How to Get Smell Out of Leather

How to Get Smell Out of Leather? Say Goodbye to Leather Odors

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Welcome to the world of leather care, where the elegance of leather meets the challenge of maintenance. Have you ever faced the dilemma of a favorite leather item starting to emit an unpleasant odor?

Fear not, as we delve into the art of keeping your leather treasures both aromatic and pristine. From the cozy leather couch in your living room to the stylish jacket in your wardrobe, we're here to guide you through the most effective strategies for odor removal and prevention.

Join us as we explore a range of solutions, from simple home remedies to professional treatments, ensuring your leather stays as fresh as the day you bought it.

Let's embark on this journey of olfactory and tactile satisfaction together!

Leather Backpack Brown
Leather Backpack Brown
Brown Leather Rucksack
Brown Leather Rucksack
Leather Laptop Bag
Leather Laptop Bag
Leather Laptop Backpack
Leather Laptop Backpack

I. Understanding Leather and Odors

1. Types of Leather and Their Characteristics

When we talk about leather, it's essential to understand that not all leathers are created equal. The type of leather greatly influences how it reacts to odors and how you should care for it. Let's dive into the two most common types: full-grain and top-grain leather.

a. Full-Grain vs. Top-Grain Leather

Full-Grain Leather: This is the highest quality leather available. Full-grain leather comes from the top layer of the hide and includes all the natural grain. I often recommend it for its durability and ability to develop a rich patina over time. However, its very nature makes it more susceptible to absorbing odors due to its porous surface.

Top-Grain Leather: A step below full-grain, top-grain leather has the surface layer sanded off, removing imperfections. It's thinner and more pliable than full-grain, making it a popular choice for high-end products. While it's less prone to absorbing odors than full-grain, it still requires careful maintenance to keep it smelling fresh.

b. Comparison Between Genuine Leather and Faux (PU) Leather in Odor Absorption

Now, let's compare genuine leather with its synthetic counterpart, faux (PU) leather. Genuine leather, encompassing both full-grain and top-grain, is organic and breathes, which means it absorbs odors more readily. On the other hand, faux leather, made from polyurethane, doesn't absorb odors to the same extent due to its non-porous nature. However, this doesn't mean it's immune to smell issues; odors can linger on the surface.

2. How Leather Absorbs Odors

Understanding the porous nature of leather is key to tackling odor problems. Leather, being a natural material, has pores that can trap odors. This characteristic makes it crucial to address spills and stains promptly to prevent them from seeping into the pores and causing lingering smells.

a. Porous Nature of Leather

The pores in leather are like tiny sponges, absorbing whatever they come into contact with. This includes body oils, sweat, smoke, and food odors. It's this porous quality that makes leather so unique but also presents a challenge in odor management.

b. Impact of Leather Items (Couches, Jackets, Bags) on Odor Treatment

Different leather items require different approaches when it comes to odor removal. A leather couch, for instance, is a large, stationary item that may require more intensive cleaning methods compared to a leather jacket or bag.

The size and usage of the item play a significant role in determining the best approach for odor removal. For instance, a leather bag that's regularly used and exposed to various environments might accumulate a range of odors, requiring a more versatile cleaning approach.

Leather Type Characteristics Odor Absorption
Full-Grain Leather Highest quality, includes the natural grain, develops a patina over time. High
Top-Grain Leather Surface layer sanded off, thinner and more pliable than full-grain. Moderate to High
Genuine Leather Made from leftover hide layers after the top is split, lower quality. Moderate
Bonded Leather Made from scraps and fibers bonded together, least durable. Low to Moderate
Nubuck Leather Top-grain leather that has been sanded or buffed, velvety surface. High
Suede Made from the underside of the skin, soft and pliable. High
Patent Leather Coated with a glossy, shiny finish, less breathable. Low
Pebbled Leather Embossed to have a bumpy texture, often used in accessories. Moderate
Aniline Leather Dyed with soluble dyes, retains natural surface, very soft and luxurious. High
Semi-Aniline Leather Similar to aniline but with a thin protective topcoat, more durable. Moderate to High

Understanding the type of leather you're dealing with and its characteristics is crucial in effectively managing and removing odors. Whether it's a luxurious full-grain leather sofa or a stylish top-grain leather jacket, each requires a tailored approach to keep them smelling fresh and prolong their life. 

