get the job done no matter what kind of leather you have. Let’s get into it!

1. Horse Hair Brush

The Horse Hair Brush is a great option for scrubbing your leather because the bristles are soft and will not damage or scratch the surface.

These are the perfect scrubbing tools for cleaning leather because it is made from the horse’s mane and tail so they are very gentle on your leather.

The bristles have a lot of movement which helps to better lift dirt, grease, or oil off the surface of your leather product without damaging it.

The horsehair brush can also be used as a duster brush after using soap or shampoo to completely clean your leather.

The best part is that you can use the horse hair brush on any type of leather. So whether it’s your full-grain leather shoe, jacket, leather couch, or saddle, this brush will do the job.

You can easily purchase this brush online or at any local hardware store for about $4-12 depending on where you live and what type of hair it is made from.

My personal go-to is this horse hair brush which you can find on Amazon!

The way you would use them is very simple. If your leather gets really dirty, use saddle soap, mild dish soap, or shampoo on your horsehair brush and scrub away!

Another great thing about using the Horse Hair Brush for scrubbing leather is that you can use it on other materials as well, like fabric, vinyl, plastic, or even metal.

2. An Old Toothbrush

Another rather DIY alternative that you can use to scrub your leather is an old toothbrush.

It is not only a great way to recycle your old toothbrushes but it is also a very effective way to clean your leather.

The bristles on an old toothbrush are soft and will not damage the surface of your leather so you do not have anything to worry about when using this method.

The best thing about using an old toothbrush is that it is very easy to control which means you can use the bristles to get into all of those little nooks and crannies that are hard to reach.

You can also use them to scrub specific areas that may be dirtier than others if you do not want to scrub the entire surface of your leather product.

It also works on all types of leather and is a very budget-friendly option.

This is not to say you can only use old toothbrushes but a new toothbrush with very soft bristles will work just as well.

To use the toothbrush to scrub, simply prep your cleaning solution which can be a cleaning solution made from dish soap, saddle soap, or shampoo, rubbing alcohol, vinegar, etc., and dip your toothbrush into it.

Then, you can scrub the leather in circular motions to remove dirt and debris while also making sure not to damage your product.

3. Microfiber Cloth

If you’ve had leather goods for a while then you know how vital having a microfiber cloth can be.

A microfiber cloth will not damage or scratch the surface of your leather and works great for removing dust, dirt, grime, oil, food spills, etc., from new, or very dirty leather products.

If you want a much gentler option that you can use to clean your leather then this is it. Microfiber cloths are made of superfine fibers that are woven together to create a fabric.

They’re great for cleaning all kinds of surfaces because they pick up and trap dirt, dust, oil, grease, etc., which you can just throw in the wash when it’s dirty.

It is also very easy to control how much pressure you want or need depending on what you’re cleaning.

Microfiber cloths come in a variety of sizes and shapes so you can find the perfect one for your needs.

The great thing about them is that they are safe to use on all types of leather, even suede or nubuck leather.

To use the microfiber cloth to scrub or wipe any type of situation you may have, get your cleaning solution ready, soak the entire microfiber cloth or parts of it into the solution, wring it out and you’re ready to go!

Scrub away the dirt and debris until it is removed. Microfiber cloths are a must-have for all leather goods.

4. Lint-Free Towels

If you’re looking for an alternative that is somewhat more heavy-duty than the microfiber cloth, then using a lint-free towel is the way to go.

These towels are specifically designed to not leave any pieces of fabric or lint behind on whatever it is that you’re cleaning which makes them great for leather.

Meaning that you will be able to use the lint-free towels to scrub your leather surfaces such as car seats, jackets, boots, couches, etc., and you will not have to worry about leaving lint or fiber residues behind.

They are also much thicker than the microfiber cloth so they can absorb more moisture and dirt, making them a great option for cleaning up bigger messes.

If you want something that will work on all kinds of leather then this is it.

Chances are you’ve been in that situation where you spilled something on your leather car seats, couch, or even leather jackets, and your very first instinct was to grab a towel – next time just make sure it’s a lint-free towel.

So how do you know if your towel is a lint-free towel? All you have to do is pull on the towel and if it doesn’t leave any little pieces of fabric in your hand then you’ve got yourself a lint-free towel.

Better still, just test it out and see if it leaves any lint or fabric residue (which is usually white) on your leather product.

It is important to give you this quick heads-up. In most cases, new towels will have a bit of lint or fabric left behind so you’ll have to wash them first.

Once you’ve got your cleaning solution ready, just like before, wet the towel, wring it out, and start scrubbing away at the dirt and debris. You should see good results with this method.

5. Leather Cleaning Wipes

This is a newer method that has quickly become one of the most popular ways to clean or scrub leather of any kind.

Leather cleaning wipes are pre-soaked with a cleaning solution that is specifically designed to clean leather without damaging it in any way.

They come in a small, portable package so you can take them with you wherever you go and they’re perfect for cleaning small messes or quick touch-ups.

One of the best things about leather cleaning wipes is that they are safe to use on all types of leather, including suede and nubuck.

Leather cleaning wipes can be used in a variety of ways but the most popular way is to simply wipe them directly on the leather surface.

