Fibrenew Alameda County

UPDATES FROM FIBRENEW ALAMEDA COUNTY

A savvy do-it-yourselfer’s guide to using leather products

Apr 18/2011

Don't use products with acetone or alcohol to clean leather

Don't use products with acetone or alcohol to clean leather

I can’t tell you how many jobs we have come in because people have tried do-it-yourself leather products that didn’t work out.  I hate that.  While I can’t speak for other company’s products, I can give you some good tips on what to look for.

1. Make sure the product you are using is designed specifically for the type of leather you are using it on.  There are a ton of different types of leather out there.  Think about it – some leather looks shiny and some looks more like suede.  They soak up products differently, and not all leather cleaners will work for all kinds of leather.

2. Keep in mind that the finish on upholstery leather is completely different from the finish used in jackets, shoes and purses.

The results of a green do-it-yourself  leather dye kit bought online

The results of a green do-it-yourself leather dye kit bought online

3. We don’t recommend products that are supposed to be used on both leather and plastic.  You’ll find a lot of these in the auto industry, and these cleaners often cause long-term damage to your leather, and you might not know it right away.

4. Check the ingredients in your cleaner and be sure that there is NO acetone or alcohol.  Acetone will remove the dye from your leather, and alcohol will break down its protective top coat.

5.Be wary of do-it-yourself dying products.  Finding an exact color match is sometimes difficult for professionals, and most DIY dye kits are going to lack what you need to make your repair look good.

Take a look at our post on house-hold products people use that will also ruin leather: Debunking myths: Frequently recommended leather remedies that ruin leather

Ever tried any products that you had a lot of success or, hopefully not, a huge disaster with?  Post experiences, tips and questions in the comments!

Buying Guide for Used Furniture – The Dos and Don’ts of Buying Used Leather Furniture

Mar 28/2011

Because buying used furniture is both eco-friendly and thrifty, it’s a very IN thing to do right now.  Here are some tips to be sure you make good buying decisions when it comes to used leather!

Check to see if the previous owner took good care of it:

  • We recommend that people use leather cleaner and protection cream to care for furniture several times a year.  Following those guidelines will make leather last a lot longer.
  • Look and see if there is dirt underneath the cushions.  If there is, it is likely that the owner did not clean and protect it often.

Compare pieces of a set to determine quality:

This might sound like common sense, but if you are looking at a set of furniture, line up all the pieces next to each other to compare each piece’s quality before you buy.

  • It is likely that some pieces were used more and are more worn than others.
  • Also, one piece of a used set may be more faded from the sun than others.
  • These are little differences that you might not notice in the store, but may drive you crazy once you get them in your home.  Setting them all up for comparison is a good way to avoid the issue.
  • Also, keep in mind that if some pieces of a set look dramatically worse than others, it might be an indicator that the furniture doesn’t hold up well.
  • The new-looking pieces were probably not used very frequently, so they might still look pretty new.
  • It’s likely that the one or two pieces that look bad were the only ones that got used by the previous owners, and they just didn’t hold up well.  That could be a bad omen for the rest of the set.
  • Consider the age of the furniture.  If it is relatively new furniture that is already showing some wear, it could be a sign that it won’t hold up well in the future.  However, if the furniture is an older piece and is still only showing a little wear, that is likely a good sign of things to come.

Is it worth it to fix-up damaged furniture?

Sometimes.  We love the eco-friendly factor in buying and fixing up used leather furniture instead of buying new.  There are a lot of types of damage that are pretty cheap and easy to fix, making refurbishing a much cheaper alternative to buying new.  But, there are a few types of damage you should look out for and avoid because they are expensive to fix.

Cheap Fixes

  • Dinginess – If the piece is just a little dirty and dingy looking, it doesn’t cost much to pay a professional to thoroughly clean it.
  • A few minor scratches and scuffs – many professionals charge based on the number scuffs or scratches, so a few is going to make for a cheap repair.
  • Small Pen mark

Mid-range Fixes

  • Dog chew hole
  • Color missing on cushion surfaces and arms

High-end fixes

  • Body oil stains and spots
  • Visible stains
  • Damage near seams is always trickier and more expensive than damage that does not affect a seam

Let’s talk holes

Holes in leather are hard to drop into the “Cheap, Mid-range, High-end” fix categories because the size of a hole makes a big difference in how expensive it is to repair.  As a general rule, a hole with a diameter up to a one eighth of an inch is considered small, 1/8 to 1/2in. is mid-range and bigger that 1/2 in. is considered large.

Repairs in the long-run:

Some repairs are more likely to become a problem again later on down the road than others, so it’s a good idea to take that into consideration if you plan to hold onto this furniture for a while.  For example, other than a small scratch, a repair to the sitting area of a piece of furniture isn’t going to last as long as a repair in a place that never gets touched because of the constant movement.

