How to Deodorize Leather

Leather is a beautiful and durable material. However, it has a tendency to absorb odors. After a period, things like pet dander, body perspiration, and cigarette smoke penetrate the leather. When this happens, the leather will begin to have an unpleasant odor.

So, what do you do when your leather shoes, purse, or expensive leather couch begin to smell bad? Here are five methods that will explain how to deodorize leather. Depending on the cause and extent of the smell, you may be able to blend a couple of these techniques.

Method 1 – Good Old Air and Sunshine

Fresh air and sunshine can often remove mild odors from leather. This is often the simplest option for how to deodorize leather. It’s a workable choice for smaller things such as handbags, purses, or even smelly leather wristwatch bands.

However, it might become a problem to lug large pieces of leather furniture outdoors, so you can use the fresh air and sunshine to deodorize it. Take care to remember a couple precautions. Limited sunshine will not fade the leather, but don’t overdo it.

Five to six hours is usually enough time in the sun. In addition, never allow your leather to get wet. You can also leave leather out for a number of days if it’s not placed in the sun. Sometimes the fresh air alone will be enough to get rid of the bad odor.

Method 2 – Baking Soda Solution

The best strategy for how to deodorize leather is to start with the simplest solution and work up to using cleaners. The second method isn’t very involved and requires only a box of standard baking soda. Baking soda is great for absorbing all kinds of odors.

Baking soda can eliminate moderate odors in leather that cause a stale smell. It works in the same way that a box of baking soda works in your refrigerator. Sprinkle some baking soda on the leather and allow it to sit for a few hours. Use a soft brush to spread it as evenly as possible.

When the smell seems to be down in between the cushions, you can sprinkle some baking soda on a sheet of newspaper, roll it up and stick the roll in the gaps between cushions. You can leave these newspaper rolls for days if necessary.

The baking soda method works really well for large leather items like couches. After a few hours, simply wipe it off, or use a soft brush and a vacuum. Small leather items like wallets and watch bands can be placed in a Zip-lock bag. Add a sprinkle of baking soda, close the bag and shake, and then leave it for a few hours, or even a couple days.

Method 3 – Wipe Out Odors with White Vinegar

Another common household product, which is a method of how to deodorize leather, is white vinegar. White vinegar will not only remove the odor from leather, but it is also a gentle cleanser.

In fact, a quick swipe of a soft cloth dampened with white vinegar is a way to prevent odors in leather. It’s a great method for car seats, dashboards, or steering wheel covers. The important thing is to get the mixture right. You can add a drop or two of linseed oil to this solution to add a natural moisturizer to the leather.

Straight white vinegar will not harm your leather, but it will take longer for that smell to dissipate. Mix a solution of one-half white vinegar and one-half water. Since water can have chemicals that stain leather, it’s best to use distilled water only.

For small items like handbags, simply dampen a soft cloth and wipe down the leather. If you have large things like furniture or suitcases, pour your solution in a spray bottle. Lightly mist the leather making sure you cover all surfaces, including the underside of couch cushions.

Allow the solution to air dry for 10 to 15 minutes in a well-ventilated place. Take a soft cloth and wipe the leather down. While there may be a slight smell of vinegar, this will quickly dissipate. You can follow up the white vinegar with a leather cleaner or a professional leather treatment.

Method 4 – Saddle Up with Saddle Soap

Another excellent method for removing odors from leather is saddle soap. This is a useful strategy when the odor is caused by a built of dirt and grime such as body or pet odor. It’s a pretty simple method as well.

Take a bar of saddle soap and work up a slight lather on a damp washcloth. Gently scrub the leather in a circular motion, being sure to work the saddle soap deep into the leather grain. If the item is extremely dirty, you may have to repeat this step a couple times.

Allow the soap to sit for just a few minutes, and then wipe it down again with a fresh damp rag. Again, using distilled water will prevent the chemicals in hard water from damaging your leather. Allow the leather to dry and add a leather protective cream or treatment.

Method 5 – Professional Leather Cleaners

The last method for how to deodorize leather is the safest, but it requires you to purchase leather cleaning products. There are homemade solutions, but since your leather is valuable, spending a little extra money for a professional leather cleaner is recommended.

Most smells in leather are caused by dirt and grime buildup on the leather surface. A good cleaning will usually eliminate the odor. One benefit of using this method is that the product will come with instructions. Be certain to follow these precisely.

Even professional leather cleaners can harm your valuable leather items if you don’t follow the instructions. If you use leather cleaner, always follow up the cleaning process with a coat of leather protection.

Some cleaners have a protective quality in them already, but not all. Again, read the instructions thoroughly before applying any type of cleaning product to your leather. When you use a leather cleaner periodically, you can often prevent odors from ever happening.

Method 6 – Dry Out Wet Leather Immediately

If your leather is wet or moldy, or has mildew on it, you need to remove it right away. Moisture can permanently damage leather and will create a smell that will be challenging to get out.

Here are some methods you can use to dry out leather:

  • Use a blow-dryer on low heat. Don’t bring it too close to the leather, as that can cause cracking or chipping in the leather. Run it at a distance over the leather to soak up moisture and avoid water stains.
  • Place it somewhere in your home that gets indirect sunlight. Make sure it isn’t direct sunlight, as this can cause the leather to chip, crack, or wear out. Choose somewhere by a window that filters sunlight, or behind a screen.
  • Use a dry, clean cloth to wipe it dry. This is especially helpful when attempting to dry a leather jacket, leather shoes, or a leather purse. Don’t use alcohol-based or odor-masking products, such as perfume. The chemicals in these can get into the leather’s pores and potentially damage it.


These methods for how to deodorize leather work on furniture, clothing, shoes or other things like handbags and suitcases. Depending on the cause, you may have to use more than one method to completely deodorize the leather. If you’ve deodorized leather using any of these strategies, tell us how it worked. In addition, if you think we missed something, let us know about that as well.

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