How To Get Water Stains Out Of Leather: The Complete Guide

Water often helps to get rid of stains, but leather is the material on which water can leaves stains. In this step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the process of removing water stains from leather effectively and safely.

Inspect the Leather Type and Stain Severity 

When deciding which cleaning solution to use for removing water stains from leather, it is crucial to consider both the type of leather and the severity of the stain. Here are some guidelines to help you choose the most suitable solution for your situation:

  • Mild water stains on finished leather: For mild water stains on finished leather items, a simple mixture of warm water and mild dish soap can often be effective. Dampen a sponge or cloth with the soapy solution and gently wipe the stain without saturating the leather.
  • Moderate to severe water stains on finished leather: For more stubborn or severe water stains, rubbing alcohol or a white vinegar solution can be a more potent option. Apply the solution to the stain using a cotton ball or damp cloth, and gently rub in circular motions. Always test the solution on a hidden area of the leather first to ensure it does not cause discoloration or damage.
  • Water stains on suede or unfinished leather: Cleaning suede and nubuck require a different approach, as mentioned earlier. Dampen a lint-free cloth and wet the leather’s surface from the stain to the edge, then dry it evenly. For more difficult stains, use a suede brush or a specialized suede cleaner, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Persistent water stains or delicate leather items: If the water stain remains after trying the above methods or if you are dealing with a particularly delicate or expensive leather item, consider using a commercial leather cleaner specifically designed for water stain removal. Follow the product’s label instructions for the best results.

In all cases, remember to test the chosen solution on an inconspicuous part of the leather before applying it to the stain to avoid potential damage or discoloration.

Act Quickly!

When a water stain is fresh, it is more likely to be lifted easily as it has not yet penetrated deep into the leather fibers. If left untreated, the water can cause the leather to become discolored or even lead to the growth of mold and mildew. In some cases, a prolonged water stain can weaken the leather, causing it to become brittle and crack over time. By acting promptly, you can minimize the chances of permanent damage to your leather items and maintain their quality and appearance.

Step 1: Test Treatments on a Discreet Area

Before applying any cleaning solution or treatment to the stain, always test it on a hidden part of the leather to ensure it doesn’t cause any discoloration or damage. Leather can be a delicate material, and some cleaning solutions or treatments may react negatively with the leather’s natural oils or dyes. This can result in further staining, discoloration, or damage to the leather’s texture. By testing the treatment on an inconspicuous area, you can ensure that the cleaning solution or treatment is safe to use on the rest of the leather item without causing additional harm.

Step 2: Dab the Stain with a Lint-Free Cloth

Use a clean, lint-free cloth, preferably a white microfiber cloth, to dab the stain gently without wiping. This will help to lift the stain without spreading it further. If this is not a new stain, then you can skip this step.

Step 3: Apply Leather Cleaner

Depending on the type of leather and severity of the stain, apply a leather cleaner or an alternative cleaning solution, such as rubbing alcohol, white vinegar, or a mixture of warm water and mild dish soap. Apply the cleaner or solution evenly and gently using a soft, lint-free cloth or cotton ball.

Remove water stains from leather

Gently rub the damp cloth or cotton ball in circular motions, starting at the center of the stain and working your way outwards. Be patient and avoid applying too much pressure, as this may damage the leather.

Step 4: Clean and Dry the Leather

Once you have finished treating the stain, use a clean, dry cloth to remove any excess cleaner or solution. Allow the leather to air dry naturally, avoiding direct sunlight or artificial heat sources that could cause the leather to shrink or crack.

Step 5: Apply Leather Conditioner

After the leather is dry, apply a leather conditioner or Leather Saver to restore the leather’s softness and protect it from further damage. Make sure to apply the conditioner evenly and buff off any excess residue.

Step 6: Assess the Results

After allowing the treated area to settle overnight, assess the results to see if the water stain has been successfully removed. If the stain is still visible, you may need to repeat steps, applying a second treatment to remove the stain completely.

Step 7: Maintain and Protect Your Leather

To keep your leather items in pristine condition and prevent future water stains, make sure to clean and condition the leather regularly, following the manufacturer’s care instructions. Address any water stains as soon as they appear to minimize damage.

After removing water stains from leather

Additional Tips

Here are some additional tips to help remove water stains from leather:

Avoid Over-saturating the Leather

When applying any cleaning solution or treatment, be careful not to use too much liquid, as over-saturating the leather can cause further damage. Use a damp cloth or cotton ball and apply the solution sparingly.

Use a Soft-Bristled Brush for Textured Leather

For textured leather, such as pebbled or embossed leather, using a soft-bristled brush can help to clean the crevices and lift the water stain more effectively. Gently brush the stain in circular motions, taking care not to damage the leather.

Rotate the Cloth or Cotton Ball

While treating the stain, make sure to rotate the cloth or cotton ball to a clean area as it becomes soiled. This will prevent the spread of the stain and ensure that you are lifting the stain effectively.

Store Leather Items Properly

To prevent water stains and other types of damage, store your leather items in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat sources. Use breathable fabric covers or dust bags to protect your leather items when not in use.

Regularly Condition Your Leather Items

In addition to cleaning and removing water stains, regularly conditioning your leather items can help to maintain their softness, suppleness, and resistance to water damage. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for leather conditioning frequency and products.


By following this step-by-step guide, you can effectively remove water stains from your leather items and keep them looking their best. Remember that acting quickly and using the right techniques and products are essential for successful stain removal and maintaining the quality and appearance of your leather.


Can I use a hairdryer after treating the water stain?

It is not recommended to use a hairdryer or other heat sources to dry leather, as they can cause the leather to shrink, crack, or become discolored. Instead, allow the leather to air dry naturally in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight and heat sources.

How can I prevent water stains on my leather?

To minimize the risk of water stains, avoid exposing your leather items to water or moisture whenever possible. If your leather items do come into contact with water, wipe them dry immediately with a clean, lint-free cloth, or leather wipes. Regularly conditioning your leather items can also help to create a protective barrier against water damage.

Are there any specific types of leather that require a different approach to remove water stains?

Suede and unfinished leather require a slightly different approach to remove water stains. Dampen a lint-free cloth and wet the leather’s surface from the stain to the edge, then dry it evenly. For more stubborn stains, you may need to use a suede brush or a specialized suede cleaner following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Can water stains on leather become permanent?

Yes, if water stains are left untreated for an extended period, they can become permanent or more challenging to remove. The longer the water stain remains on the leather, the deeper it can penetrate into the leather fibers, leading to discoloration, mold and mildew growth, or weakened leather. It is essential to address water stains as soon as they appear to minimize the chances of permanent damage.

Is it possible to remove water stains from leather at home?

Most water stains can be effectively removed at home using the techniques and tips provided in the step-by-step guide and the tips section. However, if you have tried these methods without success or if you are dealing with an expensive or delicate leather item, it may be best to consult a professional leather cleaner or restorer to ensure the stain is removed without causing further damage.