How We Tested
We chose a range of leather cleaning and conditioning products for this review, from dedicated cleaners and conditioners, to new products that do it all on leather, vinyl, and rubber. We already had a few favorites in our collection, but also purchased a couple of new all-in-one products, and received some samples directly from the biggest names in the business.
We tested the lot on the leather interior of the author’s personal 1987 Mitsubishi Starion. And since it was time for an interior spring cleaning, all the seats came out of the car and went up on sawhorses and service carts—the last time this car had no seats was when it was first on the assembly line in Nagoya, Japan!
The upholstery is a blend of pigmented leather and matching vinyl. Burgundy was big in the eighties, and Mitsubishi put plenty of it into its flagship sports coupe. We’ve always used a separate cleaner and conditioner on these seats, but decided to try out the new all-in-one products to see how they performed.
Which one did we think is best? Let’s find out.
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Best Leather Conditioner Reviews & Recommendations
Mothers VLR earned our best overall choice for its versatility and performance. The all-in-one cleans, conditions, and protects leather, vinyl, and rubber. What we liked about this product is its balance of cleaning and conditioning power. After a vacuum and brush cleanup, we applied the product to a microfiber cloth and barely had to use another to remove any excess and buff the seat. VLR simultaneously lifted off unseen dirt and moisturized with each pass.
It’s well-suited to most of today’s automotive leather seats and upholstery with adjacent vinyl panels, like the vintage seats we used for testing. The pH-balanced formula contains lanolin and neatsfoot oil and has a fresh, clean scent that doesn’t overwhelm the senses. Mother’s VLR is easy to use and doesn’t leave too much of itself behind in the process. A single application left our leather seats and vinyl clean, supple, and quiet with a perfect level of shine.
- Size: 24 ounces
- Formulated With: Neatsfoot oil and lanolin
- Protects Against: UV damage, dryness, fading, and cracks
- Works on leather, vinyl, and rubber
- Performs equally well on all seat materials
- Lifts away dirt
- Tackles cleaning and moisturizing simultaneously
- Can leave a light haze behind on some seats
- Has a matte finish—not glossy—if shine is desired
Lexol leather cleaner and conditioner is an old favorite, and the author’s 30-year-old leather seats are a testament to Lexol quality and performance. I picked up Lexol’s cleaner and conditioner shortly after purchasing the Starion over a decade ago, and have been a fan of the company ever since. This product is a two-step kit, and it includes Lexol’s All Leather Deep Cleaner and All Leather Deep Conditioner plus two applicator sponges. The pH-balanced cleaner is powerful but still gentle, and the conditioner leaves leather supple with a natural look.
Lexol penetrates and softens the leather without leaving behind an excessive shine even after long-term use. The formula knocks down glossy buildup and gives the leather a quality look and feel with a classic scent reminiscent of a well-kept vintage Jaguar. This Lexol leather cleaner and conditioner set offers great value because it includes everything you need at an affordable price and it gets to work in mere minutes. You’ll have nourished leather (and no greasy residue) as soon as your leather soaks up the liquid conditioner. Plus, it’s nicely versatile; you can put the conditioner to use on leather old or new, worn or still in great shape.
- Size: 8-ounce cleaner, 8-ounce conditioner
- Formulated With: Fine oil droplets
- Protects Against: Cracking, drying, and stiffness
- Softens and conditions
- Restores a natural, gloss-free finish to leather
- Comes with a gentle pH-balanced cleaner
- Pleasant scent
- Leather can absorb the conditioner very quickly
Leather and vinyl can dry out, especially if you’ve been detailing your dash and seats with hand disinfectant wipes while waiting for a Filet-o-Fish at the drive-thru. These Armor All Leather Care Wipes are self-contained, all-in-one leather care that you can easily stow on board for quick cleanups.
The disposable wipes clean, condition, and protect in just one step. They lifted off hidden grime with ease and conditioned the leather to a rich sheen. Disposable wipes have a cleaning advantage that’s easy to see, and easy to use. For best results, use one wipe for cleaning and a fresh one for conditioning. The main drawback to all of these disposable wipe products is that, like leather, the wipes can dry out over time. We experienced this first-hand after we pulled our car care products out of winter storage and discovered a dry canister. We picked up a fresh one for the review and the future.