II. Preventive Measures for Leather Odor

1. Proper Leather Storage

a. Ideal Conditions for Leather Storage

When it comes to preserving the pristine condition of leather goods, storage plays a pivotal role. Leather, being a natural and porous material, is particularly sensitive to its environment. The ideal storage conditions for leather items involve maintaining a balance in humidity and temperature. Excessive dryness can cause leather to crack, while too much moisture can lead to mold and mildew, which are common culprits of unpleasant odors.

To ensure your leather stays in top condition, store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Sunlight can fade the color of leather over time and dry it out, leading to brittleness. A well-ventilated area prevents moisture buildup, keeping mold at bay. For items like leather jackets or bags, using padded hangers or dust bags can provide additional protection against dust and direct contact with potentially damaging surfaces.

b. Tips to Prevent Odor Buildup

  1. Use Silica Gel Packets: These are excellent for absorbing excess moisture. Placing a few silica gel packets where you store your leather items can help maintain an optimal level of dryness.

  2. Regular Air-Out: Periodically airing out leather goods can prevent the accumulation of musty smells. This is particularly effective for items that are not used frequently.

  3. Avoid Plastic Bags: Storing leather in plastic bags can trap moisture, leading to mold and odor. Opt for breathable storage solutions like fabric bags or boxes with ventilation holes.

2. Regular Leather Maintenance

a. Cleaning Routines

Regular cleaning is essential for keeping leather odor-free. For everyday maintenance, a soft, dry cloth can be used to wipe down the surface, removing dust and light dirt. For a deeper clean, a damp cloth with a mild soap solution can be employed. It's crucial to avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as they can strip the natural oils from the leather, leading to dryness and cracking.

After cleaning, always allow the leather to air dry naturally. Avoid using heat sources like hair dryers, as they can cause uneven drying and potential damage.

b. Conditioning and Moisturizing

Leather conditioners play a vital role in maintaining the suppleness and health of leather. These products replenish the natural oils lost over time and with regular use. Conditioning your leather items every few months can significantly extend their lifespan and keep them looking fresh. Apply the conditioner with a soft cloth, gently working it into the leather in circular motions, and then wipe off any excess.

c. Avoiding Alcohol-Based Solutions and Products Like Febreze

While it might be tempting to use household cleaning products like alcohol-based solutions or fabric refreshers such as Febreze for a quick fix, these can be detrimental to leather. Alcohol can dry out and damage the leather's surface, while fabric refreshers are not designed for porous materials like leather and can leave residue that attracts more dirt and odors.

Proper leather care involves thoughtful storage, regular cleaning, and conditioning. By following these guidelines, you can significantly reduce the chances of odor buildup and maintain the beauty and integrity of your leather items for years to come. 

Leather Travel Bag
Leather Travel Bag
Large Leather Holdall
Large Leather Holdall
Leather Weekend Bag
Leather Weekend Bag
Leather Duffle Bag
Leather Duffle Bag

III. Identifying the Source of Leather Odor

When we talk about leather, whether it's your cherished sofa, a beloved jacket, or a frequently used handbag, understanding the source of any unpleasant odors is crucial. Leather, with its unique characteristics and porous nature, can be a magnet for various types of smells. Let's dive into the common culprits and how to assess the severity of these odors.

1. Common Odor Sources in Leather

  1. Mold and Mildew: These are perhaps the most notorious offenders when it comes to leather odors. Leather items exposed to moisture without proper drying can develop mold or mildew, leading to a musty, unpleasant smell. This is particularly common in humid environments or when leather items are stored improperly.

  2. Body Oils and Sweat: Our bodies naturally produce oils and sweat, which can transfer to leather items we use or wear regularly. Over time, these organic materials can penetrate the leather, causing an odor that's hard to miss. This is especially true for items like leather wristbands, gloves, or furniture.

  3. Spills and Stains: Accidental spills from food, drinks, or other substances can not only cause stains but also lead to odors. These spills, if not cleaned promptly, can seep deep into the leather, making the smell more challenging to remove.

2. Assessing the Severity of the Odor

Understanding the intensity and depth of the odor is key to choosing the right approach for removal.

  1. Surface Odors: These are odors that linger on the surface of the leather. They are usually easier to treat as they haven't penetrated deeply into the material. Surface odors can often be addressed with gentle cleaning and airing out the item.

  2. Deep-Seated Smells: These are more challenging, as they have penetrated deep into the leather's pores. Such odors often require more intensive cleaning methods and sometimes professional intervention.

