No thanks, unwanted odors! Treat tough smells in leather with these simple cleaning tricks. Leather couches sometimes get a bad rap for being stinky, but like most furniture, they just need a little extra care. Leather’s porous, which means it’s more likely to pick up and hold onto unwanted smells that linger, like body odor, pet odor, smoke or food. Fortunately, one thing to remember is that smells will dissipate from leather over time, so if it doesn’t seem to be completely odor-free after your initial cleaning, give it time before you oversaturate the couch with scented cleaners. With proper treatment and upkeep, this too will pass. First things first: Know what kind of leather you’re dealing with and be aware of its condition if it’s an old sofa with damaged leather. All of this makes a difference in how you cleanse and treat the surface. Follow manufacturer guidelines, if available.

Using Sunlight

Sunlight is a powerful force, and putting your couch in a warm room and in the sunlight for a few hours may just be the trick you need to kick bad smells to the curb, especially if it’s musty or seeming mildewy. If you’re able to move the couch outdoors for added ventilation, it’s worth the effort (just like line-dried laundry). With the moisture removed, your couch will be back to smelling like natural leather rather than anything unwanted.

Using White Vinegar

Though not safe for all types of leather, white vinegar diluted 50/50 in water will help to cure smells in smooth, treated, protected leather. If you’re unsure how your product will respond, test this in a discreet area first. Use a spray bottle to mist it directly onto the surface of the leather, into creases of the couch and anywhere that seems affected by smells. Use paper towels or absorbent cloths to wipe away the spray before it has time to soak in and do harm. The microbial properties will help to treat bad smells, and we promise that the vinegar smell itself will dissipate over time, too. Avoid oversaturating the leather with excessive moisture.

Using Baking Soda

Baking soda is especially helpful for removing smells from many types of leather surfaces, including suede. Before bed, sprinkle a generous amount of it over the surface, and use a dry brush to gently rub it in. In the morning, vacuum the couch with an upholstery attachment to remove all signs of the baking soda.

Using Leather Cleaner

Cleaners formulated specifically for leather are nothing to shy away from, either. These cleansers are properly pH balanced and can help protect and polish while simultaneously treating smells. These solutions also target spores and signs of mold that contribute to reoccurring smells in leather.

Need More Help?

Here are a few more tricks that can help keep your couch smelling A-OK, even after you clean it: Double-layer a piece of nylon stocking and fill it with baking soda. Knot, and place it beneath and behind the cushions to continue to absorb smells. (Dry coffee grounds work too, but be forewarned that it might start to smell like a coffee shop.) If your pet loves naps on the leather sofa, have them lay on a blanket instead of directly on the leather for ease of cleaning. Stick a few dryer sheets beneath the bottom cushions. Unfolded sheets of newspaper layered between the cushions can help as an overnight treatment if you suspect extra moisture. Leather is a natural material, and that means it’s absorbent. That’s not inherently a bad thing — except when it comes to smells and bad odors. Leather absorbs them all, and once it does, it’s difficult to remove them. Difficult, but not impossible. Here’s how to remove bad smells and odors from your leather, including smoke, pet odors, mildew or must, perfume and other fragrances and that notorious fish smell that often comes from PU or faux leather.

1. Understand what kind of leather you have

The type of leather you’re dealing with, as well as the type of leather item, is going to dictate your approach here. That’s because genuine leather and faux leather or PU leather often must be treated differently; genuine leather is more delicate than faux leather, and it’s also more absorbent. That means it’s more likely to collect odors over time. (It also lasts much, much longer than faux leather, which is a good thing!) The item you’re trying to clean comes into play in one very important way: If you’re trying to get a smell out of a leather couch, it’s important to understand that beneath the leather is often foam cushions and other upholstery materials, which absorb odors just as easily as leather. This can be especially true with smoke and pet odors. If you’ve cleaned your leather using the tips below and the smell persists, it’s very likely you’ll also need to treat the cushioning. Luckily, with many couches you can remove the leather coverings, which will allow you to clean or replace the cushioning and remove the odor there, too. Keep in mind this also comes into play on other leather items that also contain other materials — the lining of a leather jacket may need to be cleaned in addition to the leather, as will the lining of a leather bag.

