Can You Clean Leather With Alcohol?

Can You Clean Leather With Alcohol?

Leather is a beautiful, luxurious material that can last for many years with proper care. But even the most careful of owners will eventually face a cleaning dilemma. Can you clean leather with alcohol? The answer is not always straightforward, so we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you out. In addition to explaining whether or not you can clean leather with alcohol, we’ll also provide some tips on how to get the job done safely and effectively. So read on for all the information you need on this topic!

Why Would You Want to Resort to Alcohol When Cleaning Leather Items

Leather is a popular material that’s been used in clothing, furniture, and accessories for centuries. It’s often considered one of the best materials because it’s durable, water-resistant, and has natural oils that give it a unique look and feel.

Still, it isn’t 100% secure from wear and tear. Sun exposure, heat, dampness, and other factors can damage leather over time. While many people look to specialty treatments or chemicals to clean or revive their leather goods, it’s possible to use rubbing alcohol as a cleaning agent too.

However, leather can be tricky to clean if you don’t know what you’re doing. If not cleaned properly, it can become dry, brittle, and damaged over time. That’s why knowing the right way to clean and maintain leather is important.

Alcohol has natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties that make it a great choice for cleaning. It’s also very versatile and can be used on all types of leather, from suede to nubuck. 

Why Would You Want to Resort to Alcohol When Cleaning Leather Items

Plus, the alcohol evaporates quickly so it won’t leave behind any moisture or residue. In addition, it can deal with stains much better than other cleaning agents and can help remove dirt, grease, and other contaminants from the leather. Finally, alcohol is a great option for removing odors or musty smells that may come with old leather furniture. [1] [2] [3]

Can You Clean Leather With Alcohol?

Yes, you can clean leather with alcohol, but it’s important to take extra caution to avoid damaging the material. Always use rubbing alcohol with a concentration of 50% or lower, and always test the alcohol on an inconspicuous area of the leather before applying it to the entire item.

To highlight the benefits and risks of rubbing alcohol on leather, let’s take a closer look at the details below! [1] [2] [3]

The Advantages of Using Rubbing Alcohol to Clean Your Leather

We shall start by discussing the benefits of rubbing alcohol to clean leather, and there are plenty of them!

It effectively deals with stains

Rubbing alcohol can penetrate deep into the pores of a leather item and break down any residue or stain which has seeped in. It evaporates quickly, leaving behind no marks or streaks. This makes it an ideal solution for removing anything from mud, oil, and dirt to ink, glue, and paint. 
A dampened cloth can only do so much when it comes to stubborn stains and residue. But if you use rubbing alcohol, the leather is likely to come off looking as good as new.

One of the main pros of using rubbing alcohol to clean leather is that it can effectively remove grease and oil stains. It quickly cuts through surface dirt and grime, making it ideal for removing heavy oils from leather surfaces.

As we mentioned, the great thing about rubbing alcohol is that it evaporates quickly, leaving no residue behind in the leather like some other cleaning products would. This makes it perfect for cleaning up greasy marks or spots on a delicate leather item.

Rubbing alcohol is easily accessible and affordable

Rubbing alcohol is widely available and inexpensive, making it a great option for cleaning leather. This is a great advantage, as you can easily find it in pharmacies or drug stores as well as at most supermarkets.

Not everyone has a specialized store where they can get leather cleaning products, so being able to access a product like rubbing alcohol makes it much easier for people to clean their leather items.

It can easily be diluted

One of the biggest advantages of rubbing alcohol to clean leather is that it’s easy to dilute. You can use a stronger mixture of 70% rubbing alcohol and dilute it with water to create an effective cleaning solution. This will ensure you don’t damage your leather with a high concentration of alcohol.

The Advantages of Using Rubbing Alcohol to Clean Your Leather

Certain leather cleaning solutions may be too strong and damage your leather. Diluting the alcohol will make sure it won’t be too powerful and cause any unintended harm.

It’s not abrasive

Rubbing alcohol is a great choice for leather because it’s not abrasive, like other household cleaners. This means that it won’t damage the delicate material, so you don’t have to worry about creating scratches on your favorite leather items.