3. Impact on Leather and Underlying Materials

The impact of these odors goes beyond just an unpleasant smell. For items like leather furniture, the odor can affect not just the leather itself but also the underlying materials, such as foam cushions. This dual impact can make odor removal more complex, as it's not just about treating the leather surface but also ensuring the materials beneath are odor-free.

In conclusion, identifying the source and assessing the severity of the odor are crucial steps in effectively treating leather odors. Whether it's a surface issue or a deeper problem, understanding these aspects helps in choosing the right approach for odor removal, ensuring your leather items remain both visually appealing and pleasantly fragrant. Remember, regular maintenance and prompt action in case of spills or exposure to moisture can go a long way in preserving the natural beauty and aroma of your leather goods.

IV. DIY Solutions for Removing Odors from Leather

1. Natural Remedies

a. Baking Soda Method

When it comes to removing unpleasant scents from leather items, I've found that baking soda is a remarkably effective and gentle option. This common household ingredient is known for its odor-absorbing properties, making it ideal for treating leather goods without causing damage.

How to Use:

  1. Light Dusting: Begin by lightly sprinkling baking soda over the leather surface. Ensure a thin, even coating.
  2. Resting Period: Allow the baking soda to sit on the leather for at least 24 hours. This duration gives it ample time to absorb the odors.
  3. Brush Off: After the waiting period, gently brush off the baking soda using a soft brush or cloth. Be thorough but gentle to avoid scratching the leather.

This method is particularly useful for items like leather bags, wallets, or shoes. However, for larger pieces like furniture, you might need to repeat the process a few times for optimal results.

b. Vinegar Solution

Vinegar, especially distilled white vinegar, is another household staple that works wonders in neutralizing odors. For darker leathers, apple cider vinegar is a safer choice as it's less likely to cause discoloration.

Step-by-Step Guide for Using a Vinegar Solution:

  1. Prepare the Solution: Mix equal parts of vinegar and water. For sensitive leather, you might want to dilute the vinegar further.
  2. Test First: Always perform a spot test on a hidden area to ensure the solution doesn't harm the leather.
  3. Application: Using a soft cloth, apply the solution sparingly to the leather surface. Avoid saturating the leather.
  4. Dry Naturally: Allow the leather to air dry completely. Avoid direct sunlight or heat sources.

Remember, while vinegar is effective, its initial strong smell will dissipate as it dries, leaving your leather odor-free.

c. Coffee Grounds Technique

Coffee grounds are not just for brewing your morning cup; they're also excellent at absorbing odors. This method is particularly suitable for enclosed spaces like drawers or closets where leather items are stored.

How to Apply:

  1. Place Coffee Grounds: Fill a breathable bag (like a sock or pantyhose) with dry, fresh coffee grounds.
  2. Position Near Leather: Place the bag close to or inside the leather item.
  3. Wait it Out: Let it sit for a few days, checking periodically. The coffee grounds will gradually absorb the odor.

2. Commercial Leather Deodorizers

a. Recommended Products

In the market, there are several products specifically designed for leather odor removal. Look for options that are non-toxic and leather-safe. Brands like Leather Honey and Weiman make specialized cleaners and deodorizers that are well-regarded in the leather care community.

b. Application Techniques

  1. Follow Instructions: Always read and adhere to the product's instructions.
  2. Small Amounts: Apply the deodorizer in small amounts, using a soft cloth or sponge.
  3. Even Application: Ensure an even distribution across the leather surface.
  4. Wipe Off Excess: After application, gently wipe off any excess product.
  5. Dry Naturally: Allow the leather to air dry away from direct heat or sunlight.

3. Wrapping Leather Items in Newspaper or Packing Paper for Odor Absorption

An often overlooked but highly effective method for removing odors from smaller leather items is wrapping them in newspaper or packing paper. This technique leverages the absorbent nature of paper to draw out unpleasant smells.

How to Implement:

  1. Clean the Leather First: Before wrapping, ensure the leather is clean and dry. Any moisture can cause damage when in contact with paper for extended periods.
  2. Wrap Tightly: Wrap the leather item completely in newspaper or packing paper. The idea is to create a cocoon that allows the paper to absorb the odor directly from the leather.
  3. Seal in a Container: Place the wrapped item in a plastic container or a resealable bag. This step is crucial as it confines the leather and paper together, enhancing the odor absorption process.
  4. Wait for a Few Days: Let the item sit for several days, up to a week. The duration depends on the intensity of the odor.
  5. Unwrap and Air Out: After the waiting period, unwrap the leather and let it air out. The smell of the paper and any lingering odors should dissipate.

