How To Remove Oil Stains From Leather

Have you ever wondered how to remove oil stains from leather?

Oil stains are typically more difficult to remove than others, and leather, though durable, is an absorbent material itself, notoriously tricky to clean.

However, since we are unlikely to stop spilling things on our leather, especially the dreaded oil, it’s good to find out how to get those stains out!

Is it possible to remove oil stains from leather using only a couple of household products you probably already have?

Yes! It is – I’ll show you how to remove oil stains from leather with step by step instructions and explanations, including alternatives in case you need options to choose from.

Items You’ll Need

In this section, I’ll list and discuss all the household items, with options, you’ll need to get those oil stains out of your leather.

An Absorbent Paper or Cloth

A paper towel, tissue, white cloth, napkin, or a microfiber cloth will do.

I have found that these microfiber cleaning cloths work best.

This will be used to blot up any excess oil from the stain initially, as much as possible

Absorbent Powder/Talcum Powder/Cornstarch

You will also need an absorbent powder such as cornstarch, talcum powder, baby powder, or wheat germ.

The powder will be used to soak up the oil from the stain.

Brush or Vacuum or Cloth

Next, you will need an old, clean, soft toothbrush, soft brush vacuum cleaner attachment, or even a clean microfiber cloth.

This will be used to brush or wipe away the excess powder from the stain.

Liquid Dish Soap / Distilled Water

Liquid dish soap, along with distilled water, will be used to clean the stain further, if necessary.

Homemade Cleaning Solution (Distilled Water, Sea Salt, White Flour, Baking Soda)

The recipe for a homemade cleaning solution is:
3/8 cup distilled water
1/8 cup sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white flour
1 Tablespoon baking soda

This cleaning solution is made into a paste and applied to the stain as a further cleaning method if needed.

White Vinegar / Water / Cotton Ball

White vinegar must be mixed with water before it’s applied to the oil stain on your leather.

I really like this brand.

A safe mixture is:

1 Tablespoon of white vinegar

1 cup of water

This mix is necessary because vinegar contains acetic acid, which is incredibly effective at removing oil stains and has a corrosive effect on leather, removing its shine.

The vinegar method is another way to clean the oil stain from your leather further, if necessary.

Step By Step Instructions For How To Remove Oil Stains From Leather

#1 Remove Any Excess Oil

Using your microfiber cleaning cloth, blot gently at the oil stain repeatedly until you absorb as much of the excess oil as possible.

It’s okay to use more than one paper towel, napkin, or cloth in this step – the idea is to get as much soaked up as possible.

#2 Apply Absorbent Powder/Talcum Powder/Cornstarch

The absorbent powder will soak up the oil, pulling it from the leather, making it perfect for getting rid of oil stains.

It works better on more recent stains, so the key to using absorbent powders is to act quickly!

Sprinkle, but thoroughly cover the oil stain, with an absorbent powder such as talcum powder, cornstarch, baby powder, or wheat germ.

#3 Let It Sit

Let the stain sit, covered with powder, anywhere from 10 minutes to overnight.

#4 Wipe Excess Powder Away

Using a clean, soft toothbrush, a soft brush vacuum cleaner attachment, or even a clean microfiber cloth, wipe away any excess powder and oil from the stain.

Check to see if the stain is gone.

If it’s not gone, repeat the process, steps #1-4 until it is, or proceed to step #5.

Pro Tip:

Leather has a “lie” or a line of texture to it, which is like the grain in wood.

Any cleaning products should be applied following the lie, aka grain.

If you can’t see the direction of the texture, start at the outside of the stain and work towards its center.

#5 Liquid Detergent (An Optional Method, If Needed)

Using a soft, microfiber cloth, dab the stain with a few drops of liquid dish soap, such as Dawn or Seventh Generation.

Add a bit of distilled water to the stain, using your fingertips to work up a lather.

Apply more water, as needed, to clean the stain.

Allow the leather to thoroughly dry and assess the stain.

If it’s not gone, repeat the process until it is, or proceed to step #6.

Pro Tip:

Getting Leather wet is dangerous as it potentially causes the surface to lose its shine.

Wet only the stain area, and do it as little as possible, to remove the stain, letting the area dry thoroughly between removal attempts.

#6 Homemade Cleaning Solution (An Optional Method, If Needed)

This mixture is highly effective at gently removing oil from leather without harming the leather itself.

Using the recipe in my items list, mix the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl.

Using a fork or spoon, work your salt, water, flour, and baking soda into a paste.

Dip a cloth into the mixture and dab a small amount of the paste into the stained area only.

Be very gentle, dab in the direction of the grain, let the cleaner do the work, and don’t make it worse by scrubbing.

Pat the area dry with another, clean cloth.

Check to see if the stain is gone.

If it’s not gone, repeat the process until it is, being careful to allow drying time between cleaning times, or proceed to step #7.

Pro Tip:

Always perform a patch test before applying a cleaning solution to your leather.

Find a less visible spot to test a small amount of cleaning solution against.

If your leather is dyed in any way, any cleaner will affect its color, so pick a very out-of-the-way spot for your patch test area.

#7 White Vinegar And Water (An Optional Method, If Needed)

Using the mixture of white vinegar to water in my items list, soak a sponge or a cotton ball, and dab the stain.

Keep gently dabbing the stain until it disappears and then immediately stop.

Vinegar is a highly effective oil cleaner because it has acetic acid; however, this also gives it corrosive properties that are damaging to leather.

Therefore, it must be diluted with water before using it on leather, and its use must be limited.

Pro Tip:

Vinegar is also a great natural leather conditioner – mix one-part vinegar with two-parts linseed oil and apply with a clean cloth in a circular motion.

Commonly Asked Questions

Is there a way to remove set-in oil stains from leather?

Yes! All the ways I’ve listed should be able to tackle a set-in oil stain, although the absorbent powder method is undoubtedly better with fresh stains.

Many people, including myself, have had success with the other techniques, such as the liquid detergent method or the homemade cleaning solution method.

Does this method work on all leather products?

This method will remove oil stains from leather purses, shoes, furniture, and any other leather products that you happen to spill on.

Are there any stain removers specifically designed for removing oil from leather?

As a matter of fact, there are a few – more than you’d think.

Not all of them are good, though – so you need to do your research before buying anything.

I have seen good results with a couple that gets almost five-star reviews on Amazon.

MX14 Ink and Stain Remover for Clothes, Upholstery, Sofas, Carpet & Leather | Removes Grease, Oil, Ink

To use – soak the stain and dab with the pen.

Leave overnight for the best results and for harder to remove stains.

Wash out the solution with cold water.

If it’s fading, it’s working, repeat as needed.

Bickmore Bick 1 Leather Cleaner – Clean Dirt, Oil, Sweat, Salt, and Water Stains from All Colored, White, and Black Leather

To use – always check for colorfastness in an out-of-the-way area before using the product.

Apply a small amount of product to a slightly damp cloth.

Rub gently in a circular motion.

Allow to dry.

Repeat if necessary.

For best results, follow with Bick 4 Leather Conditioner to rehydrate the leather.


Have you enjoyed learning how to get oil stains out of leather?

With these easy solutions, you won’t have to get rid of your favorite leather belongings just because of a small oil spill!

And by using common household ingredients, you’ll save a lot of money on professional cleaners and treatments, ending up with the same results.

You’ll feel like a professional yourself!