How To Remove Holiday Spills From Leather

Published on 12/12/2016

  • How To Remove Holiday Spills From Leather

Accidents happen, and sometimes those mistakes end up on your favorite leather backpack, messenger bag, shoes, or wallet. Don’t let life’s messes ruin a good thing. Unlike other textiles, leather cleans up without too much trouble.

Here’s how to handle all those holiday spills with grace.

A few don’ts

Before we get started, there are a few cleaning taboos when it comes to leather:

  • Never use furniture cleaner on leather. The dyes and leathers differ between furniture and backpacks, wallets and handbags, and so too must your method of cleaning.

  • Don’t use rubbing alcohol. A solution of rubbing alcohol and water is often recommended to remove sticky things like glue or tree sap. Don’t take this advice when it comes to leather or you may damage the structure of leather and weaken the fibers, or create a blemish by removing or lightening the color

  • Never use chemical cleaners or detergents. The harsh chemicals in many one-size-fits-all cleaners can damage leather.

  • Don’t put leather in the washer or dryer. Duh!


Cologne, perfumes, aftershaves and other scented liquids always seem to somehow end up where they shouldn’t. Maybe you leaned in a little too far for a kiss under the mistletoe or Aunt Ethel, she of too much toilet water, keeps putting her burly arm around you.

No matter the cause, unwanted scents can be spot-cleaned from leather with the following steps:

  1. Blot up any excess liquid that remains on your leather

  2. Mix one tablespoon of mild soap with a quart of warm water and swish the liquid around to create an abundance of suds

  3. Apply soap suds (not the liquid) to your leather with a sponge

  4. Work suds into the leather and allow to sit for a few moments

  5. Wipe leather with a dry cloth and allow to air dry

  6. If necessary, follow up with a quality leather cleaner and conditioner


There’s a dairy component to eggnog which means that things can get smelly fast when your favorite festive drink hits the floor … or your cherished leather.

Here’s how to get rid of eggnog spills on leather quickly:

  1. Blot up any of the remaining liquid as soon as possible with a dry cloth

  2. Follow the soap sud recipe above in step two to create a bucket full of suds

  3. Apply soap suds with a dry sponge or clean cloth

  4. Gently brush out any stains, spices and curdled milk with a soft toothbrush or dry rag

  5. Repeat above steps as often as necessary

  6. Blot bag with a clean cloth and allow to thoroughly dry

Pine sap

Whether you’re traipsing through the woods singing holiday carols or trimming the tree, pine sap has a habit of ending up exactly where you don’t want or need it to be: on you and your things.

Pine sap is sticky, gooey and difficult to deal with, but there are a few tricks to getting rid of it for good without ruining your leather.

  1. Place your leather bag, wallet or leather product in the freezer or outside in the cold for several hours until the sap has hardened completely and becomes crackly

  2. Gently bend the area of leather covered in sap until it breaks free

  3. Any remaining hard sap can be scraped away gently with the bristles of a soft toothbrush, back of a spoon or wooden dowel

Road salt

If you live in a cold climate, de-icers---that stuff that’s spread on highways and walkways to prevent ice from forming--can wreak havoc on leather. Fortunately, things often look worse than they actually are.

Get rid of salt stains from leather with these steps:

  1. Mix a one-to-one solution of vinegar and warm water

  2. Using a clean dry rag, dab at the salt stain with the vinegar and water mixture

  3. Repeat above steps until salt stains have disappeared

Alternatively, you can use a leather saddle soap or leather cleaner-conditioner combo to remove salt stains from leather.


Melting snow, puddles on the ground where you may set your leather backpack or even a spilled bottle of water inside your backpack can all create stains on leather if not treated.

Tackle water stains thusly:

  1. Wipe up as much standing water as possible with a clean towel or sponge

  2. Apply saddle soap or a cleaner/condition to the ring that forms at the outer edges of the spill. Work cleaner in and scrub gently until stains have been removed

  3. Apply the same soap or cleaner/conditioner to the entire stain, following product directions for cleaning

  4. Allow leather to dry thoroughly before using again

Now that you’re all cleaned up, get out there and enjoy the season!


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