clean leather Tag
It is a common mistake to use shoe polish on leather upholstery. People try to use it on furniture and on their leather car seats, but it doesn’t work.
The leather used in upholstery is tanned differently from the leather in shoes. It does not soak up shoe polish like shoes do, so the polish will just sit on the surface of your leather and make a sticky mess.
Depending on the type of damage, you may have a number of other alternatives. Professional leather repair experts can usually fix scuffed, faded, torn or otherwise damaged leather for a fraction of the cost of replacing or reupholstering furniture and auto seats.
There are a number of other home remedies and wives’ tales about using home products on leather. We do not advise using the following:
- Olive oil
- Hair spray
- Window cleaner
- Finger nail polish remover
- Disposable cleaning supplies and wipes
Questions or experiences with shoe polish? Post them in the comments!
There are dozens and dozens of old wives’ tales on different household products that can be used to clean and repair leather. Heed my advice – don’t use any of the following products on your leather furniture! I’ve seen countless pieces of furniture ruined by these very things and wouldn’t want you to find yourself in the same predicament.
1. Olive oil: Lots of people use olive oil to moisten and condition their leather from time to time. It is also used to hide blemishes and dings on couches and chairs. While oil might make your couch look nice right this minute, you are really doing irreparable damage to your furniture. The oil will soak into the back side of the leather, eventually filling it up and causing ugly oil spots. Also, while some older leathers required some sort of moisture, leather today is tanned to hold in all of the moisture it needs. If you have a piece of leather that you want oiled because you want it to be soft regardless of how it looks (think baseball gloves), then oil may be OK. But, it is never advised on any type of high end or furniture leather.
2. Shoe polish: There are several types of furniture leather, and all of those types are very different from the type of leather used in shoes. Because of leather furniture’s different finishes, it will never mix well with shoe polish. The polish will just make a gunky mess on your furniture.
3. Beeswax: I’ve seen people try to use beeswax to water-proof leather. This can be a good option for leather work boots, but I do not recommend that you use it on leather furniture. It can make the leather stiff and waxy to the touch.
4. Hair spray: According to many a wives’ tale, hair spray can be used to fix just about anything from runs in stockings to stains in cotton to marks on leather. Don’t use it on your leather furniture. It probably won’t help the stain, it might have alcohol in it (which damages the surface of leather) and it will leave a sticky mess on your furniture. The sticky spot will attract dirt and oils, causing further damage to the spot.
5. Markers: People try to use markers to fill in spots on their leather furniture. As the marker will not match your couch exactly, I do not recommend it.
6. Window cleaner: Most people think of window cleaner as being one of the mildest of all cleaners. While it may be mild enough for most household chores, you should never use it on your leather furniture. It contains alcohol that will damage the surface of your leather, leaving it more susceptible to damage.
7. Finger nail polish remover: People use this to try to remove stains from leather, but it will also remove the dye, leaving your leather with a bleached looking spot all around the spot you were originally trying to clean.
8. Disposable cleaning supplies and wipes: Most of these contain alcohol, and you should never use alcohol on leather. It will break down the protective surface on your leather.
Good Rule of Thumb
Don’t ever use alcohol or acetone products on leather furniture. These two things are very commonly found in household cleaning products and will do long term damage to your leather, breaking down its surface and stripping its color.
Any questions or experiences? Post them in the comments!
When it comes to repairing and caring for leather furniture, there are hundreds of options. Furniture stores and online retailers offer up products that do everything from cleaning to dying leather. However, you should proceed with extreme caution when you use these DIY products on your furniture. I’ve heard and seen the effects of horror stories where these products ruined people’s leather furniture, so here are a few pointers on what to look out for.
1. Don’t use any products that contain alcohol or acetone. Alcohol seeps into and damages the protective surface of furniture leather. Acetone will remove the dye and color from leather.
2. Be sure to use products designed for upholstery. Leather used for shoes, jackets and clothing is very different than that used in furniture.
3. Only use products designed for the type of leather you have. Most furniture is made of aniline, semi-aniline or fully-finished leather. Because of the differences in finish, it is very important to use only products designed for the leather you have.
4. Dying leather is a highly specialized art. Professionals receive extensive training on color matching and dying, and it’s not at all likely that any DIY dye kit will produce very good dying results. So, be very careful with these products – test them on a part of the furniture that no one will ever see before you use it on the visible part of the piece.
5. Stay away from products that say they are for multiple surfaces, even if one of those surfaces is leather. Most of the time these products contain elements that will damage leather. It is best to stick with products made specifically for leather.
Also, there are lots of people out there who have heard old wives’ tales about household products to use on leather. Some of these can be helpful, but there are many that do not work and will ruin your leather furniture. One example is using olive oil to fix minor dings and scratches on leather. People also try using finger nail polish remover, shoe polish and window cleaner, among other things, to work on damaged leather. All of these options can cause major damage to your leather down the road.
Any questions? Have any experiences with leather products to share? Post them in the comments!
Leather furniture and upholstery will inevitably face some wear and tear throughout its life, and there are many types of damage you can’t avoid. However, sun damage is one problem that can definitely be prevented. Too much sunlight and heat will fade and/or dry out your leather.
Couch faded by the sun
Fading is commonly seen in semi-aniline and aniline leathers, and it is less common in fully-finished leathers that have a protective topcoat. It’s a problem people frequently face, and, if you put your leather furniture next to a window that gets a lot of sunlight, you can see fading in as little as 4 to 6 months.
