How to Clean Faux Leather Furniture and Clothing

Updated July 25, 2022
brown sofa cleaning

Faux leather, or pleather, is an alternative to leather that is both cheaper and typically easier to clean and care for. Many people fall in love with this synthetic, vegan material that provides the same high-class look of real leather, but it takes a gentle touch to remove stains and keep faux leather fresh.

It's easy to add cleaning faux leather furniture, clothing, and accessories to your household chore list when you know the right methods. From simple, damage-free tips for cleaning pleather couches or chairs, to gently washing everything from pants to purses, discover the details on how to clean faux leather.

Clean and Treat Stains on Faux Leather

Faux, artificial, synthetic, or fake leather, also called pleather, is a leather alternative that many people enjoy. Faux leather typically comes in two different types: you can get vinyl or PU (polyurethane). When cleaning faux leather clothing, you want to pay attention to the laundry instructions on the tag. While most faux leather can be washed, some clothes are dry clean only. Clean fake leather furniture like couches and chairs using basic supplies for fuss-free freshness.

Supplies to Keep on Hand

Whether you are spot treating or down-and-dirty cleaning your faux leather, there are a few supplies you'll need to have on hand for cleaning and removing stains:

How to Remove Stains From Faux Leather With Mild Detergent and Water

When it comes to removing stains from faux leather, acting fast can be a lifesaver. Use the following method for basic stains or when treating fresh spills of things like juice or coffee. Because harsh cleaners can make the fabric stiff or damage pleather, you'll want to grab a mild detergent like Woolite cleaner, then:

  1. In a spray bottle, mix about a tablespoon of detergent with enough water to fill the bottle.
  2. Shake vigorously
  3. Spray the mixture onto a clean towel.
  4. Wipe up the stain.
  5. Gentle scrubbing can be applied to more serious stains.

Remove Stubborn or Set-In Stains for Most Faux Leather Items

For set-in stains that went unnoticed or more stubborn stains like ink or dye, you'll need to dig deeper into your cleaning toolbox and grab the alcohol or vinegar.

  1. Mix equal parts vinegar or alcohol and water.
  2. Dip the cloth in the mixture.
  3. Blot the stain.
  4. Repeat using a clean area of the cloth.

Disclaimer: You'll want to try this on a discrete area of your pleather first to ensure that it won't harm the fabric. Sometimes a subtle coffee stain can be better than a large area of discoloration.

How to Clean Faux Leather Couches and Furniture

When it comes to cleaning a faux leather couch, chairs, or other pleather furniture, you'll have a lot more area to wash. Additionally, before you start attacking with a faux leather cleaner and conditioner, you'll want to bust out the vacuum.

  1. Vacuum off the entire couch or chair to get rid of any crusty food and loose particles of dirt.
  2. Treat any stains using the stain treating methods.
  3. Wet a cloth with water and wipe the whole couch or chair down. Pay special attention when washing the cushion covers since that's likely where the majority of the dirt is.
  4. Follow the instructions on a faux leather cleaner/conditioner to treat the entire sofa couch.

Try these steps next time you're trying to figure out how to clean a fake leather couch or another piece of furniture.

cleaning a leather sofa

How to Machine-Wash Faux Leather Clothing

You've become a stain-treating master for your pleather pants. But there are times when your faux leather jacket, pleather dress, or other clothing is going to need a good overall cleaning, especially since this fabric is really good at trapping in the oils and heat. It is plastic, after all. When machine-washing your faux leather, there are a few special instructions you'll need to follow:

Make sure that your coat, pants, or other clothing items are machine-washable. You don't want to throw something that says "dry clean only" in the washer.

  1. Turn the piece completely inside out.
  2. Use cold water and a gentle cycle for washing.
  3. Add some mild detergent, per the instructions.
  4. After pulling your clothing from the washer, lay it flat or hang it to dry for best results. You can also tumble dry on cool, if your tag lists this as an option.
  5. To remove wrinkles, you can try steaming the clothing or using the steam on an iron. Never touch the material with the iron. Just hover and let the steam do the work.
Woman cleaning leather jacket

How to Hand-Wash Fake Leather Purses or Shoes

Faux leather purses, shoes, and other accessories might not be destined for the wash. This doesn't mean that you can't clean them - you just need to use a hand-washing technique. This gentle cleaning method works for most synthetic leather accessory items.

  1. Grab your mild detergent and a couple of white cloths.
  2. In a sink, mix a tablespoon of detergent with several cups of water.
  3. Dip the cloth and wring it out thoroughly.
  4. Wipe down the entire area of the purse, belt, or shoes.
  5. Gently rub stubborn dirt or stains.
  6. Use a clean cloth to wipe dry.
  7. You might leave it out to air dry or use a hair dryer on cool to quicken the process.
  8. Melt a teaspoon of coconut oil and use a clean cloth to condition your faux leather.
mould on old brown leather bag

Remove Odors From Faux Leather

You might know how to make your laundry smell good, but what about your pleather? Since faux leather can capture oil, dirt, and odors from your body, it needs to be deodorized periodically. You might refresh your clothing or shoes before putting them away for the season, or you may want to freshen up the smell of your faux leather couch or furniture pieces. Deodorizing pleather is simple because all you need is baking soda.

  1. If deodorizing clothing, lay the piece out flat.
  2. Sprinkle both the inside and outside with the baking soda.
  3. For furniture, just give it a nice all-over sprinkle.
  4. Let it sit for several hours.
  5. Either shake or vacuum off the baking soda.

Simple Tips and Tricks for Cleaning Fake Leather

One of the best ways to keep your pleather clothing, accessories, and furniture clean is by protecting the material beforehand. Some simple maintenance tips can also help your items stay looking as good as new.

  • Prevent stains by using a leather care product that adds a protective layer.
  • After wiping your couch with a damp cloth, use a magic eraser to work on extra tough spots. This works especially well on white pleather that has collected dirt on its textured surface. Do a hidden spot test to be sure it doesn't remove color or damage the material.
  • Be careful when using household oils to condition your faux leather, as some, like olive oil, can darken its color. Always do a test first, and only use it in very small amounts.
  • Never use a household cleaner that's not intended for leather or faux leather.
  • Remember to dust your leather furniture and accessories occasionally, as accumulated dust can be hard to remove and can cause scratches.

Getting Faux Leather Clean

Fake leather or pleather is a fun and trendy leather alternative. Not only is it animal-free, but it can be easier to take care of. Make sure that you follow all the instructions on the tag when it comes to care and use the proper cleaners for synthetic leather. While some clothing can be thrown in the wash or cleaned at home, some might require a dry cleaner's touch. Your clothing, accessories, and furniture will be feeling fresher than ever now that you know how to properly clean faux leather.

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How to Clean Faux Leather Furniture and Clothing