You can also use them in combination with a lint-free towel to help remove stubborn dirt that may be resistant to cleaning, but you should always test your cleaning wipes first in an area where it won’t show.

Be sure not to overuse these because they are designed for quick touch-ups and not for large cleaning jobs.

This is a great option if you’re looking to avoid scrubbing the leather with something, but it will still work better on some surfaces than others so always test your wipes first in an inconspicuous area before going all-in.

6. Cotton Balls or Q-Tips

This is one of the most basic methods for scrubbing your leather and it’s perfect for both small, large, or delicate areas that may be difficult to clean with a cloth or towel.

Simply take a cotton ball, dip it in the cleaning solution of your choice, and start scrubbing away at the dirt and debris. You can also use Q-tips for smaller areas.

This is a great method if you’re looking to clean small areas that may be difficult to reach with other methods.

Remember to test your cleaning solution in an inconspicuous area before using it on the leather product itself.

What NOT To Use To Scrub Leather

If you don’t want to damage your leather or end up with a torn-up product then it is very important that you avoid using the wrong materials.

Here are some of the things that should be avoided when scrubbing leather:

  • Steel Wire
  • Sandpaper
  • Metal Bristles
  • Metal Wire Wool

Factors To Consider When Choosing The Things You Can Use To Scrub Leather

Obviously, the list above is not exhaustive of all the things you can use to scrub your leather, but it is a good starting point.

When choosing which of these things to use, there are a few factors you will want to consider.


The number one factor to consider when choosing the things you can use to scrub your leather is whether or not they are non-abrasive.

Leather, just like wood and some other types of natural materials on this planet, requires a hands-off approach for cleaning because it has a tendency to scratch easily if rubbed too hard with something.

Abrasive materials, such as sandpaper or metal-bristled brushes, will quickly ruin the surface of your leather if used regularly so it’s important to avoid them at all costs.


Another important factor to consider is whether or not the material you’re using is lint-free.

As we mentioned before, lint and fabric residue can be very damaging to leather over time and should be avoided at all costs.

Lint-free materials will help reduce the amount of damage done in the cleaning process.


Another important factor to consider is the streak-free aspect of your chosen material.

Leather, just like glass and windshields in vehicles or windows at home, can show streaks if not scrubbed with the right material in the right way.

Make sure to test your material beforehand to see how it affects the leather and whether or not streaks are left behind.

A lint-free towel will help reduce this issue but you may still see some streaking depending on how much dirt and grease is on the surface of the leather.


Another factor you will want to consider is whether or not the material you’re using is absorbent.

If your chosen material isn’t absorbent then all it will do is to push whatever it is you’re trying to scrub off deep into the leather.

Or it will just spread the dirt and liquid around instead of helping to remove it.

On the other hand, if your chosen material is absorbent then it will be much more helpful in the cleaning process.

The absorbent properties of your chosen material can help to both scrubs and soak up any dirt or liquid, making it easier to remove with a lint-free cloth or towel at the end.

Safe For All Types Of Leather

The second factor you’ll want to consider is whether or not the cleaning solution or material is safe to use on all types of leather.

Some people look at this and think that if their solution is safe for one type of leather, then it’s probably fine to use on other types too but that isn’t necessarily the case.

For example, some cleaning solutions are only designed to be used with a specific type or thickness of leather and could damage other types if used.

The same goes for materials – some are safe to use on all types of leather while others may not be.

It’s important to do your research before using a particular method or material so you don’t end up damaging your product.

What Can Happen If You Do Not Use The Right Things To Scrub Your Leather

Before I wrap up this article, I want to take a minute and talk about what can happen if you do not use the right things to scrub your leather.


One of the main things that can happen is your leather getting discolored. Using abrasive materials or cleaning solutions on a regular basis will eventually strip the leather of its natural color and cause it to turn a shade lighter over time.

It can also lead to dark spots all over your leather items because it rubs away at them and makes them appear damaged in some way.

The damage may not be apparent right away but if you keep treating your leather in this way then you’ll notice it start to change colors over time.


Another thing that can happen is the formation of scratches on your leather.

This happens when you use an abrasive material to scrub the surface and it starts to wear away at the leather, creating tiny lines or scratches in the process.

These scratches will become more apparent over time and eventually lead to a very rough and damaged looking surface

Lint Everywhere

If you’re not careful, using the wrong material to scrub your leather can also lead to an abundance of lint everywhere.

This will not allow your leather not to have a clean pristine look and will leave behind a lot of fuzz.

It’s important to choose your material carefully so it doesn’t have this effect on your leather.

Streaks On Your Leather

Similar to lint, using the wrong material to scrub your leather can also lead to streaks appearing on its surface.

This only becomes a problem if you use an absorbent material or cleaning solution since it will wick away any excess liquid and leave behind streaks of dirt instead.

This can make your leather look very unsightly.

Damage To The Leather In General

Another thing that can happen is damage to the leather in general.

When you scrub leather with something that’s too hard or use an inappropriate material, you can cause the leather to become dry, cracked, and brittle.

This type of damage is often permanent and will only get worse over time if not treated.

You’ll notice the leather start to crack, peel off, or develop white marks on it 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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