This is great news for people who own leather furniture or other expensive items, as it’s much safer to use rubbing alcohol on these surfaces. [1] [2]

The Disadvantages of Using Rubbing Alcohol to Clean Your Leather

However, nothing is perfect and it’s important to recognize the potential downsides of rubbing alcohol on your leather items. This will ensure you don’t cause any unnecessary harm to the leather.

It causes leather to dry

This is bad news indeed, if used improperly, rubbing alcohol can dry out your leather items. The main reason for that is that it can strip the leather of its natural oils. Leather is made up of several layers, and these natural oils help to keep the various layers of leather bound together. When you use rubbing alcohol on leather, it can dry out the surface of the material, stripping away its protective layer and causing it to crack or become brittle over time.

The amount of drying that occurs depends mostly on how much rubbing alcohol is used and how long it sits on the leather material. If there is too much rubbing alcohol used, then it can penetrate deeply into the fibers which can significantly weaken them leading to cracking or tearing over time.

When leather items lack moisture, they become brittle and crack easily. The longer they are exposed to this kind of drying agent (such as rubbing alcohol), the more likely they are to experience cracking and deterioration.

It can affect the finish of your leather

In addition to drying out your leather, the use of rubbing alcohol can also affect the finish of your leather. If you have a glossy or polished finish on your leather item, rubbing alcohol can cause it to become dull and fade over time.

This is because the rubbing alcohol will strip away any type of coating that has been applied to the surface of the leather material which is often used as a protective measure and for aesthetic purposes.

The Disadvantages of Using Rubbing Alcohol to Clean Your Leather

Finally, depending on how much rubbing alcohol you are using, it could also penetrate through the surface of the leather and affect any underlying adhesive that is used to keep it together.  This could cause the leather to become weak and unstable, leading to further damage over time.

It can leave a strong smell behind

Another important warning when rubbing alcohol on leather is that it can leave behind a strong smell. This can be especially noticeable if you use too much of the substance, or if the leather item has become saturated with rubbing alcohol over time.

The smell may dissipate after some time but in some cases, it may linger on your leather item and cause a foul odor. It’s best to avoid this issue altogether by not using too much rubbing alcohol and ensuring that any excess has been wiped away before storing the item.

It can irritate your skin

Another downside of rubbing alcohol on leather is that it can irritate your skin. Rubbing alcohol is a strong antiseptic and can cause burning sensations when it comes into contact with the skin.

For this reason, you should always wear gloves while cleaning leather with rubbing alcohol to protect your hands from any potential irritation. It’s also important to avoid getting the solution in contact with sensitive areas such as the eyes or face as it can cause irritation there too. Additionally, make sure the room is well-ventilated when using rubbing alcohol so that anyone present does not get exposed to its fumes.

In addition to all the above, using rubbing alcohol on dyed leather can also cause fading or discoloration. The rubbing alcohol can remove some of the dye used to color your leather item, and this can leave behind an unattractive look.

It can affect the finish of your leather

If you have a colored leather item that you want to clean with rubbing alcohol, make sure to test it out on a small area first before using it all over the piece. This will allow you to see if the color fades or changes in any way so you can decide whether or not it’s worth cleaning with rubbing alcohol. If there is any noticeable discoloration after testing, then it’s best to avoid using rubbing alcohol on that particular piece as it may damage its overall look. [1] [2] [3]

How To Use Rubbing Alcohol To Properly Treat Leather Items

If you decide that it is safe to rub alcohol on your leather item, then you should be aware of the proper way to do so. In this section, we’ll cover the basics of cleaning leather with rubbing alcohol so you can get it done correctly.


First and foremost, make sure to read any instructions that are provided by your leather product manufacturer before beginning the cleaning process. This will ensure that you are following all safety precautions that have been recommended for that particular item.

Then, brush off any dirt or debris from the surface of your leather item. Also, vacuum the leather couch or chair to remove any loose dirt particles before cleaning it with rubbing alcohol.

