How to remove or clean oil stains from leather?

Oil stains in leather must be cleaned before a new color or finish can be applied to restore appearance. Here’s how:

  1. Clean the area first with denatured alcohol. Lacquer thinner is even better.
  2. Perform the tape test, which determines if leather or vinyl is ready to receive a new finish. If painters’ tape strongly adheres to the surface, such that you have to pry it off with a fingernail, you’re ready to proceed. If the tape does not stick well or curls up along the edges, more aggressive prep is needed. Continue cleaning with a stronger solvent to see if any improvement is made. Acetone can be used with caution.

Do not use baking soda to clean leather. It is too abrasive and too alkaline. Take care not to over-scrub or chafe the leather.

If oil stains remain sticky or repel a new finish, here are your options in order of difficulty:

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  1. Hi
    I have a butter yellow sofa that is over 20yrs old, flexsteel, and I would like to clean and refinish. Maybe change the color to a lt tan or gray. It is absorbent and stained. Some hairline cracking is present.
    Can you please talke me through the process of what products I will need? Thank you

    • Clean with alcohol. Add more foam or batting to plump up any cushions that may unzip. Apply filler to damaged areas. Work with a glaze (color diluted with clear) for at least the first coat. If you want our assessment and detailed instructions, please submit photos in the evaluation.


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