DIY: Skinning and Cleaning a Leather Couch

Hello all!

Saturday I was taking out the trash when I see this leather couch just sitting in front of the dumpster!! I stumbled across this blog post, maybe a month ago, about skinning a leather couch, and its been stuck in my head ever since. Then this couch just falls in my lap! Talk about fate!

DIY: Skinning and Cleaning a Leather Couch - Little Eli
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I quickly discovered why it was being thrown out. CAT PEE! It reeked! But I'm not one for looking a gift horse in the mouth, so I just kept cutting away pieces of leather and tossing the stuffing in the dumpster. I would google how to handle the stink later.

I made quick work of the couch. I grabbed my mat knife and sliced as close to the edges as I could, trying to keep the leather in the biggest pieces possible. The seats went first, they were the worst as far as the smell went too. Then the back cushions, then the arms, and finally the outsides. The outside fabric ended up being fake leather, a.k.a. vinyl, and I debated even taking it, but it was in good shape, and I knew I could find projects for it, so off it came.

With everything salvaged and safely in my apartment, I could assess the damage. It was confined to the edges of the seats and the bottom of one of the back cushions. The more I discovered, the more I started to feel really sad for the household it came from. The smell was from old, dried, cat accidents. There was no way to mask it, and it would have been impossible to clean. I also found one recent accident, so that must have been the last straw. 

I had learned that vinegar works wonders on cleaning cat pee, but this was BAD, old, and dried. The leather was stiff and hard, and I felt like I would have had to soak it, which would provided a whole new set of problems. So I skipped the home remedies and headed straight to the store to pick up some Nature's Miracle, leather cleaner, and leather conditioner. Again, there are a few natural home remedies for cleaning and conditioning leather, but this was a serious project and I wanted serious supplies. 

I laid out all the pieces on the floor. I sprayed my small leather test patch with NM first, testing the leather for color fastness. Their website warned that their products should not be used on leather as it can discolor it. Well, it was free, and I didn't care about the color since it was a bit too dark for my taste anyway, so threw caution to the wind, and, once my test piece ended up perfectly fine, I drowned the rest of the leather.

My bounty, my scent inspectors, and my finished product! The leather appears to get lighter but it didn't actually. The magic of lighting!

My bounty, my scent inspectors, and my finished product! The leather appears to get lighter but it didn't actually. The magic of lighting!

It worked!!! Mostly... It definitely cleaned the couch of all the mild, indirect odors it had picked up. But the old, dried spots still stank, even the next morning after spending all night outside. I was prepared to soak the pieces in vinegar and spend the rest of the day drying and stretching and conditioning, but I figured, cut my losses, literally, and just trim the offending material off. And easy as that, no more cat smell! I then finished it off by cleaning it and conditioning the leather. 

After everything is said and done, I have 38 square feet of soft, supple leather, a pound of leather scraps, and 25 square feet of vinyl. And all it cost me was a bottle of Nature's Miracle, and a day of my time! I did a quick search and that much upholstery leather would have cost me $300 before shipping! CHA-CHING! 

I already have a project in mind for the big pieces! But you will have to wait to see how that turns out.