Finally, use a damp cloth to clean off any remaining dust or debris from the leather before you begin treating it with rubbing alcohol.

How To Use Rubbing Alcohol To Properly Treat Leather Items

Using rubbing alcohol

Once you have completed all of your preparations, it is time to begin using rubbing alcohol on your leather item. But prior to that we suggest you test a small area of the leather to make sure that it is not damaged or discolored by the rubbing alcohol.

Once you have confirmed that rubbing alcohol is safe to use, then take a clean rag or cloth and dampen it with the rubbing alcohol. Gently rub the rag on the stain in a circular motion, making sure to cover all affected areas.

Then, wipe off the rubbing alcohol with a dry cloth or towel and allow the leather to air dry naturally.

For tougher stains, you may need to repeat the process several times until the stain is removed. But do not overdo it as you may damage the leather if you use too much rubbing alcohol on it. [1] [2]

Additional Tips On How To Use Rubbing Alcohol On Leather

So we got down to the basics of rubbing alcohol on leather items. Let’s take a look at some additional tips you should consider when treating your leather products with rubbing alcohol.

Avoid applying rubbing alcohol directly to leather

To ensure that the leather is not damaged, you should avoid applying rubbing alcohol directly to it. Doing so can cause discoloration or other types of damage. What you should do is apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a cloth or rag and use that to gently wipe off the leather.

Don’t cover the leather surface completely

When rubbing alcohol on leather, you should make sure to not cover the entire surface with the cleaning agent. Doing so can cause discoloration and other types of damage.

Instead, focus on treating only the stained areas or parts that need a deep clean. This way, you’ll be able to get rid of dirt and debris without damaging your product in any way.

Consider diluting rubbing alcohol before use

If you’re dealing with tough stains, then you may need to use a stronger solution of rubbing alcohol. In this case, we suggest diluting the rubbing alcohol with water before using it on leather items.

Additional Tips On How To Use Rubbing Alcohol On Leather

Generally, a 50% solution of rubbing alcohol and water should be enough to get rid of most stubborn stains safely. But you can adjust the ratio as needed for different types of leather items or for tougher stains.

Use gentle movement

When cleaning leather with rubbing alcohol, you should use gentle motions when wiping off the surface. Using too much pressure can cause damage to the leather.

Instead, take your time and focus on applying a small amount of rubbing alcohol at a time. This will ensure that the leather is not damaged in any way as you clean it.

Condition your leather items afterward

Once you’re done cleaning your leather item with rubbing alcohol, it is important to condition the surface afterward. Rubbing alcohol will undoubtedly strip off some of the natural oils from the leather, so it is important to add them back in.

Using a leather moisturizer or conditioner will help restore the natural oils in the leather and also protect it from future damage. Also, this will give your leather product that extra shine and make sure that it stays looking great for many years to come. [1] [2]

Rubbing Alcohol Alternatives

So we’ve gone over the basics of how to clean leather with rubbing alcohol. But if you don’t have any rubbing alcohol available, then there are some alternatives that you can use.

Mild soap and warm water

One popular alternative is using a mild soap and water solution. You can make your own cleaning solution by mixing a small amount of hand dishwashing soap with warm water. Then, use a damp cloth or sponge to apply the mixture on the leather surface and gently scrub off dirt and debris from it.

Just remember to use a pH-neutral soap so that it doesn’t damage the leather. Also, make sure to condition the leather afterward to restore its natural oils and protect it from future damage.

White vinegar

While it might seem intimidating, you can also use white vinegar to clean leather. This is because vinegar is a natural antiseptic and cleaning agent, so it can effectively remove dirt and debris from leather surfaces.

To make a cleaning solution, mix equal parts of white vinegar and warm water. Then, apply the mixture using a cloth or sponge and gently scrub off the dirt and debris from the surface. After that, let the leather dry completely before conditioning it with a leather moisturizer or conditioner. Whatever method you go with, keep in mind that you shouldn’t expose your leather to moisture too much as it can cause damage. So make sure to use any of these cleaning methods sparingly and only when needed.