- Size: 30 wipes per container; two containers per set
- Formulated With: Cleansing agents, conditioners, and blocking agents
- Protects Against: Stains, spills, cracking, discoloration, and premature aging
- Wipe-style application is easy to master
- Formulated with cleaning and conditioning agents
- Portable and sealed for long-term freshness
- Works on leather and vinyl
- Even with a sealed canister lid, wipes can dry out
- Two wipes are needed for every use
- Can leave behind streaks on some leather and vinyl
Meguiar’s Gold Class is a premium leather care kit in a single bottle. The 3-in-1 formula cleans, conditions, and protects in one step and predictable liquid spray is an excellent choice for overall maintenance. Testing Gold Class on one of the rear seat panels proved that it lived up to its all-in-one promises. We sprayed the product on a bright yellow microfiber cloth for cleaning, and it extracted unseen crud and dirt like a boss.
Flipping the towel over to a clean section with each pass shifted cleaning to conditioning and allowed the product to penetrate into the leather. We gave things a few minutes and then buffed off any excess. Gold Class left the leather soft and clean with a moderate level of shine that was easy to adjust with additional buffing. Meguiar’s Gold Class has a fresh, clean scent with a touch of fruity citrus.
- Size: 15.2 ounces
- Formulated With: Premium conditioners and aloe
- Protects Against: Aging, drying, cracking, and color fading
- Works to clean, condition, and protect leather with every use
- One-step application process
- Softens leather
- Restores a moderate amount of shine
- Does leave behind a slightly greasy feel that disappears within days
Aero Cosmetics Leather Care is a premium product that’s highly effective without being harsh on your car’s leather surfaces. Formulated with no harsh ingredients like alcohol or ammonia, this water-based leather conditioner will leave behind a natural look and feel. If your goal is soft-to-the-touch leather, this product can deliver. Plus, it offers a premium level of protection once applied. It’ll create a protective barrier that keeps UV rays, dryness, stains, and other kinds of damage at bay.
We used this conditioner on the driver’s seat and came away impressed. The driver’s seat sees the most use and was the worst of the bunch in our car (and probably in yours, too)—the Starion’s seat had some scuffing on one of the side bolsters. A brush and the cleaner lifted off dirt and grime and prepped the leather. We applied the conditioner on a microfiber cloth, worked it into the upholstery, let it soak in for a couple of minutes, and then wiped off the excess with a damp and then dry cloth. Aero Cosmetics leather care left the leather soft and supple without unwanted noise or excessive sheen. The conditioner has a fresh scent that lessens with a buff.
- Size: 16 ounces
- Formulated With: Water-based, biodegradable ingredients
- Protects Against: UV damage, drying, and cracking
- Alcohol- and ammonia-free formula
- Creates a barrier that repels dirt and protects it from UV rays
- Works on leather and vinyl
- Fragrance may be strong for some users
- Formula is a bit watery in consistency
Chemical Guys leather cleaner and conditioner uses a slightly different approach to leather care and delivers superior results. The odorless, colorless, and pH-balanced cleaner removes dirt and leaves nothing behind to get in the way of conditioning. We used the cleaner with a brush and bright yellow microfiber cloth. The results were easy to see. Chemical Guys leather conditioner creme goes on differently than liquids and a little goes a long way.
We applied the conditioner with a microfiber applicator and a folded microfiber cloth and found the creme conditioner is easier to control than liquids. The more we worked it, the better it got. We gave it time to penetrate in between applications and used just enough for a soft touch and satin finish. Use a little more if you like more shine. Chemical Guys leather conditioner has a fresh scent of new leather without the overwhelming olfactory assault of new car smell.
- Size: 16-ounce cleaner, 16-ounce conditioner
- Formulated With: Vitamin E and aloe extracts
- Protects Against: UV damage, dirt, oils, and drying
- A little conditioner covers a lot of areas
- Odorless, colorless, and pH-balanced
- Finishes leather so it’s soft to the touch
- Creates a satin finish
- Does take time to penetrate the leather
- Can require multiple applications for a quality final result
The Aero Cosmetics Leather Care Kit is the way to go for an all-inclusive leather cleaning, conditioning, and preservation package. The kit comes in its own carrying bag with a spray bottle of Leather Soap and Leather Care, blue microfiber Aero Towels, a mini Aero Scrubber pad that punches way above its size, and a sample size bottle of the company’s world-famous Wash Wax All waterless wet or waterless car, boat, or airplane cleaner.
The Aero Towels worked well for cleaning, applying, and buffing, and the non-scratch Aero Scrubber gently lifted off stubborn grime. A complete car care kit can save time and money. Getting everything you need at once makes it easy to get the job done without an additional order or trip to the store. The package deal is an economical way to try out some Aero Cosmetics or any car care product without the commitment of buying a larger size.
