Leather cleaner can transform hide that’s seen better days, but which should you buy?
Leather cleaner can transform the look and feel of older leather interiors, and help to keep leather feeling supple and ageing well, too. But there’s a broad range of products out there offering to do just that, so which one’s best?
We had a tired but serviceable 20-year old leather interior to test out products on, complete in a pale grey finish that shows up grime and stains quite badly, and we also had a well used leatherette interior to see how the products fared on faux leather.
We followed the application process detailed by each product manufacturer, and used the product’s specific applicators if they were supplied with them. Otherwise, it was a job for a clean microfibre or sponge. We assessed how easily the product removes dirt and general tarnish, as well as how good the leather feels and smells afterwards.
As ever, we also take into account the costs involved.
So, who came out on top?
Best buy – Leather Repair Company Deep Leather Cleaner and Conditioner
Price: £26.95 (1000ml)
Applicators included? Yes
The Leather Repair Company supplies its leather cleaner as a package with a 500ml bottle of cleaner and 500ml of conditioner. It foams up nicely and shows results almost immediately as you work the foamy cleaner into the upholstery. It even works well around awkward seams and stitching, especially if you use a brush to really work it in as the instructions suggest, and we found it just as effective on leatherette.
Most stubborn stains also came off without too much effort and, even if you don’t use the conditioner (which we’re not reviewing here), the leather feels supple and smells of proper, old-fashioned leather. It’s not the cheapest, but for the quantity and quality of product that you do get, this is our favourite choice whether you’re looking to refresh a grubby interior or simply maintain some already good condition leather.
The Leather master also comes complete with separate cleaner and conditioner. It’s almost odourless, and it foams up well on the sponge that it comes with, making light work of most marks and any greasy residue on the leather. It’s virtually as good as the Leather Repair Company cleaner for removing worn-in smudges with minimal effort, and it leaves the leather looking and feeling fresh and soft.
Autocar says: 4 stars
Best budget buy – Primal Instinct Interior Leather Cleaner
Primal Instinct is a straightforward cleaner that’s great value. Apparently it leaves a ‘true American leather scent’, which turns out to smell like all other leather according to our tester’s nose, which is just fine. It gets grubby marks and grime out of leather without needing much working in, and it’s also effective on leatherette and harder leather surfaces such as dashboards. Others here leave the leather feeling more conditioned, but as a cleaner this is very hard to fault for the price.
Autocar says: 4 stars
Other options: Diamond Shine System 2 in 1 Leather Cleaner and Conditioner
As the bottle says, this is a conditioner and cleaner all in one, and it does a great job of making your leather look, feel and smell fresh. Simply spray it on and use the supplied pad to work it in, and you’ll see any marks and ingrained dirt gradually coming out of the upholstery. It’s not quite as effective as our more highly rated cleaners when it comes to stubborn stains, but this is still one of the most effective products here.
The Autoglym cleaner does a fine job of brightening up leather and leatherette, and it has a really nice leather smell that’s not too strong. It’s one of those cleaners that just does exactly what you expect it to do. It’s not quite as effective as some others on really tough stains, but you don’t need to put much effort in to see good results. It’s great value, too, so is a solid all-rounder.
This is a perfectly effective cleaner but you have to put quite a bit of effort in to get more stubborn marks off. It also dries quickly, so is prone to getting sticky or leaving a bit of white residue if you don’t work it into the leather quickly enough. The leather does feel nice if you manage to get the job done before the product dries, but it’s not as easy to apply, nor quite as effective as some other products here.
Autocar says: 3 stars
Turtle Wax Luxe Leather Car Seat Cleaner and Restorer
This doesn’t remove those more ingrained dirt and more stubborn marks so easily. In fact, it feels more like a conditioner than a cleaner, and even with elbow grease thrown in, it’s not as good at removing dirt and grime out of your leather seats and trim. The leather does feel nice and soft afterwards, though. It’ll do a reasonable job at softening and brightening leather that’s in good condition but more worn seats and leather or leatherette finishes, you’ll need a better cleaner.
The Meguiar’s is another cleaner and conditioner combined but, as with the Turtlewax, it feels like a mild cleaner compared to some of the more effective products. It smells good, and goes on well, but it doesn’t really touch stains and more stubborn marks. Still, leaves a good shine and finish on leather so it does feel like it’ll keep your seats looking tidy if you use this regularly – as the ‘protector’ part of the 3-in-1 product promises.
Leather Honey is a liquid that comes in what looks like a shampoo bottle, and it cleans well and leaves the leather feeling soft and smooth. However, it’s more difficult to get it into the tight creases of the seats and stitching, and a brush doesn’t work too well as the liquid doesn’t foam. You need to resort to a cotton bud, or something similar. It’s pricey, too, especially given that it’s not as easy to use as plenty of other products and is no more effective at brightening your leather.
The Nano cleaner gets most grime and grubbiness out of leather fairly easily, but the foam runs quickly down the seat back or any upright surfaced and makes it trickier to clean with, even if the foaminess also makes it easy to get it into awkward areas. More disappointing is that it has a stated shelf life of 36 months, yet our test product had only 12 months of that life left when we received it. Not what you want, especially from such an expensive product.