Can Olive Oil Really Fix Scratched Leather Furniture?

How to fix scratched leather... with olive oil?
Photo: Roberta Sorge

There are a handful of substances that are darlings for us DIYers on the Internet—natural, ubiquitous, and amazing multi-taskers. You know what I'm talking about—baking soda, vinegar, kosher salt olive oil, coconut oil, etc. They can do anything we ask them to do: clean our homes, whiten our laundry, reduce blood pressure, pick up the kids from school...

One such popular cure-all life hack is how to fix scratched leather using that lovely golden Mediterranean export, olive oil. But does it really remove scratches from leather?         


created at: 09/24/2012

created at: 09/24/2012

(Source: Mash Up Chic)

It's tauted as a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to cover the offending scratches. However, before we grab the EVOO, we wanted to hear from leather experts on this tip. So here's the question: Should we use olive oil to hide scratches in our leather furniture or should we save it for our bruschetta? 

Leather sofa
Photo: Shutterstock / WorldWide

Short-term: Yes, but...

Let's step over to the beauty products aisle and have a quick conversation about leather. 

Though it's a bit of a macabre reminder, all leather was once a working organ: the skin of a moving, breathing animal. It operates in the same way as your skin: your pores are little gateways that allow 1) your sweat glands to produce water to keep you from overheating like a Honda on a triple-digit day in July, and 2) your sebaceous glands to produce oil that protects your skin by providing a barrier to lock in the right amount of moisture and lock out any excess. (Obviously, it doesn't always work: too little sebum and you need lotion, too much and you need acne treatment.)

Leather bag
Photo: Álvaro Serrano

Now, let's apply this to leather scratch repair. Remember from the beauty aisle that leather is porous, so it absorbs liquid. Water can seep through leather pores and saturate it—any time you've ever worn your leather shoes in the rain, you can attest to this!—but by then it's displaced the natural oils found between leather's fibers, and as the water evaporates, it leaves the fibers stripped of those oils. 


Loss of natural oils = loss of natural flexibility = cracked, flaky leather.


So, rubbing a light application of olive oil on a leather couch, car seat, purse, or shoe is replacing the oil that water—in the form of spills, splashes, or simply humidity—has stripped away. Right?



Long-term: ...it's probably not the answer for how to fix scratched leather furniture

... leather experts still recommend against it.

Full disclosure: as far as I can tell, Fibrenew, a Toronto-based mobile leather care franchise that's been around since the 80's, is the sole source of Internet-based warnings against using straight-up oil for how to fix scratched leather. If you have another source, please leave the link in the comments below! This goes against the grain (see what I did there?) of what we DIYers tend to recommend en masse.

If you read further, though, their reasoning is sound. Let's say you decide to fix scratches on a leather couch by rubbing it down with olive oil. It looks a lot better, right? Just for now. That oil isn't going to stay on the surface of the leather, but instead will keep on traveling through the rest of the leather to the back. Then, as the leather surface begins to dry out again, the oil returns to the front, especially in the places that are more worn.


In other words:splotchy oil patches.


Let's return back to our beauty aisle chat. Sebum, that oily substance that your skin, is composed of roughly 75% liquid fats and 25% waxes. It's been specially formulated for your skin—not too oily, not too waxy, not too wet. Just right, Goldilocks-style. Your leather couch is no different: it doesn't just need any old oil, but a blend of liquid fats and waxes formulated specially to nourish its fibers and help lock in the right amount of moisture to stay flexible.

(Not to mention, cooking oils are designed to get broken down, i.e. digested. When left exposed to air, light, water, and time, they do go rancid. You wouldn't expect to leave a salad sitting out for months, would you?)


Photo: ISORepublic

The better alternative on how to fix scratched leather

The ideal solution for how to get scratches out of leather? Stick with a specially formulated leather care product to nourish the fibers of your leather goods, to clean their surfaces, and to repel damaging water.

Don't think that you have to abandon your all-natural ideals, though! These two leather conditioner/cleaner combos rank consistently well on blog and Amazon reviews, and they're both all-natural and made in the USA.


1. Leather Honey

Leather Honey leather cleaner


2. Chamberlain's Leather Milk

Chamberlains Leather Milk leather cleaner


If you're going to be doing regular leather maintenance—which you should, if you've made a significant investment in a nice leather chair or pair of shoes—pick yourself up a good leather care brush.

