Leather Furniture - How to Get Rid of that Horrible Skunky Smell

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That sofa is Killing me!

Have you ever bought a brand newleather sofa or couch, thinking how beautiful it will look in your house, and without even thinking about it, paid and got it delivered, only to find out that it is stinking your home out, with a smell that is a cross between a skunk, and a decomposing animal? Yes? well I wish someone had told me about it! After moving into his new home, my brother decided that he had always wanted a big leather sofa. So after purchasing one, and waiting a couple of days for delivery, he set it up in pride of place in his new flat. Over the next couple of days, he began to feel really ill. He felt sick, dizzy and his Asthma began to get really bad. he could not understand it. He was aware of the fact that the couch had a horrible musky smell, but in his innocence he thought it would go away after leaving the doors and windows open. But to no avail. I visited a couple of times, and commented on this horrible smell, but didn't think anything of it, until I started to feel sick and slightly heady. It was disgusting. I always thought leather had a nice smell.

I had bought handbags and jackets new before, and they had never had such a horrible odor. By this time, my brother had started to get quite scared. he couldn't understand why he felt so ill. So I decided to do a bit of investigating. After reading a few books and checking out a couple of sites on the Internet, I realised that, thankfully we were not alone in this.

What do we do now?

To my dismay, I realised that actually, not only do a lot of people have this problem, but there really is not a way to absolutely get rid of this smell for good. But the good news is that you can remove it, but you may have to repeat the process from time to time. Obviously after a few years of wear and tear, other smells will permeate it, and by then you will either be used to it, or thankfully it will only pong a bit. All depending on the depth or type of leather. So below I have listed the best and most effective way to minimalise the odor, and hopefully get it to a state of neutrality where you will be able to forget about it for good, or at least for a long while.

1. The first and best idea, is to use a good saddle soap. It is not very expensive, and is made just for cleaning leather. Most hardware stores or specialised leather shops will be able to sell this to you, and always make sure after you have cleaned it, that you put back the oils in the sofa, to stop the leather from drying and cracking. Linseed or lanolin oil are good leather conditioning products to keep the leather supple.

2.Zeolite. This is an odor absorber, that comes from volcanic ash, it is a natural mineral and can be recharged by putting them back out in the sun. It works for years. Place it in the mesh bag that comes with it, under your cushions or even inside the sofa.

3. A solution of washing up liquid in water, and a cloth rung sparingly, don't soak it, can have a good effect, as it removes the obvious smell, and can soak into the leather. Make sure you use hot water, or at least warm, so that it will evaporate quicker, and not soak the couch too much. You don't want a ruined soggy mess to contend with! If it gets too wet it will smell more like a soggy animal caught in the rain!

4. Old newspapers or any sort of packing paper, is a great idea to get rid of the smell. The reason for this is that the paper is more porous than leather, so what happens is the fibres of the paper act as a wick that lifts the odors from the leather. Don't use paper that you would get in a notebook or feels harder, because newspaper is much more porous so will work quicker.

5. This one may be obvious, but try to get as much air to the product as possible. If it is practical, try and move the couch to a room where you can constantly open a window or door for a few days. A shed or a garage would be best because it is well ventilated, but not to damp.

6.Soak the leather in a solution of distilled white vinegar. Obviously this will cause it to smell of vinegar slightly when it is dry, so after giving it a good rub down, let it dry, and then wash the couch again with the washing up solution, then make sure you give it a good conditioning. You do not want a moldy, vinegar smelling settee, that eventually shrivels up and looks a mess.

7. Mix a solution of Ammonia and and water, and soak the leather in it. This may seem odd, as leather is cleaned in ammonia in the first place, whilst being made. But if your leather smells badly of skunk, then the bad smell has obviously over taken the ammonia. This will counteract the bad animal smell. Then clean with washing up liquid and warm water, then conditioner.

8.Baking soda has many uses, but the main use for leather is that it will soak up the smell, very quickly and efficiently. Place a liberal amount of baking soda inside a cushion case or pillowcase, and place it across and around the leather, covering as much as you can. This works best for small leather items, but can be a quick solution for a couch if you don't have time to clean it properly for a few days.

9. Charcoal is another good thing to use to soak up the bad odor. Do the same with this as you did with the baking soda.

10. There is a new product, link below, that is called The Amazing Environmental Air Sponge, that eliminates Odors and Smells. This product is said to dissolve in the air, releasing microscopic molecules that interact and eliminate odors and pollutant molecules as well as being good for dust control. check out the link.

