DIY natural leather cleaner conditions and protects your boots, sofas, tack, and other goods for a fraction of the cost of commercially produced products designed for the same purpose.
If you can find 100% pure mink oil, which is not necessarily easy anymore – especially if you want a product made in the the USA, then you can clean your leather without the use of potentially toxic ingredients.
But, it is just as easy and cheaper to make your own leather cleaner with natural ingredients that are likely already stored in your kitchen cabinet.
We go through copious amounts of leather cleaner here on our 56-acre homestead. One trip outdoors and back in by our blue heelers and we have a massive amount of paw prints all over our leather sectional couch.
I intend to make this couch last for a long long time – just as I do my saddle and favorite pair of broken in cowboy boots.
On one recent rainy day I decided to give the couch and my saddle bags a good scrubbing. My saddle bags had been stored all winter and tinged from overexposure to moisture.
After spending about 15 minutes looking around the barn and garage searching for mink oil, I discovered that we were out. A bit of my homesteading DIY natural cleaner ingenuity and a bit of online searching, led me to create my own mixture.
My DIY natural leather cleaner worked far better than traditional saddle soap, which always seems to leave a sticky film on my tack. I experimented with two different types of liquid leather cleaner and found that both the olive oil based and the coconut oil based worked equally well.
For the soft leather on my couch, I preferred the olive oil based DIY natural leather cleaner because it soaked in lightly and left a nice shine to the sectional sofa.
I definitely preferred the coconut oil based cleaner, followed by a good rub down of just the coconut oil itself to first clean and then condition my tack. The coconut oil cleaner worked into the dense leather, both softening and cleaning it all at once.
- ½ cup vinegar use distilled white vinegar for light colored leather and apple cider vinegar for dark colored leather
- 3/4 cup coconut oil or olive oil
- rubbing alcohol optional
- Gently scrub away any debris of stains on the leather with the rubbing alcohol.
- Allow the leather to air dry before moving along to the next steps.
- Mix together the vinegar and ¼ of a cup of the oil in a bowl.
- Scrub the leather with the solution to clean it.
- Allow the leather to air dry again.
- You may need to repeat step #4 if the leather dried and soiled portions remained on the leather goods.
- Use the remaining oil to condition the leather by gently yet firmly rubbing it onto the leather in a circular motion.
- Allow the leather to air dry before using or storing the items cleaned.
This is a before and after picture of my saddle horn bags. They hung in my tack room in the barn all winter and were soiled terribly from dirt, debris, and exposure to moisture. I had to clean them twice with my DIY natural leather cleaner, but they turned out as good as new once I was done.
DIY Natural Leather Cleaning Hints and Tips
- If ink has stained your leather, do not scrub on the rubbing alcohol to remove it; this will likely spread the ink stain. Instead, dab the rubbing alcohol onto the stain and gently work the alcohol into the leather over the stain.
- If sticky residue from pine sap, chewing gum, candle wax, and the like are attached to your leather, use ice cubes to loosen up the debris before cleaning. Simply place a few ice cubes in a plastic bag, seal it shut, and then place it on top of the problem area. Allow the ice cubes in the bag to sit on the leather for about 5 to 10 minutes, to loosen the sticky material before continuing on with the leather cleaning and conditioning process.
I was suspicious about using vinegar of any type on my good leather. I was afraid it would whiten or yellow it. The complete opposite happened, it cleaned my leather goods and made them look like brand new.
But, I would still highly recommend you do what I did when first experimenting with this DIY natural leather cleaner recipe. Try out a small text patch somewhere inconspicuous on your leather goods to make sure it reacts well with the type and color of leather you are attempting to clean.
Also, and I think this is highly important, fellow homesteaders, your favorite pair of cowboy boots, cute skirt, or saddle will NOT stink of leather after using this natural cleaning recipe. The vinegar scent dissipates once the solution has dried and your clothing, accessories, and furniture will one again possess that alluring smell of leather once again.
Tara lives on a 56 acres farm in the Appalachian Mountains, where she faces homesteading and farming challenges every single day, raising chickens, goats, horses, and tons of vegetables. She’s an expert in all sorts of homesteading skills such as hide tanning, doll making, tree tapping, and many more.