How to Clean Sunscreen off Leather Like a Pro

A leather couch with a sunscreen bottle on one side and cleaning supplies on the other side

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Sunscreen is a crucial part of our skincare routine, especially during the summer months. However, it can sometimes find its way onto our leather goods, leaving unsightly stains that can be challenging to remove. But don’t worry! With the right knowledge and tools, you can clean sunscreen off leather like a pro. This guide will walk you through the process step by step, providing you with expert tips and advice along the way.

Understanding the Basics of Leather Cleaning

Why is Sunscreen Difficult to Remove?

Sunscreen is designed to stick to your skin and resist water, allowing it to protect you from harmful UV rays even when you sweat or swim. This same property, however, makes it a formidable opponent for your leather goods. The oils and waxes in sunscreen can penetrate the porous surface of leather, causing stains that are difficult to remove.

Furthermore, different types of sunscreen contain various ingredients, some of which can react negatively with leather. For instance, avobenzone, a common ingredient in many sunscreens, can cause discoloration when it comes into contact with leather.

The Importance of Cleaning Leather Properly

Leather is a natural material that requires special care to maintain its appearance and durability. Using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaning tools can damage the leather, causing it to crack, fade, or even tear. Therefore, it’s crucial to use gentle, leather-friendly cleaning methods to remove sunscreen stains.

Moreover, leather items are often expensive, making it even more important to clean them properly. By taking the time to learn how to clean sunscreen off leather correctly, you can extend the lifespan of your leather goods and keep them looking their best.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Sunscreen off Leather

Materials You Will Need

Before you start, gather the following materials:

  • Leather cleaner
  • Soft cloth
  • Leather conditioner
  • Water

Step 1: Test the Leather Cleaner

Not all leather cleaners are suitable for all types of leather. Therefore, it’s essential to test the cleaner on a small, inconspicuous area of the leather item before applying it to the stain. If the cleaner causes discoloration or damage, do not use it.

Apply a small amount of the cleaner to the test area using a soft cloth. Wait a few minutes, then check the area for any adverse reactions. If the leather appears unchanged, you can proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Apply the Leather Cleaner

Apply a small amount of the leather cleaner to a soft cloth. Do not apply the cleaner directly to the leather, as this can cause staining or discoloration.

Gently rub the cloth over the sunscreen stain, working in a circular motion. Be careful not to rub too hard, as this can damage the leather. Continue this process until the stain is gone.

Step 3: Rinse and Dry

Once the stain is removed, rinse the area with a damp cloth to remove any residue from the cleaner. Then, dry the area thoroughly with a clean, dry cloth. It’s important to ensure the leather is completely dry before moving on to the next step, as moisture can cause damage.

Step 4: Apply Leather Conditioner

After cleaning, it’s important to condition the leather to restore its natural oils and keep it soft and supple. Apply a small amount of leather conditioner to a soft cloth, then rub it into the leather using a circular motion. Allow the conditioner to absorb into the leather, then buff off any excess with a clean cloth.

Preventing Future Sunscreen Stains

Apply Sunscreen Carefully

One of the best ways to prevent sunscreen stains on your leather goods is to apply sunscreen carefully. Avoid applying sunscreen while wearing or holding leather items, and allow the sunscreen to dry completely before coming into contact with leather.

Additionally, be mindful of where you store your sunscreen. Avoid keeping it in a bag with leather items, as leaks or spills can cause stains.

Protect Your Leather Goods

Another effective way to prevent sunscreen stains is to protect your leather goods. Consider using a leather protector, which creates a barrier on the surface of the leather that can help prevent stains. However, be sure to test the protector on a small area first, as some products can cause discoloration.

Regularly conditioning your leather can also help prevent stains. Conditioner helps keep the leather soft and supple, making it less likely to absorb stains.


Cleaning sunscreen off leather may seem daunting, but with the right knowledge and tools, it’s a task that you can handle like a pro. Remember, the key is to use gentle, leather-friendly cleaning methods and to take preventative measures to avoid future stains. With these tips in mind, you can keep your leather goods looking their best, even in the height of summer.

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