Steam Cleaning Leather: Is It a Good Idea?

steam cleaning leather

Leather interiors are beautiful, sleek, and luxurious, but they also become grimy and weathered after a few weeks of driving. We’ve been asked on more than one occasion if we recommend steam cleaning leather seats, and we wanted to open a discussion about the topic. 

Leather vs. Water

Generally, leather and water are considered incompatible. That’s why when you get new leather shoes, the store often tries to sell you a leather protectant/sealant to prevent water stains. Water can also cause leather to stretch and lose some of its suppleness. 

So does the fact that steam is gaseous instead of liquid change the way it interacts with leather? Yes. Spraying water directly onto leather is different than carefully steaming the surface with the appropriate distance between the steamer and the leather. 

What Does Steam Cleaning Leather Actually Do?

Steam cleaning’s biggest benefit is that it destroys germs. Having said that, steam cleaning leather is not a technique that should be used frequently. We like to think of it more as a once a year event that’s intended to kill germs. Most people don’t have a steam cleaner in their house, but many professional detailers use this method.

If you’re opting for a germ-killing clean, have your interior treated by a professional. Attempting to steam clean on your own can mean irreparably damaged leather. If the temperature isn’t just right, if the steamer is too close to the surface, or if its held on one area for too long, your leather can become stretched and rippled.  

Other Methods

Steam cleaning doesn’t remove stains either, so you need to make sure you have the right general leather cleaner and spot cleaner in your detailing inventory.

You don’t need to go to a professional detailer to do a general clean of your leather interior. You can just spray your general leather cleaner onto the surface and agitate it with a soft bristle brush before wiping the leather. Save steam cleaning for when your leather interior looks truly sad. 

Questions? Comments?

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