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Laura Flocco on Aug 10, 2016:

Did not work on my ivory colored leather sectional :(

anonymous on May 23, 2015:

The person that suggested that was saying something that worked for them. Why should they have asked an expert first..give me a break ..you are taking this blog way to serious

Anonymous on Aug 09, 2013:

Ive been on several other websites such as apartment helper and ehow and they all list olive oil as a viable option.

Darlene on Aug 01, 2013:

I have leather car seats( light colored). Car 10yrs old.  Will this work on them?

Anonymous on Jun 16, 2013:

doesn't the olive oil smell bad ? does it keep your living room smelly for long?

Anonymous on Apr 22, 2013:

Hi people my 3 year old has scratched a pic on my faux leather headboard I've tried bees wax leather cleaner and baby wipes does anybody have any ideas much thanks Mel x

Rita Arnst on Feb 02, 2013:

I use shoe polish to fill in the scratches, then go back over the entire chair with leather cleaner/conditioner.


Deb on Jan 15, 2013:

Many of the tips for cleaning sofas I have seen by professional companies use food grade oils (linseed/flaxseed), so I think this should be fine.  Thanks for the tip!

Ali on Sep 27, 2012:

Unfortunately my chair is fake leather. I'm pretty sure this wont work on the fake stuff. It looks like you got pretty amazing results though, that's awesome.

Tricia on Sep 26, 2012:

Hi it's Tricia from Mash-Up Chic. I used this technique months ago and the leather still looks amazing, and there are no issues with staining or residual oil.  I'd do this again in a heartbeat.  Someone commented on my page that they have a $8000 custom leather sectional and they wouldn't dare do this . . . . . I can't relate to that, and told her I may not either in her shoes.  But I don't have shoes that have $8000 custom sofas either (I bet those are some nice shoes!).  So, undersrtand the concerns - but based on my experience, this was a great, out of the cabinet fix that has worked in the long run.  The leather on this sofa is the glossier kind, I woudl probably be concerned to try on a dryer, more porous type. Good luck kids!



DIY Maven on Sep 24, 2012:

Thanks for the tips Karen and Keter! Keter, my shoe guy recommended Lexol for my gray leather car upholstery. It conditioned the leather nicely and did hide the little wear that's  visible. For some reason, he was very specific in saying it was for car upholstery, not furniiture. I didn't  persue his claim as I was only interested in the former at the time. 

Karen in Wichita on Sep 24, 2012:

No, no, no. If you're using enough of ANY oil to darken the leather, you're using enough to saturate it, and that will eventually break it down. Olive oil is used (sparingly!) in some leatherworking instances because it darkens *less* than some other oils, so it's extra *bad* for this purpose.

In other words, it's a great dishonest solution if you want to hide a problem long enough to sell the couch, but that's about it.

Keter on Sep 24, 2012:

I'm not a leather expert, but I have been caring for leather coats, horse saddles and tack, and leather furniture most of my life. I have been using Howard Feed-n-Wax on my BLACK, whole-grain leather furniture for over a decade now and it works wonders.  It's beeswax, carnauba wax and orange oil, so nothing to dry out the leather. I would be a little worried about olive oil going rancid.  Any oil based formula will darken leather, so bear that in mind.  For light color leather, I wouldn't use anything but leather cleaner and maybe a little Lexol - the kind specifically made for light colored leather.  It's always safest to test a cleaner or finish on a spot that doesn't show and let it sit a week to see what it does before using it on the whole piece.

If you have, or suspect that you have BONDED leather...use only a rag with a TINY amount of clear almond oil (rub a few drops between your hands and then wipe them on the rag).  Anything else, including water, may make it separate layers and peel.

Kate on Sep 24, 2012:

I am interested in hearing what experts have to say (Which i think was the purpose of the post), but judging by the before and after im willing to try this. 

I've used a variety of potions, lotions, foams and wipes and so far the best i've found is a lotion called Mr. Leather. I found it at meijer. I need to read the label whenb i get home but I think it might just be a natural oil based lotion. The results dont look quite as good as the image above though...

Anonymous on Sep 24, 2012:

You should ask an expert BEFORE posting a recommendation.

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