This method is particularly useful for small leather items like gloves, wallets, or belts. For larger items, this might not be practical, but it's a fantastic, cost-effective solution for those smaller pieces in your collection.

By incorporating these methods, you can effectively remove odors from your leather items, ensuring they remain fresh and well-maintained. Remember, regular care and prompt attention to spills or stains can significantly reduce the likelihood of persistent odors in your cherished leather goods.

Vintage Laptop Rucksack
Vintage Laptop Rucksack
Vintage Canvas Backpack
Vintage Canvas Backpack
Retro Canvas Rucksack
Retro Canvas Rucksack
Waxed Canvas Backpack
Waxed Canvas Backpack

V. Advanced Leather Odor Removal Techniques

Deep Cleaning Methods

When it comes to removing stubborn odors from leather, sometimes a more thorough approach is necessary. This is where deep cleaning methods come into play. As a leather enthusiast, I've found that using leather-safe cleaning agents is crucial to preserving the integrity of the material while effectively eliminating odors.

Choosing Leather-Safe Cleaning Agents

Firstly, it's important to select a cleaning agent that is specifically designed for leather. These products are formulated to clean without damaging the leather's natural oils. Look for cleaners that are pH-balanced and free from harsh chemicals like ammonia or bleach. Brands like Lexol and Leather Honey are popular choices among leather care experts.

Step-by-Step Cleaning Process

  1. Preparation: Before applying any cleaner, gently wipe the leather surface with a dry microfiber cloth to remove loose dirt and dust.

  2. Application: Apply a small amount of the leather cleaner to a clean, soft cloth. It's always a good idea to test the cleaner on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn't cause discoloration.

  3. Gentle Cleaning: Rub the cloth in a circular motion over the surface of the leather. Avoid scrubbing too hard, as this can damage the leather.

  4. Wiping Off: After cleaning, wipe off any excess cleaner with another clean cloth. Allow the leather to air dry away from direct sunlight and heat sources.

  5. Conditioning: Once the leather is dry, apply a leather conditioner. This step is vital as it replenishes the natural oils in the leather, keeping it supple and preventing it from drying out and cracking.

Professional Leather Treatment

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, certain odors can be particularly tenacious. In such cases, it might be time to consider professional help.

When to Consider Professional Help

  • Persistent Odors: If the smell persists after trying DIY methods.
  • Valuable Items: For expensive or sentimental leather items, professional treatment ensures safe and effective odor removal.
  • Complex Stains: If the odor is accompanied by tough stains or mold.

Services Offered by Leather Specialists

Leather specialists offer a range of services, from deep cleaning and deodorizing to repair and restoration. They use specialized techniques and products that are not typically available to the average consumer. These professionals can also provide tailored advice for maintaining your specific type of leather.

Store-Bought Leather Cleaners for Larger Surfaces

For larger leather items like furniture or car interiors, store-bought leather cleaners can be a practical solution. These products are designed to tackle larger surface areas and are often more potent than regular leather cleaners.

  • Choosing the Right Product: Look for cleaners that are suitable for the type of leather you have. Some products are formulated for specific leather types, like suede or nubuck.

  • Application: Follow the instructions on the product label. Usually, these involve spraying the cleaner onto the surface and wiping it with a cloth.

  • Regular Maintenance: After cleaning, regular maintenance with a leather conditioner is essential to keep the leather in top condition.

By following these advanced techniques, you can effectively remove even the most stubborn odors from your leather items. Remember, the key is to be gentle and patient – leather is a durable yet delicate material that requires proper care to maintain its beauty and functionality.

VI. How to Prevent Futur Odor Issues in Leather?

Preventing odor issues in leather is as crucial as knowing how to remove them. As someone who has spent years appreciating and caring for leather, I can assure you that a few proactive steps can significantly reduce the likelihood of unpleasant smells. Here’s a guide to keeping your leather items fresh and odor-free.

1. Understanding Leather’s Needs

Leather, being a natural material, has unique needs. It's porous and can absorb odors from its environment. Understanding this can help you take the right preventive measures.

a. Regular Cleaning

  • Gentle Dusting: Regularly dust your leather items with a soft cloth. This prevents the buildup of dirt and grime that can contribute to odors.
  • Prompt Stain Removal: Address spills and stains immediately. The longer a substance sits on leather, the more likely it is to cause an odor.

b. Proper Storage

  • Ventilation: Store leather in well-ventilated areas. Leather needs to breathe, and poor ventilation can lead to musty odors.
  • Avoid Plastic Bags: Never store leather in plastic bags or containers. Use breathable fabric covers instead.

