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7 quick, easy ways to remove bad smells from 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!

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  • by patty
    Posted 2018-08-10 5:07 AM 0Likes

    would love any information anyone has for me…my leather couch was stored for 6 yrs in a
    space that had water leaking in and I wasn’t aware for quite a while…the couch didn’t directly receive any water, but now smells musty in cushions and also the leather…it is dry and the inside backs and cushions smell musty…i have worked on this til i
    m exhausted…I have wiped the leather cushions with vinegar and water (1/1 ratio) it helped a lot. i took out the pillows and washed some of them in detergent and then generous amounts of vinegar in rinse..also used downy for the next to last rinse in one…the ones I haven’t washed, i put out in the sun for a few days fluffing throughout the day….have also used leather cream on the outside cushions….it is getting better, however I’m not sure it is worth the work…any suggestions..also on whether or not i may be damaging my family’s health..actually one of the leather cushions has a frozen zipper and it doesn’t smell too bad..maybe i should just put them in the sun whenever i can and use pillows (household) until i get this under control..any suggestions?

    • by kate
      Posted 2019-01-31 2:53 AM 0Likes

      Im having the same situation. i may just bite the big one and go purchase something. I did try smell be gone-no luck. Theres supposedly leather smell eliminator products. Have u tried those?

  • by kate
    Posted 2019-01-31 2:51 AM 0Likes

    Ive tried leather cleaner to remove the perfume smell, then baking soda, then vinegar and the perfume smell still persists. today Im trying the vinegar another time. Cross your fingers.

    • by tammy blennis
      Posted 2021-12-04 11:38 AM 0Likes

      Hello Kate , I am having the same problem. Did you ever find a solution??

      • by Naomi
        Posted 2021-12-07 1:32 PM 0Likes

        Hey Tammy – just thought I’d chime in!

        Odors, smells and certain scents can be especially pungent when trapped in leather and very tricky to remove. Some of the best methods we know of involve using charcoal as it absorbs, neutralizes, and removes most odors.

        Just grab an anti-odor charcoal bag and slot it in between your leather sofa cushions (or wherever the odor is strongest).

        It also helps to keep your leather dry as even the slightest bit of humidity can make smells worse. This can be remedied by using a charcoal dehumidifier (the kinds that are sold in containers) and putting them where your sofa/cushions are.

        Hope this helps! Anyone else with experience and ideas, feel free to chime in too 🙂

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