How To Clean a Leather Wallet


Clean Leather Wallet

What happens if you drop your leather wallet in a mud puddle or worse? What if you spill food on it or accidentally mark it with a pen? You can’t send it to the dry cleaners or throw it in the wash. What cleaners are safe to use on leather?

We’ve tested the best cleaning methods for your money and card-holding accessories along with some quick DIY stain removal and leather conditioner mixtures.

What Not to Use on Leather

First off, if you want to preserve the leather, do not use cleansers with bleach, ammonia, petroleum, rough cloths, brushes, or even paper towels. Bleach and ammonia cleansers can dry out the leather, and petroleum-based products will clog the natural pores of the hide. Rough surfaces can scratch the wallet’s surface.

It’s best to use white cloths or natural sponges. Dyed products can bleed when using some cleansers, effectively staining the wallet while it cleans it other debris. Using the wrong cleansers are especially damaging. Dried out leather will crack and split, completely running its durability.

You’ll also want to go easy on the water. Water or excess liquid of any kind will soak into and stain leather, especially if it was tanned using plant products. A good rule of thumb is to never wet the surface of your wallet. Rather, get the cleaning pad damp, not dripping, and clean the wallet quickly. When you’re finished, pat it dry with a clean cloth. Be sure to use distilled water instead of tap water. Tap water contains chlorine and other minerals that can damage leather.

Basic Cleaning

If you have documentation for your wallet, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s cleaning suggestions. For higher quality wallets from well-known brands, you might be able to locate cleaning instructions on the company’s website. If specific instructions are not available, follow these steps.

Materials Needed

  • Distilled water
  • Soft cloth or microfiber towel
  • Body, facial soap, or white vinegar
  • Bowl or small pail
  • Dry sponge
  • Oil-based leather conditioner

To start, try using a combination of soap and olive oil on a microfiber pad or on a soft and clean hand towel. You can also use white vinegar instead of soap and olive oil. To avoid damaging the leather, especially if you’re not sure what quality of leather you’re working with, apply the solution to a small spot to make sure the leather's color does not change.

If all seems well, apply the mixture to the rest of the wallet and wipe it with the damp towel until you get rid of all spots. Rinse the rag before and then wipe off the soap's residue. Again, be careful not to get the wallet too went since leather is not water-resistant. Pat the wallet dry with a new cloth or sponge. You can then polish the surface using leather conditioner, olive oil, or any leather-friendly moisturizer.

Removing Stains

You might notice some stains remaining after the initial cleaning process. Different types of stains call for different treatment.

Ink Stains

Use rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover. These household necessities can eliminate ink marks successfully, but be careful of removing color from your leather as well. Dip a cotton ball in the acetone or ordinary rubbing alcohol and blot the tarnish lightly. Refrain from rubbing to avoid spreading the ink. Continue blotting until the stain fades. Wipe the area with a damp cloth and then dry it using a clean, soft towel. If you notice color fading from the leather, stop. Let the stain remain or move on to the next solution. The alcohol removal method does dry the leather, so make sure to apply more leather conditioner as the wallet dries.

Oil and Grease Stains

To do away with grease or oil spots, apply some cornstarch or baking soda using a moist cloth. Keep the mixture on the wallet for several hours or even overnight. The cornstarch or baking soda absorbs the oil stains. Remove the powder residues using a soft fabric. For older stains, you’ll need a little more elbow grease to combat the grease. With a cornstarch mixture on the wallet, rub the wallet until the friction warms your fingers. The cornstarch will absorb the oil the heat loosens. Brush the powder away. Repeat these steps if some stains remain, then apply conditioner.

White Leather Stain Removal

For white leather, mix a ¼ cup of vinegar and ½ cup of olive oil in a dish. Pat the mixture onto the stain and let it stand for five minutes before wiping it off with a damp cloth. Apply conditioner to keep the leather supple.

General Stains

You can combine equal parts lemon juice and cream of tartar as a general stain remover for light-colored leather wallets. Apply the mixture to the affected area and let stand for half an hour. Remove mixture with a soft, damp, cloth and apply your conditioner.

Homemade Leather Conditioners

Besides stain removal mixtures, you can also create your own alternative leather conditioners from common household products.

White Vinegar and Linseed Oil

Mix one part of white vinegar with two parts of Linseed oil, also known as flax oil or flaxseed. The colorless and smell-free oil comes from the flax plant. Use a soft towel or cloth to apply mixture Allow the solution to rest for 12 hours, then remove any excess with a soft cloth.

Cocoa Butter, Beeswax, and Almond Oil

Mix one part cocoa butter, one part beeswax, and two parts almond oil. Warm the ingredients until they melt. Once the mixture cools down, massage it into the leather with your fingers. Remove the excess with a dry, soft cloth.

Water Damage Recovery

If your wallet does get soaked, you can reduce the damage done with tactical drying methods. First, never use a hair dryer or heat-dry leather. It will overly dry the material, causing it to shrink and crack. Pat the wallet dry with a clean, soft cloth. Then lay it flat on a towel. Stuff the pockets with paper or tissue paper to simulate a full (not overstuffed) wallet to help it retain its shape. Never hang your wallet as the material will sag and dry in a misshapen form.

Prolonging the Life of Your Wallet

Here are some extra care tips for keeping your wallet in top condition.

1. Don’t overstuff your wallet. Leather will stretch if you load it beyond the intended capacity. Pockets will become looser and could pull away from the stitching. Always load your wallet slots and pockets with the intended number of cards or bills. If it can fit a key or extra inserts, great! If it can’t, don’t force it or you’ll be buying a new wallet sooner than you want.

2. Don’t sit on your wallet. The best wallet designs have become slimmer and front-pocket friendly. If you have a small enough wallet, move it to the front to avoid sitting on deforming the shape. Your rear and back will also thank you for the additional comfort. You’ll have better posture and fewer back problems in the long run.


Be careful when cleaning or removing stains from your leather wallet. Leather doesn’t play well with most chemical cleaners. It’s best to use the lightest touch possible with household products rather than cleansers marketed for other uses. Be careful to not to over-wet your wallet and always apply a moisturizer to preserve its longevity. Help your wallet retain its original shape by not over-stuffing it and not sitting on it.

Featured Reviews

Recent Reviews

Recent Articles

Featured Reviews

  • Made in Mayhem Clark Passport Wallet
    Best Passport Wallets For 2018

    The 5 best passport wallet designs. Rated for materials and durability, capacity and convenience, and overall price value.

  • Mutbak Sentry
    Men's Credit Card Wallets

    The top 5 men's credit card wallet designs for durability, design, and price. Full-grain leather to polycarbonate shells.

  • Mutbak Bunker 11
    Money Clip Cardholder Wallets

    Comparing the best leather money clip card holder models from $8.95-95. Full and top grain to genuine leather. Carrying capacity and color options.

Recent Reviews