Leather is an extremely durable, long lasting, low maintenance material commonly used on higher end furniture. With proper care, your leather products will last a very long time! Keep in mind there are different types of leather and different ways to clean and maintain each type.
First, we must identify the type of leather you have. Check for tags or with the manufacturer of your leather product. They may offer recommendations on how to clean, condition and maintain your leather items.
“Unprotected leather” may also be considered aniline leather, pure aniline, full aniline, raw or unfinished leather. This type has a soft and sumptuous feel but offers no protective coating other than maybe a dust and dirt resistant treatment. This grade of leather is more susceptible to stains but is typically more expensive. Sometimes aniline leather is introduced to waxes and oils or purposely distressed or buffed to create a velvety feel.
“Protected leather” is featured on most leather upholstered products on the market. This leather is more resilient to stains and is considerably more durable than unprotected leather. Usually protected leather is stiffer and will stand up to more wear and tear.
Again, caring for your leather is relatively easy and will prolong the life of your furniture for years! Please always first consider recommendations for cleaning and conditioning your leather items from the manufacturer of the product.
General cleaning materials will include but not limited to:
- Vacuum cleaner or shop vac with a soft, brush attachment
- Distilled water
- Mild, neutral-pH nondetergent liquid soap, examples of this may include Neutrogena or Dove – OR a leather cleaner specifically designed for the type of leather you have.
- Soft white microfiber cloths
- Commercial grade leather cleaner
Cleaning unprotected leather: Sometimes you aren’t necessarily required to do much for this type of leather beyond dusting the surface with a clean dry cloth and vacuuming it regularly with a soft brush attachment. Another recommendation is to gently wipe the surface with a slightly dampened cloth with distilled water. You must take care when using the vacuum attachments and liquids because you do not want to permanently scratch or stain the leather. A good suggestion is to always apply your cleaning remedy in a inconspicuous test area of the furniture.
Cleaning protected leather: Semi-aniline and especially pigmented leather can hold up to more strenuous use and cleaning than aniline leather. Always steer clear of ammonia or alkaline products as this will dry out or damage the leather beyond repair. This will include furniture polish, saddle soap, detergents, oils, bleaches, abrasive materials and any cleaner with caustic or corrosive ingredients. Some furniture makers recommend brands like: Mohawk, Lexol, Leather Master and Leather Magic.
Cleaning steps for protected leathers are as follows. Again always try to use these cleaning suggestions in a hidden area of the product to ensure a proper and desired result before applying to the entire item.
First remove loose dirt and debris with the vacuum cleaner brush attachment. Next add a few drops of mild nondetergent soap to distilled water to create your cleaning solution. Moisten your white soft cleaning cloth with this solution and wipe down all desired surfaces with straight up and down strokes. Avoid circular motions. Once the white cloth has been soiled with the dust, dirt or debris use a new cloth and repeat the steps until the item is clean. Follow up the dampened leather surfaces with a dry cloth to remove any excess moisture. Let furniture dry completely before use.
Regarding localized spots, stains or spills.
Any time you spill a liquid on your leather whether it is wine, soda, soup, or even water you must act quickly to blot the substance with a dry clean white cloth to absorb the liquid out of the leather material. Try to apply very little pressure to the spot because we do not want to drive the substance into the material. This will make the stain more difficult to remove. At this point you may want to consult with your furniture manufacturer otherwise you are likely safe to continue to remove the stain. It is typically recommended to use lukewarm distilled water with a nondetergent formula in combination with a clean, white microfiber cloth. Follow up the cleaning solution application with a dry white microfiber cloth to remove any remaining moisture from the furniture. NEVER use a hair dryer or heat gun on any type of leather or vinyl.
Oil based stains such as body oils, butter, lotions, creams, candles, lipstick, crayons, gasoline, etc. should be extracted differently than suggested above. The best first step is to remove and excess oil based products from the leather by a dry white clean cloth. At this point you may want to consider using a shop vac or a vacuum cleaner to attempt to remove any oily particles from the furniture. Keep in mind these oils will gradually dissipate into the leather over time. If the stain is colored with a pigment such as a lipstick or crayons you may want to consider a leather degreaser such as the one created by “Uniters”
When in doubt you should consult with the manufacturer or a leather cleaning professional regarding the particular oil-based stain on your leather upholstery.
To Condition or Not to Condition:
If you prefer your leather soft and supple, you may want to follow up each cleaning with a commercial leather conditioner. This process can be performed every 6 months to 1 year. This will help your leather piece maintain its natural oils keeping it soft and supple for many years! Its recommended by leather cleaning and conditioning experts to avoid conditioners that contain silicone or wax. It could make the surface irreversibly sticky. You may also want to consider a leather conditioner that has a sunscreen added to it.
Other good ways to prolong the life of your leather furniture is to keep it away from heat sources such as fireplaces, heater vents, and direct sunlight from windows in the home. These heat sources will dry out and cause your leather to begin cracking.
Keeping these simple cleaning and conditioning steps in mind when caring for your leather furniture will ensure your investment will retain its beauty and durability for years or even decades! Good luck and if you have any further questions please feel free to contact us. We will be happy to advise you on how to clean, condition and care for your products.