So there we have it. I hope this helps to get rid of that horrible smell, and in my case I will definitely be trying out these options, so that the settee can be used as it is meant to be. Smell free, and usable.

Comments 79 comments

Ron 13 days ago

I have the same issue. Thought the smell was mold from my ac, had it cleaned but smell didn't go away. Ditched the mattress, and the smell was still there then one day sniffing the sofa made me realize it was the sofa off gassing and created a stench to the entire condo. Not sure what to do yet, will air it out and see what happens, might need to return it

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 weeks ago from England Author

Thanks Linda, its awful isn't it? You would have thought something like leather would be special not stinky! glad you got it sorted.

Linda G 4 weeks ago

Thanks for informing me how to get rid of the smell. I kept trying to figure out where is that smell coming from. I had the sofa for about a month. The smell was strong odor that made you feel sick and hard to breath. I thought maybe the person who lived in this apartment made have had cats or dogs but they didn't. Finally one night I smell the sofa and the rest is history. I hope some of your suggestions will help. I burn the wax burners to keep the smell down.

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Nell Rose 2 months ago from England Author

That's good to know, thanks

me 2 months ago

i have a leather couch and have never had a problem with it. 5 yrs now and no smells

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Nell Rose 4 months ago from England Author

Thanks Ray, yes and from India too, I think this is where our sofa came from, something to do with the tanning! lol!

Ray Morton 4 months ago

I have noticed that Leather Products from China have more obnoxious odors than Leather made in the USA or Canada.

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Nell Rose 12 months ago from England Author

Thanks Jan, I am so glad it was helpful. I suffer from Asthma too, as well as my brother, and it was a nightmare! smelled like dead cow to be honest! it permeated the whole house. never ever again! have fun with the books! lol!

Jan 12 months ago

Wow, I just got home from the hospital and now I am recovering from a severe asthma attack. I was considering a leather couch to replace a fabric one. I read that microfiber has a barrier to protect against dust mites, I will buy that and forgo leather . Great informative information. I ran across your article, while looking up dust mites. My husband, a retired history teacher, writer, has a 3,000 or so books! I was never bothered by them until a few years ago, after 47 years, he actually told he would take his books and leave! He apologised! Good thing I was going to say " good by, it was good knowing you!! I love books and leather bond books! But not if it could kill me !

We both looked forward to retirement surrounded by leather and books, life through us a curve. How do I talk him into a kindle! I even told him I would download his books, now that's love!

Thanks again to you and your followers!

Ban Stinky Furniture !

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 16 months ago from England Author

That is a fantastic idea Lyn! Thank you! And something I will definitely try on my old sofa chair! thanks again, nell

Lyn 16 months ago

My leather couch was starting to stink with b.o. I needed to use what I have on hand to rid the smell.

I had an orange that needed to be tossed. Instead I peeled the zest off, into a big bowl, along with some of the rind. I added 2 leaves of fresh sage-which I squeezed lightly to release the aromas. I added 3-4 cups of water.

The oil from the orange rind and the sage oil smell amazing! I dipped a cloth in the solution

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 18 months ago from England Author

Hi tc, I totally understand that you can smell it, and maybe it is because of your pregnancy, but if it is so horrible I suggest taking it back to the store and changing it for something maybe in cloth compared to leather, it may not harm you but if it makes you ill that could cause you problems with your pregnancy, good luck and let me know how you get on? thanks, nell

Tc 18 months ago

Im pregnant and we have brought a leather sofa from Harvey s outlet store. It smellseems really toxic I cannot stand it. Boyfriend can not smell it ans thinks its because of my heightened pewhency smell. Am I harming my baby

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Nell Rose 2 years ago from England Author

Thanks Keith, what gets me is that when my brother complained, and trust me he did, they expected and took 200 pounds of him for recovery! wish we had known this back then, thanks for the help, nell

keith newton 2 years ago

If you are having these smell from a leather sofa then do not try to cover the smell you have a faulty piece of furniture I notice the age of this report is about 4 year which was a time many sofa where being produced in China and on of the solvents being used by the Chinese to cover there foam filling to prevent fungal spores was highly toxic to humans it has a very hasty smell to it it does not small like leather at all. Most leather sofa in the UK are of the bonded type there will be no smell from these as the leather is sealed in a plastic type coating.