- Size: 4 ounces Wash Wax All, 16 ounces soap, 16 ounces conditioner
- Formulated With: Water-based, biodegradable ingredients
- Protects Against: Cracking, drying, stiffness, and dirt
- Gets rid of even stubborn dirt and grime
- Waterless cleaner is easy to apply
- Leather conditioner restores softness, suppleness
- Includes all of the detailing products you need
- Doesn’t offer the UV protection that competing products do
Our Verdict on Leather Conditioner
When it comes to a leather conditioner that really works and delivers the results it promises, we like Mothers VLR. This conditioner is versatile, and you can put it to use on leather inside your car and out, and it’ll even work on vinyl and rubber too. Plus, it packs a punch inside its bottle, working as a moisturizing conditioner and an efficient cleaner. It’s one you’ve got to add to your detailing arsenal.
What to Consider When Buying Leather Conditioner
Leather conditioner sure might seem simple at first glance, but you can’t just wipe any old conditioning product on your precious leather seats and get flawless results. You’ve got to choose the right kind of conditioner—one with quality features and benefits suited for your leather’s needs.
Types of Leather Conditioner
Oil-based leather conditioners are typically made with neatsfoot oil or lanolin—or, in the case of products like those on our list above—both. These types of leather conditioners penetrate your car’s leather seats and surfaces deeply, with the oils soaking in and moisturizing from the inside out.
Oils are particularly beneficial for leather that’s seen some serious wear. If your leather seats are pretty beat up and experiencing issues like drying, cracking, and stiffness, an oil-based conditioner can help soften up the fabric and return some of its flexibility and suppleness. However, keep in mind that some oils can also darken leather and leave behind a bit of a greasy-feeling finish.
Cream leather conditioners (or creme conditioners) are thick and, well…creamy. It’s almost like applying lotion to your leather. Cream conditioners are rubbed into the surface of leather, and they moisturize and soften it. These types of leather conditioners are great for keeping your leather pliable and supple, and they tend to absorb quite well.
The biggest potential downside to a cream leather conditioner? This kind of moisturizer doesn’t always last a long time, so you may find yourself reapplying frequently. Additionally, if you apply a bit too much, you may experience residue.
Wax leather conditioners are formulated with natural waxes. These types of conditioners aren’t as common as oils and creams, but they can be great for creating a protective barrier, especially if you’re worried about spills and liquid stains. Wax-based conditioners are somewhat challenging to use on your car seats, as wax can’t really seep into the nooks and crannies or seams, but they are greatly protective.
Leather Conditioner Key Features
Leather Type and Compatibility
Automakers have myriad names for their different types of leather, but automotive leather falls into two general categories when it comes to cleaning and conditioning: finished or porous. The majority of modern car leather is finished, with color and protective coatings for durability and easy cleaning. Porous leathers, like true aniline or suede, are easily damaged by liquids or oils and require special care. That’s why it’s so important to consider leather type when you’re picking out a leather conditioner. Here’s an overview of the different types:
Finished, Pigmented, or Coated
There are also various combinations of pigments, dyes, and protective coatings on car leather, and this type of leather is collectively referred to as finished. Premium semi-aniline or top grain leather is the least processed of the bunch, with only a thin coating on top of the natural texture.
Aniline or Natural Leather
Aniline leather is the most natural and expensive automotive leather upholstery. The name refers to the soluble aniline dyes that give the leather a natural look and warm, supple feel. Authentic uncoated aniline leather is porous and requires special care, cleaning, and conditioning. A tiny drop of water in an inconspicuous area can help identify porous aniline leather. If it soaks in, you have an answer.
Automaker marketing departments have created plenty of leather-like names for these synthetic imposters through the years, but this type of material isn’t leather at all. Today’s faux leather is better than yesterday’s leatherette and is increasingly used with finished leather on automotive upholstery.
If a leather conditioner is a challenge to apply, it isn’t going to be one you want to work with, no matter how great the results might be. So, make sure you consider a conditioner’s application method before buying. You have plenty of options to choose from. Oil- and cream-based conditioners can be wiped onto the leather with soft microfiber cloths. Many oil-based formulas even come in handy spray bottles for more control.
You’ll also find wipe-on conditioners, which work pretty much like your basic household disposable cleaning wipes, just loaded with conditioner instead of harsh cleaners. Wipes allow you to quickly and easily apply conditioner, and they can be convenient if not the most professional option.
Versatility is another key feature of any leather conditioner. The more versatile a conditioner is, the more benefits it can potentially offer. Some leather conditioners are only designed for one job: conditioning. However, others can do more. You’ll find combination cleaner and conditioner products (or product sets), along with all-in-one products that’ll do your cleaning, conditioning, and protecting all at once.