Ah, the subjectivity!

Still wondering how dingy is too dingy?  Need a better idea of what, exactly, “cheap,” means?  We understand.  Anyone can send a photo to us for a free quote before you buy.  Also, feel free to leave questions in the comments or post pictures on our Facebook!

How to prevent cracked leather, a common problem

Mar 1/2011

Cracked Leather

To be totally honest, if aniline or semi-aniline leather cracks, it’s often too far gone to be worth repairing. Now, this is not always the case, but when these leathers crack, it’s usually the result of problems that have been neglected or unnoticed for a long, long time. Fully-finished leather is different, though. Check out this blog post for explanations of different types of leather.

Cracking of fully-finished leather is actually a very common problem that leather restoration experts can easily fix, but like most things with leather furniture, it’s easier (and cheaper) to take care of the problem before it really becomes a problem.

Why does leather crack?

Our estimate is that 95% of cracking in fully-finished leather starts with one of these two culprits:

1. A manufacturer problem – To make fully-finished leather, manufacturers put a layer of dye and a protective top coating on the hide almost like paint goes on drywall. Leather has a lot of give and will stretch and move as people sit and slide around on it. If the manufacturer doesn’t stretch the leather properly before they put on the dye and protective top coating, the leather will quickly stretch more than the dye can handle, and the coating will crack.

2. Body oil and dirt – Leather is incredibly porous, and it soaks up oil whenever it touches it. Believe it or not, the most common source of these problems is you from your own bare arms, legs, neck and hair. Dirt also gets soaked into the top coating on leather as it gets worn down. As you sit, stand and move around, that dirt and oil becomes abrasive, and it breaks down surface dye which will eventually lead to visible cracks at the surface.

 

Couch half cleaned

Prevent Leather from Cracking:

There are two key things you can do to prevent cracking of fully-finished leather.

1. Clean and protect leather 3 to 4 times a year. You get rid of the dirt and oil still sitting on the surface of your furniture when you clean it, preventing it from eventually soaking in. A good protection cream will fill in the gaps and spaces in the original top coat of your leather as it gets worn down. By filing those gaps with protection cream, you remove the possibility that they can be filled with dirt and oil later – sort of like putting out the fire before it starts. For a quick tutorial on cleaning and protecting leather, check out this blog post or this video:

2. Avoid exposure to excessive amounts of dirt and body oil. The fact of the matter is that if you use your leather furniture at all, it is going to be exposed to some body oil and some dirt and dust that simply come with the territory. But, you can limit the damage of normal wear and tear. You should avoid sleeping on your leather furniture regularly or sitting down if you come in sweaty and dirty from outside. Also, if you are wearing sunscreen or have greasy popcorn hands, use the less expensive seats in the house. It’s a good idea to try to cover your leather in areas that see a lot of dirt and oil if you can. Try tossing a blanket over the headrest of a leather recliner you know you are going to rest your head on frequently or for extended periods of time.

Repair Cracked Leather:

Once leather has been cracked, there isn’t much you can do for it yourself, but a professional can either re-dye it or replace parts of the piece, depending on the extent of the damage, to eliminate the problem.

Additional Questions?

We’d be happy to answer any additional questions you have. Please ask in the comments below! If you want to show us a photo of a specific piece of leather, either post it on our Facebook page or fill out our Quote and Estimate Form.

Leather and the Sun – Tips to avoid a common problem, sun damage

Feb 25/2011

Sun-damaged, faded leather chair

Unfortunately, sun and leather don’t usually mix well. Too much sunlight will do one of two things (and possibly both) to leather furniture and upholstery– fading and drying.

 Fading is commonly seen in semi-aniline and aniline leathers, but is a little rarer in fully-finished leathers that have an opaque dye and top coat. It’s one of the most common problems we see, and if you put leather furniture next to a window that gets some serious sunlight, you can start to see fading in as little as 4 to 6 months.

 Drying, on the other hand, is something the sun will do to almost any kind of leather – fully-finished or not. The heat of sunlight causes the moisture in the leather’s natural oils to slowly evaporate, and eventually, it will dry, stiffen and crack.

 These are both common problems, and no, you don’t have to live with the shades drawn 24/7. There are a few highly effective ways to fight both types of sun damage – it just takes a little preventative maintenance.

 How do I prevent sun damage to my leather?

 Prevent Drying

 The best way to prevent drying in fully finished, semi-aniline and aniline leathers (except Nubuck) is by cleaning and protecting them 3 to 4 times a year.  For a quick tutorial on cleaning and protecting leather, check out this blog post or this video:

  

 Cleaning and protecting is key, but another good idea is to try your best to keep leather furniture out of direct sunlight.  Regardless of how much cleaning and protecting you do, if you put a leather sofa directly in front of a sunny window, you’re asking for trouble. It is helpful to close the blinds during the sunniest, hottest parts of the day.

