How to Clean a Leather Belt

If your leather belt feels tough, it’s stained, has sweat or watermarks on it, or it stinks, that means you probably have to clean it. There is no fixed way to clean your leather belt correctly. The method you’ll have to choose depends on your needs. However, keep in mind that the best way to make sure your leather garments last longer is to give them regular maintenance.

5-Minute Crafts is showing you different methods to clean your leather belt and maintain it.

A. Daily maintenance

Regular maintenance is key to keeping your leather belts in shape because it gets rid of impurities that could damage the surface of the leather before they set in. Ideally, you should carry out this process each time you wear the belt, but keep in mind that too much exposure to water can also damage it.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 clean rags
  • Saddle soap or leather cleaner (see note)
  • A bucket of warm water

Note: Saddle soap is a traditional leather cleaner, and it isn’t a regular soap. Using regular soap to clean your belt can damage it permanently, so it should be a last resort (see section B). Instead of saddle soap, you can use a leather cleaner — some of them come with the added benefit of protecting the leather after being applied.

Instructions:

  1. If the belt is very dirty, start by soaking one of your rags in the bucket with warm water. You’ll use it to wipe down the surface of the belt and soften any stains and dirt. If the belt isn’t too dirty, it’s better to use a dry rag since, as we mentioned earlier, excess water can damage leather.
  2. Then, in both cases, pour the saddle soap or leather cleaner on the other clean rag to remove any tough dirt on your belt, then rub it gently and along the grain until your belt looks clean again.
  3. Remove excess cleaning solutions with the damp rag.
  4. Let the belt dry overnight.

B. Getting rid of visible stains

Lack of regular maintenance or the occurrence of an accident, such as spilling something on your belt, might mean that you need to use a different method to treat specific visible stains. In all cases, your best shot is to clean these as soon as possible if you don’t want them to permanently damage the leather, but the method you should use will depend on the nature of the stain.

1. Use cornstarch for oil-based stains.

What you’ll need:

Instructions:

  • If it’s a new stain:

Sprinkle the powder on the stain and wait for it to absorb the oil.

  • If the oil stain is old:
  1. Use a dry cloth to clean off part of the oil first.
  2. Sprinkle the powder on the stain.
  3. Rub the powder with your fingers. The resulting heat can boost the removal process.
  4. Brush the powder off.

2. Use rubbing alcohol for small stains, like pen marks.

What you’ll need:

Instructions:

  1. Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol.
  2. Apply it to the stain on your belt.
  3. When the stain is removed, dry the area using a blow dryer.

3. Use soap for set-in stains.

What you’ll need:

  • A basin (large enough to use for regular hand washing)
  • Soap (see note)
  • A cotton towel or lint-free microfiber towel
  • 3 cloths

Note: There are 2 methods involving soap that you can use:

  • The first one is with Castile soap. It is made with vegetable or olive oil and is very gentle on leather.
  • The second one uses liquid soap flakes, which are pure soap derived from sunflower oil with no fragrances or additives.

⚠️ Always keep in mind that thoroughly washing your belt with water and soap may damage your belt. Only use these methods as a last resort to treat set-in stains once or twice in your belt’s lifetime.

  • Castile soap method:
  1. Wet a clean, soft cloth with lukewarm water and wring out the excess moisture.
  2. Rub the dampened cloth gently over a bar of Castile soap, then rub the leather belt with it.
  3. Use another damp cloth to rub over the area briskly before rinsing the soap away.
  4. Then rub the area again, but this time, using a clean, dry cloth. Repeat this method a couple of times to clean stains and gloss the leather.
  • Liquid soap flakes method:
  1. Fill the basin with warm water and pour a capful of liquid soap flakes into it.
  2. Soak your belt in the warm soapy water, then wash it there. Do it carefully, as you would if you were hand-washing wool or silk. Remove light dirt stains on your belt through gentle rubbing of the areas that are soiled.
  3. Once your belt is clean, rinse it with clean lukewarm water.
  4. Use the towel to dry your belt, then hang it to air-dry overnight.

C. Getting rid of bad smells

Sometimes, leather can have a bad smell, but there are simple deodorizing solutions to restore your belt’s “new leather smell.”

What you’ll need:

Notes:

  • Activated charcoal can often be found online or at pet stores in the fish supply section.
  • Kitty litter works just as well because it’s specifically designed to remove odors, and it actually contains activated charcoal.
  • If you’re using baking soda and are worried about leaving white stains on your belt, you can opt for packs made to clean fridges instead.

Instructions:

  1. Add the ingredient of your choice to an air-tight bag, and put the belt inside.
  2. Seal it up.
  3. Let it sit in there for several days. If it still smells, leave it in for a longer time.
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