In general, water has been known to ruin leather. This is why getting caught in the rain or a snowstorm with a leather jacket, coat, shoes, or bag can be disastrous. However, with today's technology, the invention of water-resistant leather changed leather's relationship with water. Though some luxury leather products will still be ruined when it comes in contact with water, a majority of leather furniture is now made with top-coated protected leather, which makes cleaning leather with water not just possible, but easy.
There are several water based leather cleansers available on the market. You know the product is water based by looking at the ingredients. If water is one of the first three, it is very likely to be a water based product. Some bottles will tell you the percentage of each ingredient used, which gives you a better gauge. Other bottles, on the other hand, will simply have the words "Water Based" on the bottle. Many of these cleansers are very good at cleaning top-coated protected leather. Just be sure to follow the instructions on the container.
If you are looking for a homemade water-based leather cleaner, check out the simple recipe and instructions below:
1 liter distilled water
mild liquid soap (Such as the type used for the face or body. Neutrogena works well)
1. Clean the furniture with a gentle vacuum cleaner using the brush attachment. A hand held vacuum works well because it doesn't pull as hard on the furniture, which prevents suction marks from forming on the surface of the leather. If cleaning a couch with removable cushions, make sure you remove the cushions so you can really vacuum and clean everything.
2. Pour ½ liter of distilled water into a bucket. Add five drops of liquid soap. Stir the mixture with your hand till you see suds form.
3. Pour the remaining ½ liter into another bucket
4. Take a clean rag and dip it into the soapy water. Afterwards, wring the rag till it no longer drips. Wipe a small area of the leather, one that isn't noticed often such as the back of the sofa. Ideally, the leather should not change color.
5. Take another clean rag and dip it into the clean water. Wring it till it no longer drips and wipe the area you had previously dried with soap.
6. Dry the area with a 3rd rag.
7. Wait overnight. If no spot or stain appears on the leather, you can proceed to clean the rest of the piece in this manner: wiping with a rag dipped in soapy water followed by one dipped in clean water then dried with a 3rd rag. (Make sure you always wring the rags before wiping the furniture.)
8. Once finished, take a fourth rag and buff the furniture. Afterwards, apply a leather conditioner to the furniture.
Before cleaning leather with water or water based cleansers, be sure to always check on what kind of leather you have and to perform the spot test described in steps 4-7. This will help assure you that you are not about to ruin your leather pieces completely. Do net let mixtures sit overnight. Be sure to use fresh or clean mixture when you are ready to clean the entire piece. To make it worthwhile, you can spot test all your different leather pieces so you know which ones can be cleaned this way.