 Remember that dark colors absorb more light, and therefore more heat, from the sun.  Leather is no exception, so try to avoid putting dark colored leather in direct sunlight if you can.

 Prevent Fading

 Like we said, fading is mainly a problem that affects analine and semi-analine leathers. The only true way to prevent the fading of leather from sunlight is to keep it out of the sun.  Try to place semi-aniline and aniline leather furniture out of direct sunlight whenever possible, and follow the closed blinds tip above if you do have to place these leathers in a sunny spot.  If you need to put a piece of leather furniture in direct sunlight, as most people do, we recommend fully-finished leather because of its durability and resistance to fading – so think about where you’re going to put your furniture before you buy if at all possible.

 What about car seats?

Since the leather in your car is likely to be exposed to a lot of sunlight and heat, car manufacturers use leather that is highly resistant to sun damage in their interiors.  It usually holds up a lot longer in the sun than most furniture leather, but it’s still a good idea to clean and protect it a couple times a year.  You can also try using window shields or a sheer curtain to keep some of the light and heat off your leather if you park in the sun for extended periods of time.

 What if it’s already damaged?  What can I do?

Fixing faded leather 

Once leather is faded, the only way to get the color back is to re-dye and color match it, which you’ll need a professional to do.  The cost varies depending on the size of the affected area and the extent of the problem. The best way to get an idea of cost is to ask a local professional who can do the work for you. Most pros who know what they are doing will give you an estimate for free –we do at Fibrenew.

  Fixing dried leather

People always ask us, “Can you re-hydrate leather once it has been dried out?”  The simple answer is no; once the natural oils found in leather are gone, they’re gone for good. This is why the cleaning, protecting and preventative maintenance are so important. While it would be incredibly time consuming and impractical for a professional to attempt to re-hydrate dried out leather, your best bet is going to be to patch it, re-dye it and you won’t notice the difference when it’s done.

 A word of warning

 

Leather chair darkened from body oil

We have seen lots of advice on the internet suggesting that people treat their leather with olive oil to prevent drying.  Let me be clear, this is NOT a good idea.  Leather is extremely porous by nature, so it will soak up any oils you put on it – and that includes popcorn grease, conditioning oils, body oils and olive oil.  The oil gets soaked into the back side of the leather – the part you can’t see.  Then, eventually it ends up saturating broader areas as it naturally fills up from back to front over time.  Once oil saturates the leather, you end up with oil spots on the surface and a problem that is much harder to solve than dried out leather, like in this photo.

  Additional Questions?

 We’d be happy to answer any additional questions you have.  Please ask in the comments below!  If you want to show us a photo of a specific piece of leather, either post it on our Facebook page or fill out our Quote and Estimate Form.

Leather, Dirt and Oil – Tips to avoid common problem, ugly oil spots

Feb 16/2011

One of the worst things to eat on leather couches is buttered popcorn – yes, the all-time favorite movie snack. What a bummer.

Unfortunately, folks, leather is extremely porous by nature, and it will soak up any oils you put on it – and that includes popcorn grease, lotion and the natural body oils that we all have on our skin.   You won’t notice any damage at first, but oils can cause some real trouble down the road.

The nitty gritty

When oil gets on your furniture, it is soaked into the back side of the leather – the part you can’t see.  Then, eventually it ends up saturating broader areas as it naturally fills up from back to front over time.  Once oil saturates the leather, you end up with ugly oil spots on the surface, like in this photo.  It isn’t pretty, that’s for sure.

Prevent oil spots on leather

There are two key things you can do to prevent oil spots on leather.

1. Clean and protect leather 3 to 4 times a year.

You get rid of the dirt and oil still sitting on the surface of your furniture when you clean it, preventing it from eventually soaking in.  A good protection cream will fill in the gaps and spaces in the original top coat of your leather as it gets worn down.  By filing those gaps with protection cream, you remove the possibility that they can be filled with dirt and oil later – sort of like putting out the fire before it starts. For a quick tutorial on cleaning and protecting leather, check out this blog or the video below:

2. Avoid exposure to excessive amounts of dirt, grease and body oil. The fact of the matter is that if you use your leather furniture at all, it is going to be exposed to some body oil and some dirt.  You’re probably even going to eat on it every now and again – it comes with the territory.  But, you can limit the damage of normal wear and tear. You should avoid sleeping on your leather furniture regularly or sitting down if you come in sweaty and dirty from outside. Also, if you are wearing sunscreen or have greasy popcorn hands, use the less expensive seats in the house.  It’s a good idea to try to cover your leather in areas that see a lot of dirt and oil if you can. Try tossing a blanket over the headrest of a leather recliner you know you are going to rest your head on frequently or for extended periods of time.