Nature hide sofa aniline and semi aniline will give a leather smell

But that goes after 6 months if your sofa smells different to the one on show reject it ask for a replacement only a fool would put up with this leather had been around before any other product for sofa so you are unlikely to have problems. Only stupid people will be put of from buying a leather sofa after reading this the leather was not the problem its sounds like the filling was the problem and even if you pay through the nose at john lewis they get there from the same places as small outlets and every can get caught by bad manufacturing and corner cutting

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England Author

Thanks triago, to be honest I felt the same way about having a go at them, but my brother sent it back, but had to pay 200 pounds for delivery! it stank, the money and the sofa! It was from John Lewis the so called best furniture store! yeah right! thanks for reading, nell

triago 2 years ago

If your leather products smell bad (not that good leather smell) it is because you got ripped off. Do you have any idea what type of chemicals need to be used to tan the leather? Some of them are so toxic that leather tanning companies have been held liable for the contaminants leaking into the towns water supply and killing kids (WR Grace Company, Chicago USA). Just think about what you have to do to turn cattle skin into a product that wont decompose. It's skin for crying out loud. If your leather products smell bad, its because they are using bad bad chemicals. I would suggest finding the person who sold it to you, and throwing that stinky couch through the front window of their store, bkz they scammed you.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England Author

Hi Sheila, yes its horrible isn't it? leather sofa's are so expensive, the nasty smell is the last thing we think of when buying, but never again, I have learned my lesson! maybe a good idea is to move it to another room for a few weeks, until the smell goes off a bit? good luck, and thanks for reading, nell

sheila 3 years ago

very helpful. thanks.

feel dizzy, bad headache and my nose is so sore and dry.

have tried vinegar. hope this smell goes.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England Author

Hi ignugent, thanks for reading, nell

ignugent17 profile image

ignugent17 3 years ago from Central Illinois , USA

Very useful. This will come in handy in the future and share it with my friends.

Voted up and useful. :-)

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Thanks Carole for your story, yes for some reason just some of the leather goods stink, it must be how they are packed and stored, nell

Carole Penrhyn bay 4 years ago

We have numerous leather sofas & chairs all of which are used on a daily basis, but only one of them has this foul skunky smell, it was an expensive little sofa,£1600 which was purchased about 2 years ago, we have relocated it around our home, but have finally reached the stage where we can put up with it no longer,it will go to the charity shop, because despite trying all sorts of solutions it stinks!!!!! I am annoyed that there is no recourse with the retailer, because it certainly does not apply to all leather products.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Thanks alocsin, it was horrible, my brother had to get rid of it quickly! lol! never ever again will we buy a leather sofa! thanks as always, nell

alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

I don't know that I've ever encountered that smell. But this hub has provided several solution in case I do. Voting this Up and Useful.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, love the name! lol! I am not sure to be honest, vinegar is a good cleaner and should break down the smell, so use that or I would get a soaking wet cloth with disinfectant, drag the sofa outside and let it dry for a couple of days, so the fresh air can get to it, then while its out there, cover it in plastic, lay loads of charcoal tablets on it to try and soak up the smell. furniture polish can then be applied everyday once you get it back in doors, and this should do it, if it still soaks through then get rid of it, hope this helps! nell

dying of dog 4 years ago

Hi, my problem is it's had a dog sleeping on it, licking it nearly 24/7 before it came to my house. I though the dog smelt - but now my clothes do on contact! Can that smell be removed too does anyone know, or should I just get rid?


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Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, xamaria, that sounds like a nightmare, I wouldn't be able to work in an office with the leather smell, thank goodness you left, lemon pledge sounds like a great idea, thanks for the added info, cheers nell

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xamaria 4 years ago from Deep space

Ack! I know what you mean. When my office decided to get some new furnitures in LEATHER, it smelled horrid but I didn't give much thought about it since I wasn't staying in the office for life and the air con eventually absorb the scent.