The key is to decide whether you want a multi-step conditioning process or an all-in-one. If you’re looking to save time, effort, and money, an all-in-one product with total versatility can be a good fit. But if you don’t mind taking your time and completing your leather cleaning, conditioning, and protection separately, individual products are better.
Leather Conditioner Benefits
Restore and Refresh Your Leather
Using a leather conditioner regularly will breathe new life into your car’s leather interior, no matter how long your car’s been on the road. A good conditioner can remove the dirt and grime sitting on leather surfaces, preventing potential damage. And it’ll give your leather the much-needed moisture it requires to stay soft, supple and looking sleek. Plus, conditioner can take dried-out, cracked, and dirty leather from unsightly to wonderfully plush.
Adds Value to Your Vehicle
Thinking about selling your car? You’re going to have to lower the price and take a financial hit if your leather seats and interior surfaces are looking worse for the wear. Using a leather conditioner regularly will help maintain your vehicle’s leather and keep it looking as good as new. Additionally, a good conditioner can help you restore some of the dryness, stiffness, and other visible changes leather undergoes as it ages and is exposed to sunlight, dirt, and other elements. If you keep your leather seats looking good, you’ll get more value when you sell your car.
Improves Your Comfort
No one wants to sit on cracked, peeling, or dry leather seats. That’s where leather conditioner can help. One of these leather moisturizers can keep your car’s seats feeling soft to the touch, enhancing your comfort whether you’re driving for short or long distances. The more supple your leather is with the help of a good conditioner, the better your seats will feel underneath you and when in contact with your skin.
Leather Conditioner Pricing
Equipping yourself with a quality leather conditioner doesn’t have to break the bank. On average, leather conditioners are pretty affordable. You can find conditioners priced under $10. In fact, most single bottles, along with quick-use wipes, fall within this price range.
If you’re looking to buy conditioners in larger quantities or packages, you can expect to pay between $10 and $20. Additionally, if you want to invest in a complete leather care kit that includes multiple products (like cleaners and conditioners) plus accessories (like applicators, cloths, or brushes), you’ll be looking at prices of $20 or more.
Tips and Tricks
As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and leather conditioners. To help you bridge the information gap, here are a few tips and tricks we’ve picked up along the way.
- Always test leather cleaners and conditioners in a small inconspicuous area. Use a light cloth for testing and check for color or pigment bleed.
- Clean and condition leather often. Frequent light applications and attention are better than infrequent heavy assaults. Dirt buildup and body motion abrade color and texture, and harmful oils require immediate removal.
- Microfiber towels and applicators are indispensable leather and interior care equipment. Use a bright-colored cloth that makes it easy to see dirt for cleaning. Use a different color for conditioning and buffing.
- Start small and apply leather conditioner a little at a time. Remove excess product as directed. Avoid overspray. Do not spray leather conditioners directly onto the upholstery.
- Cleaning is a crucial first step to leather conditioning. A mild ph-balanced cleaner removes oils and potentially abrasive crud without damage and prepares the leather for conditioning.
- Dirty and dried-out leather is a bad combination. Conditioner moisturizes and protects the leather from damage and maintains its original combination of breathable comfort and support. Using a dedicated conditioner gives you complete control over the application process.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!
Q: What if my leather is cracked, discolored, or peeling?
An extensive cleaning and conditioning can salvage dried-out or dirty leather, but it won’t fix tears, delamination, pigment loss, large cracks, heavy abrasion, or punctures. Look into a leather repair and pigment kit for minor pigment loss, abrasion, or peeling. Consult a professional upholsterer for more severe damage.
Q: Can I use a household furniture leather conditioner in my car?
Your car seats are not the same as your sofa. Automotive leather upholstery and conditioners have to stand up to searing heat, sub-zero cold, relentless direct sunlight, flying fast food, and miles of road grime. They won’t work the same and you could damage your car’s interior if you use the wrong product.
Q: Can I use a leather conditioner on vinyl?
Yes, automotive leather conditioners will not harm vinyl, and most all-in-one conditioners are formulated for use on leather and vinyl. The ever-increasing demand for leather upholstery means automakers use vinyl and leather together on the same seat. Avoid overspray.
That said, leather conditioners can cause spotting on hard plastic and painted surfaces.
Q: How much does leather conditioner cost?
Most single bottles of cleaner or conditioner, quick wipes, and the majority of all-in-one products can be yours for under $10. Larger quantities of all-in-one and separate cleaners and conditioners can cost more, along with premium products, but they’re still a great deal compared to new leather upholstery.