Written by Grove Collaborative

5 ways to clean faux leather naturally.

Last Updated: September 23, 2021

As with real leather, knowing how to properly clean and care for faux leather goods is the key to maintaining their quality. Luckily, there are a number of natural and easy ways to keep faux leather goods looking fresh.

Faux leather is an easy way to add a little luxury to your life. It’s become a popular material in everything from fashion to cars and furniture, thanks to its stylish elegance and ability to perfectly mimic the supple softness of genuine leather goods.

As with real leather, knowing how to properly clean and care for faux leather goods is the key to maintaining their quality. Luckily, there are a number of natural and easy ways to keep faux leather goods looking fresh.

Keep reading to find out more about this popular leather alternative and what steps you can take to clean everything from faux leather jackets to sofas.

So, what exactly is faux leather?

The word "faux" means artificial or imitation, and that’s exactly what faux leather is: artificial leather.

It is sometimes called vegan leather because it is made without animal products. It also requires less energy, fewer chemicals, and less time to produce than genuine leather.

Because it’s cruelty-free and more environmentally friendly, major brands and designers, like Tesla and Stella McCartney, have started using faux leather in their products. It’s also usually cheaper than genuine leather, so it’s better for your wallet, too.

What is faux leather made out of?

Polyurethane (PU) is the most common material used to make faux leather. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is also sometimes used, but PU leather contains fewer harsh chemicals, like chlorine, so it can be more sustainably produced than PVC. You may have also heard of these types of faux leather referred to as “pleather,” as in plastic leather.

Though leather alternatives are more environmentally friendly than genuine leather, plastic still isn’t biodegradable. In an effort to move away from plastic, many brands are seeking even more sustainable materials to use in the production of faux leather.

Some other popular vegan leather materials include:

  • Cork oak
  • Pineapple leaves
  • Fruit skins
  • Recycled plastic
  • Cactus leaves

Faux leather is designed to be tough and long-lasting. It is possible for it to peel, crack, and wrinkle if subjected to too much heat or light. If properly cleaned and cared for, faux leather products can last for several years.

What cleaners can I use on faux leather?

You might feel intimidated by the idea of cleaning your faux leather goods, but the cleaning process is easier than you might expect.

Most products can be cleaned with water and natural ingredients, mild soap, or detergent. Always check your manufacturer’s cleaning instructions to be sure you’re using approved products.

5 essential supplies for cleaning faux leather

  1. Microfiber cloths
  2. Gentle stain remover
  3. Natural detergent
  4. Coconut oil
  5. Baking soda

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How to remove stains from faux leather

Spot-cleaning is the easiest way to get stains off of vegan leather.

To treat basic stains:

  1. Wet a microfiber cloth with cool or warm water. Never use hot water as it can warp or even melt faux leather.
  2. Squeeze out excess water until the cloth is only damp.
  3. Wipe or lightly scrub the stain.

For tough stains, you might need to go deeper into your natural cleaning arsenal. Try adding a small amount of gentle stain remover to the damp cloth before lightly scrubbing.

You can also make your own detergent mixture to remove tough stains using the following steps:

  1. Add a tablespoon of gentle detergent to a spray bottle filled with water.
  2. Shake well, and spray the mixture onto a microfiber cloth.
  3. Gently scrub to remove stains.

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How to clean faux leather jackets and clothing

There are two main ways to clean pleather clothing: by hand-washing or in the washing machine.

Occasionally, faux leather pieces are dry-clean only, so double check your tags before you decide on a cleaning method.

Before you wash faux leather garments, spot-treat any visible stains using the stain removal methods above.

To clean faux leather clothing by hand:

  1. Fill a sink or container with cool water.
  2. Add a natural laundry detergent to the water according to the instructions on the bottle.
  3. Turn the garment inside out and soak in the soapy water.
  4. Swish with your hands and gently squeeze to clean.
  5. Rinse with cool water until no soap remains.
  6. Don’t ring the garment out. Lay flat or hang to dry.

To clean faux leather items in the washing machine:

  1. Turn the garment inside out. Consider using a garment bag for extra protection.
  2. Set the washer to the gentle cycle, and make sure the water is cold.
  3. Add a natural laundry detergent according to the instructions on the bottle.
  4. Lay faux leather clothing flat or hang it to dry.

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How to clean faux leather shoes

Faux leather shoes can typically be cleaned by hand using only a few simple household ingredients.

To keep your shoes looking brand new:
  1. Mix a tablespoon of natural detergent with several cups of water.
  2. Moisten a cloth with the detergent mixture, and wipe the length of the shoe.
  3. Use a clean, dry cloth to wipe away any excess moisture.
  4. Let the shoe air dry.
  5. Dip a clean, white cloth into a teaspoon of melted coconut oil and rub the shoe to condition the faux leather.

How to clean faux leather couches and furniture

Cleaning faux leather furniture is a fairly simple process. There are faux leather cleaners and conditioners on the market, but most stains can be treated easily using simple, natural ingredients.

  1. Vacuum any crumbs or debris that might be lurking in the crevices.
  2. Dampen a microfiber cloth with a tablespoon of detergent mixed with several cups of water.
  3. Using the damp cloth, wipe the exterior of the furniture.
  4. Use melted coconut oil on a clean, white cloth to condition the leather.

Spot test a small area first to make sure the oil doesn’t alter the color of your furniture.

Getting odors out of faux leather

Faux leather can sometimes hang onto smells, like body odor, cigarette smoke, or scents from cooking. To get rid of these unpleasant smells, try baking soda in the process below.

  1. Sprinkle baking soda on faux leather furniture, in the linings of clothing, or inside of shoes.
  2. Place garments or shoes in a sealable bag or container. Let furniture sit.
  3. Wait several hours to one day.
  4. Brush, wipe, or vacuum away the baking soda.

Repeat these steps as needed to keep your faux leather looking (and smelling) as if it were brand new.

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