2. Conditioning and Moisturizing

Leather loses its natural oils over time, which can lead to dryness and cracking. Dry leather can absorb and retain odors more easily.

  • Regular Conditioning: Use a quality leather conditioner every few months. This keeps the leather supple and less prone to absorbing unwanted smells.
  • Avoid Over-Conditioning: Too much conditioner can clog leather pores, leading to other issues. Follow the product instructions carefully.

3. Lifestyle Considerations

Your daily habits can impact the longevity and freshness of your leather items.

  • Avoid Smoking Near Leather: Smoke can deeply penetrate leather, leaving a persistent odor.
  • Pet Care: If you have pets, regularly clean and groom them to minimize the transfer of odors to your leather furniture.

4. Using Natural Deodorizers

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, leather might start to develop a slight odor. In such cases, natural deodorizers can be a lifesaver.

  • Baking Soda: A natural odor absorber. Sprinkle it lightly on the leather, let it sit for a few hours, then vacuum it off.
  • Sunlight: Occasionally airing out leather items in indirect sunlight can help reduce odors.


The journey of maintaining the freshness and integrity of leather is both an art and a science. From understanding the unique characteristics of leather to implementing regular cleaning and conditioning routines, each step plays a vital role in preserving its quality and preventing odor issues.

Whether you're dealing with a cherished leather jacket, a luxurious sofa, or a treasured handbag, the key lies in proactive care and timely intervention.

Remember, leather is not just a material; it's a living entity that ages, breathes, and requires attention to maintain its beauty and functionality. By following the guidelines and tips shared in this article, you can ensure that your leather items remain a source of pride and joy, free from unpleasant odors and full of life.

Canvas Duffle Bag
Canvas Duffle Bag
Weekend Travel Bag
Weekend Travel Bag
Canvas Overnight Bag
Canvas Overnight Bag
Vintage Travel Bag
Vintage Travel Bag


Can all types of leather be treated for odor removal at home?

Most types of leather can be treated at home using gentle, leather-safe methods. However, delicate leathers like suede or nubuck may require special care or professional treatment to avoid damage.

How often should leather be conditioned to prevent odors?

Leather should be conditioned every 3-6 months, depending on the usage and environmental conditions. Regular conditioning helps maintain the leather's natural oils, preventing dryness and reducing odor absorption.

Are there any risks in using home remedies like vinegar on leather?

While diluted vinegar can be effective in neutralizing odors, it's important to test it on a small, inconspicuous area first. Vinegar is acidic and can potentially discolor or damage certain types of leather.

What are the signs that leather needs professional odor removal treatment?

Persistent odors that don't respond to home treatments, visible mold or mildew, and deep-seated stains are signs that professional treatment may be necessary.

How can I differentiate between surface odors and deep-seated smells in leather?

Surface odors typically dissipate after cleaning and airing out. Deep-seated smells linger despite these efforts and may penetrate deeper into the leather's pores or the padding beneath upholstery.

Is it safe to use baking soda on colored leather?

Baking soda is generally safe for colored leather, but it's advisable to do a spot test first. Apply it to a small, hidden area to ensure it doesn't affect the color or texture.

Can humidity affect the smell of leather, and how can it be managed?

High humidity can lead to mold and mildew growth, contributing to odors. Managing humidity with dehumidifiers and ensuring good air circulation can help mitigate this issue.

What are the best practices for storing leather items to prevent odor buildup?

Store leather in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area. Avoid plastic covers and opt for breathable materials like cloth bags or covers.

How can spills and stains be treated quickly to prevent odor in leather?

Blot spills immediately with a clean, dry cloth. Avoid rubbing, as this can push the spill deeper into the leather. For stains, use a leather-specific cleaner following the manufacturer's instructions.

Does the type of leather affect the choice of odor removal method?

Yes, different types of leather have varying levels of porosity and sensitivity. For example, suede and nubuck require gentler methods compared to more robust leathers like full-grain or top-grain.

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📌 Mastering Leather Repair: A Complete Guide for Longevity

📌 How to Clean Faux Leather? Proven Cleaning & Care Strategies

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Baptiste is an adventurer with a passion for urban and wilderness exploration and adventure, and a lover of vintage objects with timeless charm. As a Founding member of the Eiken team, he tries to share his passion and expertise for travel and vintage fashion through his articles.

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