It’s Superbowl Sunday, and you’re sitting on your brand-new leather sectional. You and your friends are kicked back, drinking some cold ones, eating some hot wings, and chowing down on some pepperoni pizza. Everything’s going great until you look down and see a giant oily stain on your sofa.
Now you really wish you’d taken your wife’s advice and eaten at the table as she asked. Sometimes we have to learn things the hard way, though.
So, can you clean leather with rubbing alcohol? Rubbing alcohol can be used to clean leather and is good for cleaning just about any stain known to man. Rubbing alcohol works great on leather surfaces, whether it’s your sofa or your biker jacket!
In today’s article, I’m going to go over exactly how to use an alcohol solution to clean your leather without damaging it and what to do if you accidentally sustain alcohol damage to your leather. Alcohol is a powerful yet fickle substance, and if it’s not used correctly, it can cause more harm than good.
Using Rubbing Alcohol To Clean Leather
So back to your annoying stain…
When it comes to some things, leather really is the best material. It smells great, it’s relatively easy to clean, and you don’t have to worry about your dog scratching it and ripping a hole in it (usually).
However, leather has one caveat– it doesn’t take well to stains. If you’re unfortunate enough to spill oily pizza residue, wine, or any other deep-staining fluid on it, then you’re going to have a heck of a time getting it out.
I’d like to take the time to mention that before using alcohol on your new leather surface, you should first try to use a special leather cleaner. Leather cleaners are designed to be used on leather and can usually clean up most small messes and stains without damaging the material or stripping the dye.
Once you’ve tried (and failed) with a traditional leather cleaner, though, it may be time to kick it up a notch by using some isopropyl rubbing alcohol. Just keep in mind that if alcohol can remove acrylic paint, it can also remove the leather dye if you’re not careful.
The first thing to keep in mind is that you never want to spray or douse the area with pure alcohol. This is the quickest way to sustain alcohol damage to the leather and will only leave you with an unsightly bleach stain.
Instead, I recommend soaking a small cotton ball or the tip of a washcloth in a light 50% concentration of isopropyl or ethyl alcohol. If it’s a small spot, then you might even be better off using a Q-tip instead to minimize any alcohol damage on the leather.
Applying firm pressure with your fingertip, slowly scrub the stained area until you notice it beginning to lighten. Keep in mind that as long as the leather is wet, it will still look dark, so make sure you perform short intervals, giving it time to dry in between scrubbing sessions.
If everything goes well, you’ll be able to remove the stain or grease from the leather in no time. After cleaning the stain, it’s imperative that you apply some leather moisturizer to the area to re-moisturize the material and prevent cracking. Alcohol has a tendency to pull all of the natural oils out of whatever it touches, which can affect its integrity and lead to tearing in the future.
Can Rubbing Alcohol Damage Leather?
Unfortunately, alcohol can damage leather. While leather is certainly one of the most durable materials, it still has its limits. It’s especially susceptible to things that dry it out such as sunlight, chemicals, and alcohol. While it’s an excellent cleaner, alcohol also a drying and oxidizing agent.
This is why I always recommend using leather cleaners before jumping straight to alcohol cleaning. Additionally, if and when you use alcohol, always use a lower concentration such as 50%. You may even want to cut it down to 25% alcohol by mixing it down with some water.
When you use high concentrations of alcohol on leather, it can weaken the surface of the leather and break down the bonds that hold it together. This, in turn, can cause the leather to tear or scratch easily, leading to holes in the future.
If you look at the ingredients of the top leather cleaners on the market, you’ll see that most of them contain a small percentage of alcohol (usually less than 10%). This is typically enough to remove small stains or dirt buildup on the surface of the leather without penetrating deep enough to affect the dye or leather integrity.
This is another reason why you should use alcohol hand-in-hand with a solid leather moisturizer and repairing agent to minimize any damage. When the leather is dry, it’s the most vulnerable to damage, but as long as you’re able to moisturize it before it sustains heavy usage again, you can avert tearing and cracking.
Here are some other posts that might interest you:
- Are Surgical Spirit and Rubbing Alcohol the Same?
- Can Rubbing Alcohol Build Guitar Calluses?
- How To Make Your Own Disinfectant Spray With Rubbing Alcohol
- Detailing Your Car With Rubbing Alcohol
- Using Rubbing Alcohol As Hair Bleach
How To Repair Alcohol Damage On Leather
So, let’s just say that you had an “oopsie” and decided to spray (or spill) a lot of 70% isopropyl alcohol on the leather surface before you had a chance to read this article… What then?
Well, the first thing you should do is to immediately dilute it. Get a rag and dampen it with water and press it into the area where you spilled the alcohol. This will cause the leather to absorb some of the water which will decrease the drying effect of the alcohol.
Once the leather dries, you should then immediately use a heavy leather moisturizer. If the leather has already started to crack, then I recommend using a leather crack-filler. This usually comes in small tubes and is a kind of synthetic “liquid leather” that binds directly to real leather and holds it together.
After applying the leather crack filler and giving it time to dry, you can purchase some leather dye that matches the color of the rest of the leather. Do your best to blend the dye in around the the affected area. If you’re successful, then you’ll barely be able to realize the previous damage!