Chair, damaged by oil saturation, refurbished professionally

Prevent oil spots on leather

If you want to get rid of oil spots yourself, you can try rubbing them off with a soft leather cleaner.  You may be able to remove the spot from view as a temporary fix.  But, since the real problem reaches far below the surface, there’s not much you can do to permanently remove the problem yourself.  You’ll probably see the spots re-surface.

A professional can use their equipment to give your leather a deep cleaning.  Sometimes they can remove the problem completely, and sometimes they can only get out some of the oil – it depends on the extent of the problem.

A word of warning

We have seen lots of advice on the internet suggesting that people treat their leather with olive oil to prevent drying.  In case you haven’t gotten it from the rest of this post, let me be clear: this is NOT a good idea.

You couch will soak up olive oil just like it will soak up popcorn oil and will get saturated.

Additional Questions?

We’d be happy to answer any additional questions you have.  Please ask in the comments below!  If you want to show us a photo of a specific piece of leather, either post it on our Facebook page or contact us by filling out our Quote and Estimate Form.

Top Five Super Bowl Party Spills and How to Clean Them

Feb 6/2011

On Super Bowl Sunday, it’s not just the players who take a beating. During our Super Bowl parties, our furniture gets ran-SACKED more than a quarterback with food and drink spills. It’s all got to be cleaned up, but where do you start?

The local leather expert from Fibrenew, a leather and plastics refurbishing specialist, warns consumers of the Top Five Super Bowl Party Spills and arms them with The Do’s and Don’ts of Super Bowl Party Clean Up.

“We see a big increase in the damage of leather furniture this time of year with all the Super Bowl parties” says Michael Wilson, CEO of Fibrenew. “Clumsy guests cause damage, but the worst disasters are caused by homeowners who don’t know the best ways to clean up a mess and repair a problem.”

TOP FIVE SUPERBOWL SPILLS (and how to clean them!)*

1) FOOD OR WINE STAIN: Your brother-in-law eats an entire pizza and drops a slice and his fifth glass of wine on your leather loveseat.

  • DON’T use window/mirror cleaner because it contains alcohol which will dissolve and destroy the surface coating on your leather.
  • DO use a damp towel to wipe up the mess and a dry one to finish the job. Fully-finished leather is pretty much water proof, so a little spill isn’t going to hurt as long as you clean it up quickly, before it soaks through.

2) INK : The spoiled rotten … we mean darling … neighbor’s kid, is keeping score on your leather couch with his new marker set.

  • DON’T use dish soap or hair spray to remove the marks. The degreasing agent in dish soap can permanently de-gloss and damage the top coating on the leather surface. Hair spray, another commonly recommended remedy, has alcohol in it and will ruin the surface coating on your leather.
  • DO use a soft sponge and specialized leather cleaner. Buy it at most leather furniture retailers – but, for serious problems, your local Fibrenew franchise can help.

3) NAIL POLISH: You try out OPI’s Affair in Red Square red to sexy up those toenails pre-game, but you end up polishing a couch cushion instead.

  • DON’T use nail polish remover because it will take all of the color out of your leather and leave a bleached spot bigger than the nail polish spot.
  • DO, once again, use a soft sponge and leather cleaner.

4) ANIMAL SCRATCHES AND PICKS: Your new dog gets all excited when Big Ben or Aaron Rodgers throws a touchdown and scratches the heck out of your couch.

  • DON’T touch up the spots with shoe polish because it makes an ugly, sticky mess.
  • DO try to reduce the visibility of the problem by snipping off the cotton interior strands that often get pulled out when leather gets picked. DO use a hair dryer and massage minor scratches with leather cleaner to try to rub it out. Call a professional to fix larger scratches and holes – this is not a DIY kind of job.

5) BURNS AND DISCOLORATION: Those candles, strategically placed to keep the house smelling fresh, get knocked over when your father-in-law high-fives your nephew because his favorite team won. You lose with a dried out heat spot and a cracked couch cushion.

  • DON’T try to rub it out and blend it with the surrounding area, you’ll only make the problem bigger.
  • DO bring in some help. When leather or faux leather gets damaged by heat, the only solution is to call in a professional. Regardless of size, a professional repair can make that burn look brand new and can be done on the spot in your own home.

“We hate to see people damaging their leather furniture further by trying to fix minor problems,” says Wilson. “Part of our job as leather and plastics experts is to serve as a resource, helping people understand what problems they can handle on their own and when they need to call a professional.”

*There are several types of leather, and the following tips apply to all fully-finished leather, which makes up 85 percent of the leather market.

If you are still not sure don't hesitate to contact us.

How To Get Scratches Out Of Your Leather Sofa-DIY

Dec 20/2010

Have you ever wondered how to get those pesky scratches or scrapes out of your leather sofa or couch? This video will show you how you can do it yourself.