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The Best Way To Clean And Condition Smooth Leather

Cleaning leather surfaces can often times be quite the chore, especially since you also need to condition it. I have a great way for you to learn a simple method to condition and clean smooth leather at the same time (in as little steps/effort as possible). It works on any smooth leather such as car seats, purses, jackets, couches, saddles, belts, boots/shoes, and other furniture.

The best way to clean and condition smooth leather.
The best way to clean and condition smoother leather.

I really love this method of cleaning leather because it not only does a great job cleaning, but it conditions it so well that it makes the leather soft and looks and feels brand new again.

So, cleaning your leather this way should not only make your stuff look great again, but it should extend the life of your leather because it will be much less likely to get too dry and crack when taken care of properly.

Which will save you lots of money over time not needing to replace your leather items.

As usual, I will say that there are several good ways of doing things. Cleaning leather is no exception to that truth.

This cleaning tip is just the best way that I know how to do this, so I am sharing and you can take my advice or leave it.

The Best Way To Clean Leather:

The Best Way To Clean And Condition Leather

The Best Way To Clean And Condition Leather

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Beginner
Estimated Cost: Less Than $20

Make your leather last longer by conditioning it while you clean. Conditioned leather cracks less so this cleaning method will prolong the life of your leather goods.


  • Cleaning Rags
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Bucket Of Lukewarm Water
  • Fiebing’s Saddle Soap


  • Vacuum


  1. Dry clean your leather first by gently vacuuming, or dusting it off. Pay close attention to the areas where there is any stitching. You can use a soft bristled tooth brush to dust out those areas.
  2. Dip a fresh rag into a bucket of luke-warm water, wring it out until it is more damp than dripping.
  3. Rub the damp rag across your saddle soap. Make sure there is a fair amount of saddle soap on your rag and start massaging it into your leather in a circular motion.
  4. Cover the entire leather surface this way, and repeat it going the other direction.
  5. Any time the rag is no longer leaving behind a little white film, stick it back in the bucket, ring it out, and get more saddle soap on there and continue on making sure that you don’t miss a spot.
  6. There should be a white film covering all of the leather. Leave it there until it dries.
  7. Use a fresh dry rag and buff off the white film using a circular motion.
  8. Repeat as necessary and enjoy your new looking, soft leather surfaces.


This cleaning tip is intended for smooth leathers only.

Saddle soap comes in a few different colors. I prefer the yellow for versatility so that I don't have to buy a new container for each color of leather that I am cleaning.

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Here is the process, in pictures, so that you know exactly what I am talking about.

supplies needed to clean leather

I always say that you have to dry clean something before you can wet clean something and this is a PRIME example of why… the seat that I chose for this tutorial just happens to be the seat that is just under my very messy youngest child’s car seat.

It’s pretty gnarly under there and it had only been a couple of weeks since this area of the car got a good cleaning. I’m sure anyone with kids can relate.

So, very first I got out my vacuum and using a brush attachment I gently vacuumed the leather paying close attention to the areas where the stitching is because that is where spills and crumbs tend to settle and they get looking gross pretty fast.

If you have gunk stuck down in the stitching that won’t come out with simple vacuuming, you can also use a dry soft-bristled tooth brush and gently scrub it out with that and then vacuum it up. See, it looks so much better already with just vacuuming and it is now ready for the wet cleaning portion of the tutorial.

before cleaning leather

For the wet cleaning you will need to start out with a fresh rag, dip it in the bucket of fresh luke-warm water, and then ring it out really good. You are going more for damp than dripping.

Now is where the magic is going to start to happen!

Take your damp rag and rub it across the Saddle Soap. I got mine at Cal Ranch, but you can also add it to your Amazon shopping cart here.

How to use saddle soap. A leather cleaning tutorial.

Make sure that there is a fair amount of saddle soap on the rag, as pictured below, and start working it into your leather in a circular motion.

I like to go clockwise, and cover the whole surface, and then repeat going counter clockwise (or vise versa…it’s not rocket science, that is just my preference making sure to clean it from every direction).

Any time the rag is no longer leaving behind a little white film, stick it back in the bucket, wring it out, and get more saddle soap on there and continue on making sure that you don’t miss a spot.

Leave the white film there until it dries.

This is the part that will really condition the leather and leave it super soft. I like to get all of my leather to this point where it has the white film on it and then come back around  with a fresh dry rag to buff it off. This will give it a great shine and takes off any lingering gunk or grime.

It’s time to buff with a fresh dry rag!

These new rags that I had bought left behind little white chunks of themselves, so I had to vacuum those out of the cracks when I was done, but barring any rag mishaps…(lol, like that will even happen to anyone else. I’m sure that was just me being special there ;)) you are done once you buff off all the white film.

Now look how great the leather looks now!!! Can you believe that it is even the same seat?

I thought I’d show you the before (after the vacuuming) and after together so that you can get the full effect. All I can say is WOW!

Before and after using saddle soap. Saddle Soap leather cleaning results.

This is a great way to  take really good care of any soft leather that you have around the house. I would even do this to boots, belts, obviously saddles, couches, and any other soft leather that you have…maybe even a leather jacket!

It’s really easy, not very time consuming, and actually does not take much elbow grease, which I’m sure is wonderful news for any of you that have limited mobility.

If you’re nervous to try it, just remember to do a test area first in an inconspicuous place before you do your entire piece of leather.

I shot the pictures for this post a couple of weeks ago and I’m sure that my seats are already looking a bit more like the before pictures again, but such is the circle of life when you have kids and you just have to chuckle about it or it’ll make you cry.

At least I know that the conditioning properties are still doing their thing and helping the leather stay strong when it’s too hot or too cold in there. 

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog! If you liked what you saw, please make sure to share it via social media!

The best way to clean leather. A photo tutorial with instructions.
The best way to condition and clean smooth leather.
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P.S. You may want to check out my entire Cleaning section, you won’t be disappointed.

Here are five of my other posts that you may also like:

how to clean leather car seats, couch, sofa, boots, saddle, jackets, and shoes.
Best way to clean leather car seats, couch, boots, jacket, saddles, and shoes.

*Reposts: Please note that this idea/post was originally posted to this website on 05/14/2017, but it was in great need of a refresh so it now is more user friendly/shareable.

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