Can You Steam Clean Leather? Tips and Recommendations

Over time, leather can become dirty and require proper cleaning to maintain its appearance and condition. One frequently asked question is whether or not steam cleaning is an appropriate method for leather.

You can steam clean leather but only if done correctly and with caution. This method has some advantages over standard cleaning techniques, such as minimizing the amount of water that soaks into the material and preventing water damage, drying, and cracking.

Benefits of Steam Cleaning Leather

Steam-cleaning leather has several advantages. This method not only helps maintain the cleanliness and appearance of your leather items but also ensures their longevity. In this section, we discuss the benefits of steam cleaning leather, subdivided into four main aspects: Sanitization, Enhanced Durability, Stain Removal, and Eco-Friendliness.


One primary advantage of using a steam cleaner to clean leather is its ability to sanitize the upholstery effectively. The heat from the steam destroys germs, mold, bacteria, and mildew present on the leather surface, ensuring a deep and thorough cleaning. This high-temperature steam cleaning process increases the hygiene level, making it a healthier environment for you and your family.

Enhanced Durability

Steam cleaning leather can help preserve its beauty and increase its lifespan. The process involves cleaning the leather without using harsh chemicals, which can damage the leather or strip its natural oils.

As the steam loosens dirt and grime present on the surface, it helps maintain the suppleness of the leather, enhancing its overall durability and preventing it from drying or cracking with time.

Stain Removal

Removing stains from leather can be challenging, but steam cleaning can effectively tackle this issue. The high-temperature vapor lifts stubborn dirt, soil, and stains from the upholstery, making it easier to wipe away the grime with a cloth. This method can also help eliminate odors that may be trapped in the leather fibers.


Steam cleaning is an eco-friendly way to clean leather, as it does not require the use of harsh chemicals or detergents. Instead, it uses water vapor to lift dirt and stains, minimizing the risk of water damage. By avoiding chemical cleaning products, this method not only protects your leather upholstery but also contributes to a greener environment.

Precautions Before Steam Cleaning

Before attempting to steam clean leather, it is essential to consider several precautions to ensure the safety and longevity of the leather upholstery. This section will provide guidance on the necessary steps to take before using a steam cleaner on your leather items, with sub-sections covering testing a small area, using the right equipment, and avoiding over-saturating the leather.

Test a Small Area

Leather comes in various types and qualities, and some may be more sensitive to heat and moisture than others. To prevent unintended damage, always test a small, inconspicuous area of the leather item before proceeding with the steam cleaning process.

Apply steam to the test area and observe the effects on the leather. If there is no discoloration, shrinking, or damage, you can proceed with steam cleaning the rest.

Use the Right Equipment

Not all steam cleaners are suitable for cleaning leather, so it is crucial to use equipment specifically designed for this purpose. When selecting a steam cleaner, look for one with adjustable heat settings, low to medium pressure, and a soft-bristle brush attachment. Avoid using harsh chemicals or oils that may damage or discolor the leather, and instead, opt for a cleaner specifically formulated for leather upholstery.

Avoid Over-Saturating

While steam cleaning effectively removes dirt, stains, and bacteria from leather surfaces, it is crucial to avoid over-saturating the leather, as excessive moisture can cause the material to swell, discolor, or become brittle.

To minimize the risk of water damage, use the steam cleaner in short bursts and quickly wipe away the loosened dirt and moisture with a clean cloth. If necessary, use a vacuum with an upholstery attachment to extract any remaining moisture from the leather.

Can You Steam Clean Leather Car Seats?

Yes, you can steam clean leather car seats, provided you do it the right way. Steam cleaning is a highly effective method for removing dirt, stains, and bacteria from various surfaces, including leather upholstery. When executed correctly, steam cleaning can refresh and sanitize your leather car seats without causing damage.

How to Steam Clean Leather Car Seats

In this section, we’ll guide you through the process step-by-step, ensuring the best results for your leather car seats.

Gather Supplies

Before starting, gather the necessary supplies:

  • A steam cleaner with a brush attachment designed for upholstery.
  • Microfiber cloths.
  • A leather cleaner or a mixture of half a cup of white vinegar and half a cup of water.
  • Leather conditioner.

Prepare the Seats

Before using the steam cleaner on your leather car seats, vacuum the seats thoroughly to remove any loose dirt, debris, or particles. Then, test the steam cleaner, cloth, and cleaning solution on an inconspicuous area of the leather to ensure compatibility and prevent damage.

Apply Steam

Attach the brush attachment to the steam cleaner and cover it with a microfiber cloth. Set the cleaner to low or medium heat to prevent damage to the leather. Run the steam cleaner over the leather upholstery in circular, overlapping motions, taking care not to concentrate the steam in one area for too long.

Wipe and Dry

Once you have thoroughly steamed the leather surface, use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to gently wipe off dirt, grime, and moisture. Make sure to remove any excess water to prevent potential water damage.

Condition the Leather

Applying a leather conditioner after steam cleaning is essential to restore the suppleness and sheen of your leather seats. You can make your own leather conditioner by mixing one cup of linseed oil and half a cup of white vinegar.

Apply the conditioner to a clean microfiber cloth and gently rub it into the leather surface, covering all areas that were cleaned with the steam cleaner. Give the conditioner some time to absorb before proceeding to the next step or using the car.

Alternative Leather Cleaning Methods

Although steam cleaning can be an effective method for some types of leather upholstery, it may not always be the best option for cleaning leather. Some leather upholstery could be damaged by the heat and moisture of steam cleaning. Instead, consider these alternative methods for cleaning your leather items and maintaining their appearance and condition.

Leather Cleaner and Conditioner

Using leather-specific cleaning products can be a gentle and effective way to clean leather. Leather cleaners typically contain natural ingredients that are safe for use on leather surfaces and can remove dirt and grime without causing damage. After cleaning, it’s important to apply a leather conditioner to help maintain the leather’s suppleness and prevent it from drying out.

Mild Soap Solution

An alternative to dedicated leather cleaning products is a mild soap solution. Mixing a small amount of mild liquid soap with warm water can create an effective cleaning solution for leather. Use a soft cloth to gently apply the solution to the leather surface, being careful not to soak it. Wipe it with a clean, damp cloth before letting it dry completely.

Professional Cleaning Services

If you are unsure about the best way to clean your leather items, it may be worth considering professional cleaning services. Professional cleaners have access to specialized equipment and products designed specifically for leather upholstery.

These services can deep clean, remove stains, eliminate bacteria and odors, and ensure that your leather items are well-maintained without exposing them to potential damage from steam cleaning or other do-it-yourself methods.

Keep in mind that different types of leather and upholstery may require specific care to maintain their appearance and condition. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning and maintenance to ensure the best possible results for your leather.

All in all

Leather can indeed be steam cleaned, providing an effective and chemical-free method for maintaining the appearance and cleanliness of your leather items.

Although When steam cleaning leather, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the different types of leather and the proper techniques for treating them.

Depending on the leather type, certain precautions might be necessary to prevent water damage and preserve the suppleness of the material. Test a small hidden area before proceeding to the rest of the leather to ensure compatibility with the cleaning process.

Andre from

Andre is a passionate leatherworker. He loves the smell and feel of leather, and he takes great care in selecting the right pieces of leather for his projects. Read more here.