Commercial leather cleaner

Finally, if you don’t want to risk it by using rubbing alcohol, you can always purchase a commercial leather cleaner. Leather cleaners are specifically designed to clean and preserve all types of leather. Some even come with special conditioners that help protect the material from future damage.

Just be sure to get a cleaner that is specifically designed for the type of your leather. This will ensure that you get the best results without any damage to the material. [1] [3]


What should you not clean leather with?

It is not advisable to clean leather with anything too harsh or abrasive, such as bleach or acetone. Such products can cause damage to the protective layers of the leather and make it much more prone to cracking and discoloration. In addition to these harsh chemicals, you should also avoid using any type of wax on leather as it may leave a waxy residue that could harm the material over time.

What kind of alcohol do you use to clean leather?

You should only use rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) to clean the leather. Rubbing alcohol is a solvent that is used to dissolve dirt particles, making it an effective choice for cleaning leather. It evaporates quickly and leaves behind no greasy residue like some other cleaning solutions. When rubbing alcohol on leather, it is important to understand the risks involved and take precautions to ensure safety.

It’s also important to note that not all types of leather are compatible with alcohol-based cleaners – especially those made from natural animal hide such as cowhide or pig skin. If in doubt, always test any cleaning product on an inconspicuous part of the item first before applying it more widely.

What kind of alcohol do you use to clean leather?

Can I use alcohol to clean my leather bag?

Yes, you can use rubbing alcohol to clean your leather bag. However, it is important to be cautious when cleaning leather with alcohol because it can damage the material if not used properly.

Before rubbing alcohol on leather, always do a spot test in an inconspicuous area of the bag first to make sure that the results will be satisfactory. If there are no adverse effects from the spot test, then you can proceed with using rubbing alcohol as a cleaner for your leather bag.

When rubbing alcohol, use a soft cloth and gently dab at the affected areas until they are clean. Always wipe off any excess rubbing alcohol after cleaning as this could leave residue on your leather bag and cause discoloration or fading over time.

It is also important to use a leather conditioner after cleaning with rubbing alcohol. This will help minimize any drying or brittle effects that the alcohol could have caused during the cleaning process.

Does rubbing alcohol take stains out of leather?

Yes, rubbing alcohol can be used to remove stains from leather. And it can handle even the toughest stains, such as oil and ink. However, it is important to take care when using alcohol on leather items because it can cause discoloration or even cracks.

When using rubbing alcohol to clean your leather item, first check for a manufacturer’s cleaning label. If the label indicates that you should not use rubbing alcohol, then don’t do it!

It’s also important to brush off any dirt or debris from the surface before applying the rubbing alcohol. This will help prevent any scratches that could occur when attempting to rub out a stain with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol.

Then, just use a clean cloth to apply some rubbing alcohol directly to the stain. You don’t need a lot; just enough to dampen the surface of the leather. Use gentle, circular motions with your cloth to work the rubbing alcohol into the stain, and then wipe off any excess with a dry cloth.

Useful Video: Cleaning with Rubbing Alcohol / My Favorite Uses for Rubbing Alcohol


When dealing with a nasty stain on your leather upholstery, you are left with a hard choice of either using a cleaner specifically designed for leather or an alcohol product. Cleaning leather with rubbing alcohol can work in some cases, but you should use it with caution and only if the instructions on the label permit it. Depending on your particular piece of furniture, rubbing alcohol may be too harsh and could cause permanent damage to the material.

It is highly recommended that you test any cleaning method on an inconspicuous area first before applying to a larger surface. That way you can ensure that the fabric isn’t damaged by whatever cleaning solution was used.

Rubbing alcohol can be incredibly effective in removing dirt and stains from leather and it’s one of the more accessible solutions out there. But it has plenty of downsides as well, so it’s important to be careful when using it. For example, it can dry out the leather and cause it to crack, so use it sparingly.

If you decide to go with rubbing alcohol for cleaning your leather, remember to always choose a product that has at least 50% isopropyl content, and be sure to follow the instructions on the label. That way you can clean your furniture safely and efficiently without causing any damage. Good luck!