How to Clean White Leather

Take extra care when cleaning white leather garments and accessories. Everyday dirt is easy to clean away, but stains are harder to remove.

When the distinctive white leather of your shoes, purse or jacket picks up a scuff or stain, you need to be extra careful about cleaning or removing it -- you don't want to make it worse. Concentrate your cleaning efforts on the spot so it doesn't grow or spread. Conditioning the leather garment or accessory when it's new helps keep it clean as well, and makes it easier to remove dirt.


Rub down your white leather garment, purse or shoes with leather conditioner when it's new, and periodically thereafter -- especially with frequent wear. You can buy leather conditioner or make your own with 1 part white vinegar, 2 parts linseed oil. But consult the care label before using any conditioner.

Everyday Cleaning

Dust and dirt show up right away on white leather -- because it's white -- but you can easily clean this ordinary soil away. Just wipe your white leather clothes and accessories periodically with a dry microfiber cloth to get rid of everyday smudges. Wet the cloth to remove stubborn dirt. Apply a gentle soap and rinse if need be, but don't soak the leather.

Tough Marks and Stains

Food and Oil Stains

Treat food stains -- especially from tomato products -- and greasy stains immediately for the best chance to completely remove them.

  1. Apply a bit of cornstarch to the cloth.

  2. Rub the cornstarch directly into the stain. You can rub fairly hard -- you want the stain to absorb the cornstarch.

  3. Let the cornstarch sit for 15 minutes, and then brush it away with the cloth.

  4. If the stain remains, repeat the process a few times. Alternatively, blot the stain with a slightly damp melamine foam "eraser." Test it first on an inconspicuous part of the white leather.

Ink Stains

  • Ink may be the worst stain your white leather falls victim to, and the most difficult to remove. Again, treat the stain as soon as possible, because ink contains dye, which absorbs fast and can permanently change the leather's color.

    1. Apply rubbing alcohol to the cotton swab.

    2. Dab the stain very carefully with the alcohol. Don't rub the stain -- this can cause the ink to spread. Repeat a few times if necessary, using a clean cotton swab each time.

    3. If the stain comes out, wet the cloth with a soapy water solution. Use a gentle soap such as delicate-garment laundry detergent or regular hand soap. Wipe the area of the stain with the wet cloth, and then wet another part of the cloth with water alone, and rinse off the soap. Don't soak the leather.

    4. Warning

      If the ink stain does not come out, it's best not to keep trying different methods. Caustic cleaners can dry out and damage the leather and even remove the white coloring in some cases. Your best bet is to take the white leather piece to a professional leather cleaner.

  • If the white leather picks up a stain -- especially from ink, dark colored substances or grease -- you need to apply a bit more effort.