Caring For Leather Upholstery: An Investment Worth the Effort
Over the last several years, leather upholstery has become a mainstream choice in automobiles, and a preferred element in households and many offices. There’s nothing like the feel of fine leather against your body, but it takes a little effort to maintain that luxurious touch. Let’s start with the most obvious.
Due to the adverse conditions leather upholstered automobile seats exist in–exposure to UV rays, fluctuating temperatures, food and drink spills, perspiration and other bodily excretions–special care should be taken to maintain an automobile’s leather interior. Without proper treatment, the leather-covered seats will lose their suppleness, luster, and durability. In time, the leather upholstery will become hard and brittle, eventually cracking and tearing, a feature affecting the resale value of the automobile.
Like any leather-made product, leather upholstery needs to be cleaned periodically to lift embedded dirt, allowing the leather to breathe–personally, I like the pH balanced cleaners–but leather seats should be reconditioned more often, than say a leather jacket, due “to the migration of lubricants” caused by the UV rays and erratic temperatures.
Several companies, among them Summit Industries, Inc. (manufacturers of Lexol) and 3M Corporation, have been trying to formulate a sun screen protector made specifically for leather. Thus far, only a vinyl UV screen product is on the market, and don’t try applying this product to leather. It may cause a chemical breakdown of the material’s fibers.
Taking care of leather covered furniture at home or in the office should be treated in almost the same manner. As mentioned, the leather will need periodic cleaning, but choosing when to recondition the material will depend solely on the environment the furniture is arranged in. Just remember to place the leather furniture in an area that isn’t close to a source of heat or intense light. These factors affect the material in much the same way as leather seats endure when roasting in the hot sun, except with one difference. An automobile isn’t always stationary.
Whether in the vehicle or situated indoors, all types of leather upholstery require year-around protection from stains and spills. This step in leather care should be administered as soon as you acquire the product, and repeated once a month. And the best choice in protection are water and stain repellants. Offered in pump and aerosol spray only, these protectors are silicone free and are guaranteed not to darken leather.
If the color of the leather upholstery begins to fade, it’s better to allow the natural characteristics of age to show. Leather polishes and leather spray dyes have a tendency to rub off–on the wrong outfit at wrong time, no less! If you still wish to upgrade the color of your leather, any qualified upholsterer should be able to offer advice on the subject of color enhancement, as well as repair damaged seams or tears.
Or, you can try utilizing a leather repair kit (www.leatherrepairkits.com/), of which contain water-based repair compounds that won’t crack and an assortment of speciality finishes. These kits offer a means of enhancing colors, as well as repairing small tears, scratches or burns. The repair kits can also be used on other types of leather-made products, and the key to their success is patience.
There are also a variety of books on leather upholstery care for the do-it-yourselfer, available at automotive part stores, some libraries, through mail order catalogues, or at any of the fine book stores.