2. Clean the leather with a leather cleaner

Again, pay attention to the type of leather you have and the manufacturer’s care instructions. Some leather cleaners, like Leather Honey Leather Cleaner, are safe for genuine leather, faux leather, PU, bonded leather and even rubber and plastic. But others are designed only for genuine leather or only for faux leather. To clean your leather to remove the odor and smell, apply the leather cleaner to a lint-free cloth, moistening the cloth completely. Then wipe down your leather, concentrating on soiled or especially fragrant areas. You should not need to scrub or rub harshly; in fact, that won’t help remove the odor and may damage the leather’s surface. Allow the leather to completely dry, then reassess the situation — it’s very likely that the odor has been completely eliminated. If some smell still lingers, you can attempt another cleaning. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t try to cover an odor with another odor, like a cleaner that carries a fragrance or scent. That will very often only make things worse. Use a non-toxic, fragrance free cleaner like Leather Honey.

3. Air it out

You can actually combine this method with cleaning, and it’s particularly effective on PU or faux leather, which can smell like fish due to the dye and packaging process. After you’ve thoroughly cleaned the leather to remove the odor, allow the leather to dry in a sunny spot with air circulation — outside on a nice day is a great option if you’re sure it’s not going to rain. The sun and the fresh air combined will help dry the leather quickly and eliminate any lingering odors.

4. Turn to odor eliminators

leather cleaner and conditioner If cleaning the leather alone doesn’t work, you can turn to other natural ways to eliminate odors next. One of the most common and most effective options is plain old white or apple cider vinegar. We recommend using white vinegar for light-colored leather, and apple cider vinegar for dark leather. You’ll want to dilute the vinegar with water, using a 1 to 4 ratio of vinegar to water. Test anything you apply to your leather in a discreet area first. Then gently wipe down the leather on all sides, using exactly the same approach you took to cleaning. Vinegar is especially effective on smoke and milder or musty smells, as it neutralizes the odor. The leather will briefly smell like vinegar following this treatment, but that odor will quickly disappear. Another option is baking soda — you can gently shake baking soda over the smelly area. It will absorb the odor. Leave it on the leather for several hours or overnight; then gently vacuum it up or shake it off.

5. Condition genuine leather every six months

Conditioning won’t necessarily prevent odors, except in the case of mold or mildew — conditioning the leather with a product that prevents mildew, like Leather Honey Leather Conditioner, will keep those odors from returning and prevent stains and discoloration. But there’s another reason for conditioning as well — vinegar can be hard on your leather, and leather dries out naturally over time. Keeping the leather adequately conditioned twice a year will help it maintain flexibility and prevent cracking, scratches and fading.

Prevent Odors & Remove Bad Smells From Leather With Leather Honey Cleaner & Conditioner

We encourage you to clean and condition your leather regularly to avoid certain smells and odors. You May Also Like: Leather Maintenance Myths & Care Tips Preventing and Cleaning Pet Stains on Leather Everyone loves leather sofas! They are elegant, hard-wearing, comfortable and don’t go out of style. The downside: leather can soak up strong smells, such as smoke, food odour, sweat and perfume. Luckily, you don’t have to live with smelly leather forever – these are our tried-and-tested remedies for getting rid of bad smells forever.

1. Vinegar

Vinegar is highly acidic, which enables it to kill bacteria and also remove smells. (That’s what makes it so great for scrubbing floors – seriously, try it.) To remove smells from your leather sofa, or any other leather product, mix a solution of equal parts vinegar and water, then use a clean cloth (microfibre cloths are great for this) to wipe the leather. As your cloth begins to pick up the dirt from the leather, wring it out or swap it for another clean cloth. You can also put the solution in a spray bottle to spritz the leather , then wipe it clean with a cloth.

2. Baking soda

Baking soda, which is basically sodium bicarbonate, is a natural odour eliminator and great for neutralising smells. Cover the site of the smell with a handful of baking powder, leave it to sit for 15–20 minutes, then vacuum up the baking soda.

3. Professional products

Another quick and easy ways to remove bad smells from leather is to use professional cleaning products.

  • Leather cleaner is able to dissolve any dirt and grime on most leather products, and safely remove it. Apply it over the leather and use a clean cloth to remove the dirt and the remains of the product.
  • Leather conditioners help to preserve the leather and strengthen it. This is more of a preventive measure – keeping your leather well-conditioned will also keep it clean and prevent the accumulation of bacteria and bad odours.
  • Silica gel wicks away moisture (e.g. sweat) so that bacteria has nothing to feed on and consequently, will remove the lingering stink. Keep in mind that silica gel is not recommended in houses with pets or kids as it can be dangerous if accidentally ingested.

