Photo: Olu Eletu (Unsplash)
SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? [Email her.](mailto:joliekerr@gmail.com)  

As a 27-year-old menstruating woman, I fancied myself a master at removing blood stains—jeans, underwear, sheets—no problem. Then last month, my boyfriend and I broke up, and I spent most of my time sulking on the couch, wine in hand and pizza nearby, when my period decided to be a sneaky bitch and ruin things.

On the first big girl piece of furniture I have ever bought, an oxblood leather sofa, there is now a dark red silver-dollar-sized period stain. I have used mild soap, even a little hydrogen peroxide on the spot to no avail. It could be worse, and I’ve almost accepted the stain as a permanent part of my decor, but wanted to reach out to you before throwing in the towel.

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I’ve read your advice on cleaning leather, so I’m mostly wondering if I need to keep gently washing it, or buy something fancy to clean it with that I don’t already have.

Thank you in advance for any thoughts on this matter.


You’re welcome in advance for my thoughts on this matter! My first thought is that you have pretty great break-up coping strategies; sulking with wine and pizza is one of my favorite activities. I can also for sure help you address that blood stain so that you don’t have to live with a reminder of your heartbreak healing process.

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The advice I have also applies to blood stains on leather shoes (blister realness), or bags (not gonna ask what you did!), or that riding crop you use for sexy playtimes (oh like you haven’t thought about it!) There are two approaches to try. The first is removing the stain, and the second, which may be required because leather is porous and loves to hold onto stains, is to simply cover it up.

Removing Stains From Leather

You’ve already tried hydrogen peroxide, which is a pretty common blood stain remover, to limited effect, which means it’s time to level up. Saddle soap, which is, as the name implies, soap designed for use on saddles, can be used to deep clean leather, but it can also dry out the hide. If you go the saddle soap route, you’ll want to follow the cleaning with an application of leather conditioner (more on that later).

Saddle soap, while great stuff, is fairly harsh. It’s probably going to be fine for use on the sturdy leather used for furniture, but if you’re looking for something gentler to use on bags or jackets, Furniture Clinic’s Leather Ultra Clean or Amodex Ink & Stain Remover are both good options.

Covering Up the Stains

But let’s say, due to the porous nature of leather, those stains are fairly well set-in, and won’t budge even with the best leather cleaners money can buy. Fret not! There’s another approach we can take; we can use leather polish—you know, shoe polish—to cover those stains up. Think of it like slapping some makeup on your couch.

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You can certainly use a standard shoe polish, but you’ll want to do two things: Make sure you buy a polish that matches the leather’s color, and then also test the polish out on an inconspicuous spot to make sure the shade is right, since what it looks like in the tin can be different in practice.

Using leather polish is super easy — put a small amount onto a soft cloth, like an old t-shirt or sock (I especially like socks for the job because I can wear them like a lil mitt), and rub it into the leather in a circular motion. Then, using a clean side of the cloth, buff the polish into the leather. That’s all!

Oxblood is a fairly common color and most brands, like the ubiquitous Kiwi to the very upscale Meltonian, offer oxblood-colored shoe polish. Furniture Clinic also offers a Leather Recoloring Balm that comes in loads of offbeat colors, so if, say, your emerald green leather handbag is all scratched up, that’s the brand you’ll want to go in for. And don’t laugh at that far-fetched example — I legit own an emerald green leather handbag!

Showing the Leather Some Love

The last leather care product we need to talk about is leather cleaner and conditioner. Here’s the jam with leather cleaner and conditioner — it does both those things, but the cleaning part refers more to general removal of dirt and grime that can build up on leather goods, and less to full-on stain removal. It’s the conditioner that we’re going for here; after you’ve used either a stain remover or a polish to cover up a stain that won’t come out, it’s worth giving the leather a once-over with a small amount of conditioner to restore moisture. Leather is a hide, after all, and like our own hide, it can dry out if it isn’t moisturized from time to time.

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Cadillac is the brand I use, and it’s quite good, but it’s also worth mentioning that Apple Leather Care Kit Cleaner & Conditioner is a favorite among the handbag- and shoe-enthusiast set, and that Leather Honey Leather Conditioner is another excellent choice.