Since 2016


May 17, 2023 3 min read

by Monique Youzwa

Monique has been a full-time freelance writer for over 5 years, plus has a few fiction credits under her belt and is currently working on a novel. When not writing, she spends her time reading, playing video games, hiking, and camping with her husband and daughter.


As durable as it is, leather can still get dusty, dirty, and stained, especially those regularly-used pieces. Unfortunately, not every recommended cleaning method is as fantastic as the manufacturer claims. One popular option is alcohol since it quickly removes stains and grime, has a low cost, and is easy to find. Despite its advantages, there are numerous reasons not to use alcohol on leather, especially when there are safer alternatives for bringing out your leather’s natural beauty.

Types Of Alcohol

For cleaning leather, there are three alcohol types that you could choose. The first isethyl alcohol, also known as ethanol, which is mainly used in adult beverages, though also found in cosmetics, perfumes, lacquers, mouthwash, and dyes. It cleans well but evaporates quickly and leaves a sticky residue that attracts more dirt.

Methylated spirits are made from coal or natural gas. They are mainly used as a solvent or fuel and are extremely harsh and damaging to the leather’s surface. Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol is used as a wound disinfectant and is the safest of the three. It evaporates slowly and doesn’t dry leather as quickly, though it can still cause irreparable damage over time.

Disadvantages Of Cleaning Leather With Alcohol

Alcohol eliminates stains and removes dirt from leather. Unfortunately, the damage it causes to the material could be permanent, especially with prolonged use. The following are reasons to avoid alcohol as a leather cleaner.


Leather contains natural oils that keep the material soft and supple. When rubbing alcohol is applied to the leather, it evaporates, releasing moisture within the leather. Though it won’t cause significant drying after a single application, over time, the leather begins to crack.


When leather is tanned and dyed, distinctive colors are introduced to the material, creating an even hue. When alcohol is applied, it strips the colors from the leather, leaving an uneven pattern that is unsightly and irreversible. The effect may not be immediate, though the more often alcohol is used, the more distinctive the fading becomes.


The natural fibers of leather are strong when properly cared for, though they aren’t indestructible. Using alcohol to clean leather breaks down those fibers, altering the soft, supple material until it feels rough and looks dull.


High-quality leather garments and accessories usually have a coating or finish to shield the surface from damage, moisture, and grime. Alcohol, even when diluted, slowly strips away the finish, leaving your leather pieces vulnerable and unprotected.


Alcohol irritates in a couple of ways. First, it has a strong scent, which is overpowering and long-lasting and can cause allergic reactions in some people. If it isn’t completely removed from the leather, it could come in contact with the skin. Inflammation, rashes, and blisters can form on individuals allergic to alcohol or who have sensitive skin.

PHYSICAL - The Admiral Moto

PHYSICAL - The Suede Double Rider

PHYSICAL - The Technical Bomber

Leather Cleaning Alternatives

Rather than resorting to alcohol or other damaging leather cleaners, there are a few safe options. These remove the dust and dirt from your favorite pieces to keep them looking their best.

Warm Water

Warm water is one of the best options for cleaning leather since it contains no chemicals to strip, fade, or dry out the material. Dampen a cloth and wipe down the leather to remove any grime that has coated the surface. Then let it air dry naturally and condition the leather to retain its moisture.

Leather Cleaner

For more thorough cleaning, a leather cleaner is a fantastic option. These are designed to remove dirt, dust, and stains without stripping the color or finish. Leather conditioners and moisturizers are also available to renew lost moisture while removing dirt. Keep in mind that some products can alter the leather’s color, so do a spot test before cleaning large areas.

Reasons not to use alcohol on leather

Final Word

Genuine leather garments and gear have a look, feel, and smell that is one-of-a-kind. Keeping them clean and looking their best is a must, especially when you consider how much they cost. Though alcohol removes dust, dirt, and stains, the damage it causes isn’t worth the risk, especially when there are safer options to consider.

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