But at home, it was terrible but I use a spray called lemon pledge since saddle soap wasn't available here =)

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, Linda, that's typical of other people who do not suffer from the smell in such a bad way, they have probably worked around leather for a long time, and suffer no allergies or side effects. it makes me so mad when people don't believe you, in the same case as my brother, he couldn't breath, his face swelled up and everything you said too, and when he sent it back, they charged him, 200 pounds for the inconvenience! that's about 350 dollars! they virtually called him a liar, even though he had bought quite a few pieces from this particular shop, never again, we know when we are allergic, they should accept that, and maybe give you and my brother a chance to change it, at least we now know that its best to just buy a cloth sofa or couch, but what a price to pay, thanks for letting me know, I appreciate it, nell

Linda 4 years ago

We purchased a used leather sectional, Italia,in great condition. Upon its arrival I gotsoresinsidemy mouth. We had itprofessionally cleaned andwhen it returned the same thing happened. We have done everything you suggested and also used alcohul toclean it. The oder goes away for a shorttimethen returns. For six monthsnow I have been living with issues in my mouth and today we just got rid of it. 3 leather experts think I am nuts, they can't smell it,many other people can't smellit but I can and it is now gone....

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, len, I am really sorry to hear that, they never mention the smell and the irritant when advertising leather sofa's, It's a nightmare, especially if your wife suffers from asthma, like my brother did. I think the store should do something about it, keep trying, and get in touch with the store manager or write a letter to head office, that should have an impact, and good luck with the leather expert, thanks nell

len 4 years ago

just bought a leather suite really bad smell and making our eyes sore nose irritated wife suffers from asthma,store not to interested,so getting independent leather expert

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Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi, Suzanne, sorry I never saw your comment. I do understand where you are coming from, but ours was definitely Leather, it had the Mark on the side, and was sold by John Lewis, and it did smell horrible, maybe they both do? ours was definitely not cheap, thanks nell

Hi, Simon, I am glad it helped, its such a shame that it does have this smell, I do believe that its because it has been stored to long in the plastic covering, ours came with charcoal bags to catch the smell but sadly never worked! cheers nell

Simon 4 years ago

Hi Nell, so many comments but i feel good to add mine to this too. Few weeks ago I got my leather sofa, Looks great and comfy. Thought I had a dogey one till reading this. If I knew about this I would have got a different one but stuck with it now. Hopefully now I can get rid of this smell. Thanks.

Suzanne Winter 5 years ago

That smell is not leather, I have had leather sofas and clothing, that smell is toxic plastic. I guarantee if you look you will not see rawhide on the backside. You did not buy a leather sofa, just a horrible cheap imitation.

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Nell Rose 5 years ago from England Author

Hi, Merlin, behave! lol but seriously the sofa did stink so I think Lisa is right not get near any leather, especially on the size and scale of the stupid thing! it smelled like a cow that had been left out to rot for a year! thanks for reading, cheers nell

Hi, Lisa, I think my brother learned his lesson that day! ha ha

Lisa Mae DeMasi 5 years ago

Thanks Nell :) I wasn't going to contest that one.

Merlin Fraser profile image

Merlin Fraser 5 years ago from Cotswold Hills

Hey Nell,

I suppose Lisa realises youu sit on a Sofa... Not eat it !

Just a thought.

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Nell Rose 5 years ago from England Author

Hi, Lisa, I agree, it was my brothers fault! lol thanks for reading, cheers nell

Lisa Mae DeMasi 5 years ago

How about not buying leather at all? :) Sorry, I'm a vegetarian.

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Nell Rose 5 years ago from England Author

Hi, premiumsofas, thank you for reading it, and your kind words, nell

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premiumsofas 5 years ago from UK

That's a very comphrehensive post and a useful guide for anyone who is experiencing the same problem.

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Nell Rose 5 years ago from England Author

Hi, pan, yes it was horrible! ha ha I think that they coated it with something that went bad in the warehouse! thanks so much for all your reading, cheers nell

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pan1974 5 years ago from Columbus,Ga

You know what, I had a leather sofa before, and smelled something and didn't think anything on it, and I think it especial smells when mixed with human sweat, or when skin touches it, that's what makes it smell.

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Nell Rose 5 years ago from England Author

Hi, momuv, hope this helps! the smell is awful, isn't it? my brother had to take the sofa back in the end! I would take them back, it is about time they sorted it out really, thanks for reading it, nell

momuv3 5 years ago

Thanks for this info. My problem wasn't furniture, it was a pair of shoes I bought for my 4 year old. The smell is horrible. I'm trying a couple of theses ideas. I'm thinking of taking them back!

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Nell Rose 5 years ago from England Author

Hi, mysisters, thanks for reading it, and commenting, cheers nell

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mysisters 5 years ago

Great information and tips on how to take care of your leather furniture.

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