Drying will occur with any type of leather. The sun’s heat slowly causes the moisture and natural oil in leather to evaporate. Over time, if you don’t care for your leather properly, it will dry out and crack.
Badly cracked chair
How to Prevent Sun Damage
One crucial step to preventing fading and cracking is to, if possible, keep your leather furniture out of direct sunlight. You can do all the right things to protect your sofa, but, if it’s directly in front of a sunny window, it is only a matter of time before the heat takes its toll. If you do need to place furniture in front of a window (we know, most people do), invest in some blinds to shade your furniture from the sun during the hottest, sunniest parts of the day. Those blinds will be a lot cheaper than taking your leather upholstery to a professional for patching and re-dying later on down the road.
Another important precaution to take is to clean and protect your furniture 3-4 times a year with a leather conditioning kit. For tips, check out our post on how to clean and protect your leather.
On a final note, do not try to treat your leather with olive oil or any other type of oil—it will end up causing major damage in the long run.
Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you!
The right half of this couch has been cleaned, and the left half has not.
Your leather couch is an expensive investment, and you need to treat it right if you want it to last. Think about it like preventative maintenance on your car. You change your oil to keep your car running smoothly. To keep your leather couch in good shape, you need to protect it and clean it regularly. Did you know that a leather couch will last 3 times as long if you clean and protect it regularly?
Here are the top questions we get on how to maintain and care for leather furniture the right way:
How often and Why?
There are a plethora of leather products available to clean and repair auto leather. Some of these can be great tools for car owners, but others contain harmful chemicals that will do more harm than good for your car.
Here are some good tips on what to look for when shopping around for leather products:
1. Make sure the product you are using is designed specifically for the type of leather you are using it on. Products are usually made for aniline, semi-aniline or fully-finished leather. The vast majority of auto leather is fully finished – it has dye and a protective layer that make it more durable than other types of leather. Different types of leather soak up products in different ways, so not all leather cleaners will work for all kinds of leather.
2. The finish on auto leather is completely different from that found on jackets, shoes and purses. Be sure that you get products designed for upholstery.
3. Don’t use products on your leather if the container says they are designed to be used on both leather and plastic products. These likely contain elements that will cause long-term damage to leather.
4. Do not use any products that contain any alcohol or acetone. Alcohol will damage the protective top coat on leather, and acetone will break down the leather dye, removing the color.
5. Be wary of do-it-yourself dying products. Finding an exact color match is sometimes difficult for professionals, and most DIY dye kits lack what you need to make your repair look good.
There are also a lot of wives’ tales about household products that people use to repair leather. Some of these have merit, but others will really harm your leather. Before you try out a household product on your auto interior, check out our post on frequently recommended leather remedies that ruin leather.
Any thoughts on good/ bad car leather products? Share them in the comments!
If you own a boat and your seats have cushions, it is highly likely those cushions are made of vinyl. Vinyl is an ideal material for boat seats because it is not easily damaged by water and holds up well in most any weather. While this material is very durable, surface dirt can wear it down over time.
Cracked vinyl boat seat
When people sit, stand and move around on your boat seats, the dirt and oils on the surface act like a fine sand paper. Those particles wear down the surface, making vinyl more susceptible to cracking, fading and staining. These tiny bits of grime can get down into the vinyl once it begins to wear down, causing it to look old. If you want your vinyl seats to last, you need to clean them regularly – and not just with water. Cleaning well with appropriate cleaners will remove the dirt and oil on the surface of vinyl seats, keeping grime from damaging your seats in the long run.
Check out our vinyl cleaning post for a quick tutorial on how to clean vinyl boat seats.
Post any additional questions in the comments, and we’d be happy to answer them for you!
We’ve all done it—left our car windows open or our tops down in the rain. Good news is – a little bit of water, if cleaned up quickly, isn’t likely to hurt your leather.
In fact, most car leather has a protective layer that will help prevent immediate damage. This coating is designed to give you enough time to clean up a small drink spill before it soaks into your leather. So, if you quickly go outside to roll your windows up after the start of a rain storm and wipe your seats off, you should be fine. But, if you let it sit for very long, the water can make your leather seats a little stiff. The same can happen to leather when you spill liquid on it and don’t clean it up quickly.
How to fix stiff leather
Massage is the best way to soften up leather that has become stiff from water damage. Unless the damage is severe, it should soften up after you knead it for a few minutes.
How to clean up liquid spills in the car
For small water spills, wipe up all excess water and let your car seat dry naturally. If you spill a liquid on it that is not water, use a damp towel with distilled water to wipe up the mess, wiping away all excess liquid and letting the seat dry naturally.
What to do if your car gets flooded
When water has flooded your car and your leather seats, a whole new problem arises – the contaminants in the flood water can damage the seat’s interior and leave a foul odor. This usually means the seat’s cushioning needs to be replaced. That can be a large expense. However, if the seat doesn’t smell bad after you allow it to dry out, chances are good that you can get a leather professional to repair the damaged leather for a reasonable price.
Post any additional questions in the comments, and we’d be happy to answer them for you!
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
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!
To be totally honest, if aniline or semi-aniline upholstery 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 another of our blog posts for explanations of the most common types of upholstery 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: