Can You Clean Leather with Alcohol? – Do’s and Don’ts

To maintain leather’s lifespan and perfect look, adequate care and maintenance are required. Cleaning leather sandals, furniture, and clothing can be tricky and, when done wrong, the leather may begin to appear unsightly, dry, and brittle.

Thus, I keep getting questions about what supplies are suitable for cleaning leather items without damaging them. One common product a few leather enthusiasts have asked about is rubbing alcohol. So, can you clean leather with alcohol?

Exploring the use of alcohol as a cleaning solution for leather is fascinating and essential for leather lovers since it is critical to strike the appropriate balance between preserving the leather’s sheen and preventing damage.

can you clean leather with alcohol

Can You Clean Leather with Alcohol?

Leather is a delicate material to wear and tear if subjected to harsh elements. Using suitable leather cleaner is the right way to go if you want to clean and maintain your leather items.

Alcohol is well-known for its natural antibacterial properties; hence, it is often employed as an antiseptic and an excellent cleaning product. But can you use alcohol on leather wallets, shoes, clothing, and upholstery?

You can use alcohol (particularly isopropyl alcohol) for cleaning various leather items, especially those with pesky stains. It removes stains, grease, and grime from the leather’s surface. However, it would help if you employed the proper techniques to prevent likely damage, and here’s how to clean leather using rubbing alcohol.

Step 1: Preparation

It is essential to prep your cleaning solution and leather surface before you kick start a cleaning process. First, you have to dilute the rubbing alcohol – diluting the alcohol with water is an essential thing to do before applying it on leather surfaces.

As a general guideline, combine equal amounts of water and alcohol. Such an action would lessen the harshness of the alcohol and keeps the leather from overly drying out.

Now, get rid of dust and dirt on the leather using a vacuum or a soft-bristled brush. Once you remove the loose dirt, the isopropyl alcohol mix will quickly penetrate and degrade pesky stains, leaving the leather surface clean.

Step 2: Spot Testing

Conduct a spot test on a discrete region before using the alcohol mix on the leather item. This will enable you to ascertain whether the leather is adversely affected by the alcohol solution.

Step 3: Application

After conducting the patch test and confirming that this cleaning solution would not cause damages, you can apply the mix of alcohol on the leather bag, shoe, or couch. Dab the discolored or dirty area with a cotton ball or soft cloth dipped in the diluted alcohol solution.

You may need to repeat the process severally to get off pesky stains like pen marks on leather effectively. But avoid excessive rubbing since doing so might damage the leather’s finish severely.

Step 4: Drying

After washing, let the leather air dry naturally; place it in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. Hairdryers and other heat sources should not be used since they can make the leather brittle.

can you clean leather with rubbing alcohol

What happens if you clean Leather with Alcohol?

While there are a thousand and one household leather cleaning supplies people recommend, you should know that only some products work well for leather. In the case of rubbing alcohol, this solution effectively cleans leather and removes stains that may seem complicated to get off.

However, the alcohol solution also has a few downsides that you should consider. With that in mind, here are the pros and cons of rubbing alcohol on leather shoes, clothes, and accessories.

Pros of Cleaning Leather with Alcohol

Effective Odor and Stain Removal

Alcohol’s efficiency in removing stains is one of the benefits of using it to clean leather. Since leather is a natural material, it is prone to staining and odor over time. Stains may be unpleasant and challenging to remove, whether from a spill, a pen or marker mark, or a build-up of dirt and grime.

Rubbing alcohol is a great solvent that can efficiently dissolve and remove various stains embedded in the leather fibers, making it the best option for stain removal. Its fast evaporation is one of the main factors contributing to its efficiency in stain removal on leather.

By now, you should know that alcohol doesn’t leave behind too much moisture, unlike other water-based cleaning solutions, which can damage the leather.


Even though cleaning is a crucial component of leather preservation, professional leather cleaning may be pricey, and several commercial leather cleaning solutions are also relatively expensive.

An inexpensive method will help you save money while still getting results is using a mix of isopropyl alcohol and water to clean the leather. Rubbing alcohol is a common home ingredient that is inexpensive and widely accessible.

The low price and accessibility of this product is one of the primary factors making it an economical alternative for cleaning leather – I find it substantially less expensive than most commercial leather cleaning solutions like those that I have seen with high price tags.

Easy Dilution

Alcohol is easily diluted with water, allowing users to modify the cleaning solution’s strength to suit the specific requirement of cleaning leather. This is especially advantageous when working with delicate leather pieces because diluting the alcohol may help avoid potential damage or discoloration.

Mix alcohol and water in a container – I recommend a 1:1 ratio. This diluted solution can be employed on various types of leather items, including purses, furniture, shoes, and automobile interiors.

Swift and Efficient Cleaning

This adaptable cleaning solution is well known for its efficiency and simplicity. Alcohol may be used to effectively remove dirt, filth, and stains from leather while cleaning it. Because of its quick evaporation, it can be cleaned quickly, making it the perfect option for people who are pressed for time or want quick cleaning solutions.


Diluted alcohol, as a leather cleaning solution is not abrasive, compared to certain products that could damage your leather items. It’s important to avoid using abrasive chemicals on sensitive materials like leather since they could ruin or discolor it.

To safely remove dirt, pesky stains, and grime without ruining your leather products, an equal mix of alcohol and water is a mild yet efficient cleaning option.

Cons of Cleaning Leather with Alcohol


Alcohol may dry up leather, one of the significant drawbacks of using it to clean the surface. It may remove the moisture and oils that maintain the substance pliable and guard against cracking.

Also, rubbing alcohol can lighten leather if used excessively – this is more apparent in leathers with deeper colors. Fortunately, there are techniques to reduce alcohol’s drying impact while cleaning leather. I recommend diluting this solution with water to make it mild.

It May Affect the Leather Finish

The finish on leather acts as a shield to retain the material’s inherent beauty and purity. It is a barrier against various elements found in various forms, including top coats, lacquers, and waxes.

Applying alcohol on leather jackets, shoes, or furniture may adversely affect the leather’s protective coating, leaving the material fragile and exposed. It could also damage leather finishes, resulting in their fading, dulling, or even complete disappearance.

It Leaves a Strong Smell

Alcohol use has the additional disadvantage of leaving a strong odor on leather. This solution has a distinctive smell that is strong and overbearing. When used on leather, the strong smell may linger for an extended period, even when the alcohol has evaporated from the item’s surface.

This might be bothersome, especially if you want to preserve the leather’s original scent or are sensitive to strong smells.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs:

Can rubbing alcohol damage leather?

Using rubbing alcohol excessively can cause severe damage to leather items. Although it is frequently used for cleaning, the alcohol-based solution can dry up leather and remove its natural oils, causing cracks, discoloration, and complete degradation.

Before rubbing alcohol on leather surfaces, diluting it with water is crucial (ideally in a 1:1 ratio). Examining a tiny, discrete section by conducting a patch test is also wise to ensure the leather has no adverse effects.

Can you use rubbing alcohol on leather seats?

Leather seats may be cleaned and treated for stains with rubbing alcohol. Here is a step-by-step technique for cleaning leather seats with rubbing alcohol:

  • Clean the Leather: Start by vacuuming or brushing any loose dust, grime, or debris from the leather seats. By taking this precaution, you can clean the surface without scratching it.
  • Dilute the Rubbing Alcohol: Use a 1:1 mixture of water and rubbing alcohol to prevent the leather from drying out or harming the leather.
  • Do a Patch Test: It’s crucial to test rubbing alcohol on a tiny, discrete area before using it to clean leather car seats or cushions. Use a cotton swab and a tiny rubbing alcohol to softly massage a concealed area. Look for any damage, discoloration, or unfavorable response – You can proceed if everything appears to be in order.
  • Apply the Solution: Moisten a sponge or soft cloth with the diluted rubbing alcohol solution. Gently clean the leather seats, paying particular attention to any stain marks.

Does alcohol ruin car leather?

Applying rubbing alcohol on car seats can strip off their protective coatings and cause the leather to dry up, become brittle, and break. Furthermore, if alcohol is not adequately diluted or handled with prudence, it can also dull the color of leather.

As a result, it is not advised to use alcohol as a cleaning agent directly on automobile leather. Instead, creating a milder solution would help by diluting the isopropyl alcohol with water and applying a suitable conditioner or mink oil to the leather surface after cleaning.

Can you spray vodka on leather?

Vodka sprayed over leather can work well as a deodorizer to eliminate mildew and mold on leather. All that is required is to mix some vodka and water in a spray bottle. Shake the vodka well before spraying it over any leather surfaces covered in mold or mildew. Pay close attention to areas such as the crevices, corners, and seams.

Spend 10 to 15 minutes letting the solution settle on the leather, allowing the alcohol to permeate the material and eliminating mold, mildew, and bacteria that cause odors. After that, use a soft cloth to pat dry the leather surface.

Can you use Dettol on leather?

You shouldn’t use Dettol or other chemicals directly on leather, as this material is quite delicate and can be severely damaged. If you are wondering how to disinfect leather using Dettol as an antiseptic, you can add it to a bowl of warm water.

Get a clean cloth damped with the solution and wipe your leather surface clean. Once done, allow the leather item to dry in a well-ventilated area.

What not to use on leather?

The durability and beauty of leather depend on adequate maintenance. However, some items and substances are not recommended for use on leather since they may result in permanent damage. By removing the leather’s natural oils, harsh or abrasive agents like ammonia, bleach, or harsh detergent risk causing the leather to dry up, crack, or fade.

Similarly, hot water should only be used on this material if you want to shrink the leather, and if not done correctly, the leather’s shape may become distorted. I recommend using a moist cloth, sponge, and lukewarm water to clean the leather.

Final Words

Alcohol on leather needs to be used with caution! Although leather surfaces may be cleaned and disinfected with alcohol, care should be taken to minimize damage.

When properly diluted, pure isopropyl alcohol may efficiently remove stains and clean leather goods. To make sure that the alcohol does not deteriorate or discolor the leather, it is essential to perform a patch/spot test on a hidden region. I hope you have got your answer to Can you clean leather with alcohol, loud and clear?

Evina Naomi

Ewofere, Evina Naomi is a biotechnologist and passionate content writer. As a great lover of leather and various leather crafts, she broadly addresses leather-related issues. She is a writer of many excellent articles on leather. With great knowledge and enthusiasm, readers can access researched pieces on various leather types and the best techniques that work on them. Naomi is here to lead you through the journey of choosing excellent leather products and ensure you handle them rightly. So you can embark on your leather sewing and crafting journey with her and have an incredible experience.

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