4. Dry the leather

If your slipcover is humid or someone has spilled liquids on it, place the leather in a spot in your home that gets indirect sun or use a blow-dryer on a low heat setting. Removing humidity from the leather will prevent bad odours from (further) developing. We recommend also using a leather cleaner, vinegar or baking soda after drying the leather to remove the smells more effectively.

5. Fresh air

The most ancient method to remove bad smells is airing your sofa covers out. Choose somewhere outdoors that is sheltered from direct light and heat, such as a table on the porch. Leave the sofa cover for a day if possible. Fresh air will also help to remove any unwanted moisture in the leather.

6. Newspaper

Paper is more porous than leather, which makes it excellent at absorbing odours. If you have any smaller leather products, you can pack them up in newspaper or packing paper. The fibres of the paper lift the odours from the leather, and are also an excellent way of preserving the untreated reverse surfaces of leather items. We recommend to leave the leather packed inside the newspapers for at least 24 hours. If after trying all this, your sofa still has bad odours, ask the professional scleaning. This option is always the most expensive one and we only recommend it after trying all our initial tips and advice.

7. New slipcovers!

If you’ve managed to remove some of the smell, but not entirely, then you can go down a different path to save your sofa. A new leather slipcover could remove or mask any existing smells, as well as giving your sofa a comfortable and stylish new look. (And it’s not as expensive as you think!) At Comfort Works we are specialists in creating handmade slipcovers that will fit your sofa perfectly, no matter the brand or model. We have a wide range of premium fabrics to choose from, including popular, high-quality leather options. Order our fabric swatches straight to your door to get a real look and feel for them – after all, they’re free! Begging your pardon, and I don’t mean to disturb, but it smells like you might have dropped something. No? Not you? Oh, it’s just your leather – your stinky, smelly leather. You should get that fixed. You don’t know how, you say? That’s why you’re here, you say? Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place! Let’s get this aromatherapy sesh started! So you’ve got a smoking problem. Maybe the leather got a bit wet, and hasn’t smelled right since. Perhaps the leather just came to you smelling a little off naturally. Depending on the leather’s make, it could possess more inherent odors or just maybe your leather doesn’t smell as good in perfume as you do. No problem. Leather’s a connoisseur, you see. It likes to try on scents like a teenage girl tries on outfits at a shopping mall, or distinguished gentlefolk taste wines at a renaissance festival. Leather has an appetite for scents fair and foul alike, and due to the porous nature of its hide, it can soak them in very quickly. Don’t worry about it though. By the time we’re through with you, you’ll know how to remove odor from leather easily enough. Like all the latest fashion trends, eventually your teenage leather is going to get bored of whatever horrific getup she’s put on, and move on to something hopefully less appalling. Unlike your stubborn human variety, leather smells don’t last if you don’t want them to. So here’s what you need to do. Wet Dog Syndrome A lot of odd leather scents merely come from allowing your leather to get wet. You’ll want dry up that moisture pretty fast, as water can mess up leather terribly if there’s too much of it and it sits too long. You can read a little about water damage in our blog “Common Leather Care Mistakes.” Long story short, water robs the leather of a lot of its lubricants, which means if it gets it’s way it’s going to blow dry your bag to oblivion and give it a smell that would make a skunk blush. To circumvent this, dry up as much moisture as well as you can, and condition after to restore those vital oils and nutrients it likes so much. We’ll get to that momentarily. Afterwards, you’ll want to let your leather dry out naturally. Consequently, this practice works well to remove odor from leather whether it smells from water damage or not. Nature is a formidable and really great-smelling ally. Let’s Take this Outside The easiest solution to remove odor from leather is to air it out in the great outdoors. Let those babies breathe! Of course, check the weather first; if it is supposed to rain, do not put your leather outside. Wait until the rain is gone and dried up, and then try again. Likewise, humid temperatures tend to attract mold, which you can read about in our blog “How to Clean Mold From Leather.” Avoid any abnormally hot and cold weather likewise, and keep away from direct sunlight. Leather, like our friendly, bloodsucking creatures of the night, does not bode well under heavy sunshine. It really parches it up, and gives it very bad tans. Shoot for a mild day with slightly cool temperature and no strenuous weather conditions. When you have found your ideal date, let your leather sit outside for a full day, inflatable ball and beach umbrella optional. If you are trying to figure out how you are going to maneuver your leather couch outside, stop that right now. You don’t have to squeeze that heavy hunk out of your tiny front door. Simply place a fan near your couch and open the windows – you will get the same effect as if you brought it outdoors to air out. Convenient, no? Time for the Tub Once your leather item has sat for at least 24 hours, it’s time to really put the cap on this remove odor from leather operation. You can use the suds from a water and mild soap mixture (make sure it is mild!), or purchase a compatible leather cleaner. Do not use ordinary soap or commercial cleaners, because these can seriously mess up your leather. Chamberlain’s Straight Cleaner No. 2 is a great option because it is natural, gentle and effective. Always test your leather cleaner is a discreet area with a white cloth and let it dry first. If there is little to no color rub off on your cloth, no discoloration in the leather, and no other visible side effects, you should be good to go. Whether you choose mild soap with water or a leather cleaner, apply a small amount to your item and gently rub in circular motions with a soft, clean cloth or applicator pad. Do not rub too hard, and spread the leather cleaner evenly in thin layers. Let it sit for about fifteen minutes and then wipe off any excess fluid with a clean cloth, and leave it to dry in a cool, clean place away from sunlight and direct heat. Lastly, take a deep, sweet breath. You’re almost there. Conditional Love Cleaning leather can be exhilarating, but don’t stop there. Remember those nutrients and oils keeping your leather soft and supple we talked about? Those are gone now. You want to fix that. For this task you need a leather conditioner, and not just any leather conditioner will do. Depending on your leather type, various leather conditioners may be more or less effective, and can actually darken your leather if you aren’t careful. Test any conditioner you want to use with the same test you used for your leather cleaner. If it checks out, you should be good. Note than unfinished leathers tend to be affected more strongly by leather cleaners and leather conditioners than finished leather, so you’ll want to tread carefully if your sofa or handbag has a suede or nubuck coat. You can read up on unfinished leathers like that in our blog “Leather Care for Finished and Unfinished Leather Furniture.” For most finished leathers, however, Chamberlain’s Leather Care Liniment No. 1 should perform spectacularly. Just remember to test first! Use more or less the same method to apply your leather conditioner as you did your leather cleaner. Wipe softly in circular motions, spreading conditioner evenly and in thin layers across the entire surface of your leather. After it’s completely covered, leave it to dry in the same cool, dry and clean place away from sunlight and direct heat as before for about fifteen minutes, then buff it off with a dry cloth or pad. Plan B If even these exhaustively planned stratagems fail you, there are a few more things you can try. If small enough, place your leather inside of a pillow case with a liberal amount of baking soda and allow it to sit there overnight. The baking soda should draw some of the scent out, freeing up your leather of its pesky odor attachment. Newspaper and packing paper work great this way too. Paper is a bit more porous than leather, and wrapping your leather item up with them like an Egyptian mummy tends to give unwanted odors the right idea. Make sure that both the leather and paper are completely dry. Also, try to stick with newspapers or packing papers rather than the conventional office variety. The fibers tend to be looser with the newspapers and packing paper, and allow the scent to absorb more fully. Keep your leather packed overnight. Other than that, you can always just let the leather age. Like most things, leather scents disappear over time, and the more use your leather, the quicker that will happen. Don’t cheat by masking it with perfume or cologne either – that’ll make the scent want to stick around even longer. You might find this difficult to believe, but a scent that may bother you may be attractive to other people — natural scents can get weird admirers like that. Don’t be afraid! Take it out, use it, and give it some love! Over time, the scent will take on a subtler identity — an aroma, like wine, exquisite with age, and pleasing to the senses. So give it the tick tock, and you never know how your leather friend might surprise you! Bad Rap, Good Smell That’s about all the time we have left for today, folks! Remember, if your leather’s got the smell, don’t quell. Knock out that stinky shell with a breathing spell, and a place to dwell that’ll make it swell with a flare like a…a church bell? I can’t do this anymore. Give you leather room to breathe and lots of love, and I’m sure it’ll be more than happy to put on aromas that will make your nose dance. Weird imagery, but you get the gist. Go crazy, people! Contributors
Stephanie Clarke
Daniel Sutton
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