Water CAN damage leather.
Leather can be beautiful and functional, and it will last a long time if treated properly. While leather is a durable material, damage may occur occasionally. The cleaning of damaged or soiled leather is a simple process. The most important thing to remember during cleaning is to use a light hand, so the integrity of the leather is maintained.
Treating Unfinished Leather
Before attempting to clean a leather item, the type of finish should be determined. An unfinished leather or suede can be easily damaged if it is not treated properly. Always test a small, inconspicuous spot before cleaning the entire piece. To keep unfinished leather from drying or cracking, a slightly damp rag dipped in saddle soap should be used. Rub the area until a light lather forms, then wipe it clean. After the item has dried, an oil preservative such as mink oil can be applied.
Treating Finished Leather
Finished leather has a sheen and can become discolored if it is treated incorrectly. Clean the stain using a slightly damp rag and a mild soap or leather cleaner. A small amount of soap should be used. Rub some soap into the rag, and gently wipe the soiled area. Once the stain is gone, take another damp rag and clean off any residue. Do not rinse the area with large amounts of water. After all the soap is rinsed, pat the area with a dry rag. Once the leather is completely dry, use a leather conditioning oil or olive oil to replenish the sheen. A lint-free rag and a minimal amount of oil should be used.
Eliminating Salt or Grease Stains
Boots and jackets that have grease or road salt stains need extra care. Before using the typical cleaning method on a grease stain, blot the grease with a clean cloth and lightly sprinkle talc on the area. Let it soak up the grease for several hours, wipe away the talc, and clean the area. Salt stains can be cleaned as usual, however a solution of one-tablespoon vinegar to one-cup water should be used in place of soap.
“Cleaning Leather Upholstered Furniture.” Michigan State University. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2010. http://www.msue.msu.edu/objects/content_revision/download.cfm/revision_id.494001/workspace_id.-4/01500284.html/.