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Article: What Products Are Not Suitable for Use on Leather?

woman wearing leather jacket

What Products Are Not Suitable for Use on Leather?

Want to fix a leather item, like a purse or your car's upholstery, but aren't sure what to do? Getting further advice everywhere you turn? Keep these tips in mind, and you won't turn a minor issue into a problem that gets worse!

What's a Good Rule of Thumb When Dealing with Leather?

Use an appropriate product, such as a leather conditioner or protectant. If you're not sure what's best, ask a leather repair expert. A good rule of thumb is to always check with a professional first. Never use water to clean or fix leather, as it may cause perishing. Avoid cleaning liquids like Windex because they can be too strong for your leather.

Products That Might Ruin Leather

Here are some of the most common products that will ruin leather:

1. Markers and Pens

Markers and pens will eventually stop writing or dry up, but not before leaving a permanent mark on your leather. Be sure to check your pen often because they are known to start leaking and cause damage.

2. Fingernail Polish Remover

This stuff may remove the polish from your nails, but it can damage your leather too. If you have a nasty stain, try using a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a Q-tip. Test it first in an inconspicuous area, so you're not dealing with unwanted surprises.

3. Bleach

Bleach will lighten your leather, but it won't be permanent. If you want to lighten a particular area of your leather, be sure to only use bleach on a small site, such as a small scratch. Otherwise, you'll end up with a light patch on your otherwise dark leather.

4. Conditioners and Protectants with Acetone

There are acetone-free options. If a product touts its ability to clean leather quickly but has a name that contains the word acetone, you might want to avoid it.

5. Hair Spray

Hair spray will harden leather as it dries and causes cracking. It's also challenging to wash out. If you want to keep your leather soft and supple, avoid using hair spray.

6. Oven Cleaner

While you may successfully remove the grease or the food stuck on your leather, the residue that the oven cleaner leaves behind makes it hard to get your leather looking brand new again.

7. Shoe Polish

Shoe polish on leather can dry out the leather and cause cracking. A light coat of leather conditioner or baby oil on a leather wipe is a great alternative. See if conditioner and protectant options come in a polish form. If you feel you must use shoe polish, apply it in small, thin layers.

8. Window Cleaner

Window cleaner is too strong for most leathers and can cause residue, discolouring and damage. Instead, use a mild soap and water mixture, a leather wipe or a product like Leather CPR to clean leather.


Leather can be a pretty big investment, and you don't want to ruin it! If you're not sure whether or not you can use a particular product on your leather, try a small test area first. If you ruin your leather, try professional cleaning and restoration services, such as the ones found on Keep Me Clean.

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