Leather Care and Maintenance Tips for Your Leather Furniture

Congratulations! You just bought the leather sofa you’ve been dreaming about for years. It’s a big investment, so you want to make sure you are caring for it properly. If properly maintained, it will last a lifetime.

In this blog, we get into the nitty-gritty of how to care for your leather-upholstered furniture. We go beyond basic leather care and maintenance advice, providing you with insider tips on how to extend its life and keep it in tip-top shape.

Basic Leather Care

In general, leather requires very little maintenance. In fact, it has been said that the best maintenance for leather is use: upholstery leather that is sat and reclined on will soften, as well as absorb body oils that create a pleasing patina. For basic leather care, all you need to do is wipe it down occasionally with a damp, soft rag. Dirt and stains can usually be removed with a mild non-detergent soap.

For basic leather care, visit our instructions here.

Now that you have invested in your leather-upholstered sofa, does it really need more attention than that? 

People often ask if they need to go out and buy cleaners, conditioners, and creams for their new leather couch, or if they should call in a specialist to have the leather protected with a water-proof or fade-resistant finish. The answer is that it depends on the type of leather you purchase, so read on to find out what you need to do to maintain it.

Basic Leather No-No’s

Some new owners think that leather can withstand anything, from outdoor use to becoming a dog bed for their 80-pound Golden Retriever. Others err on the side of caution and may make the sofa off-limits to pets or for napping. We’re here to set you straight.

Let’s start with a few things you should avoid. Remember, leather is not indestructible.  

·   Leave your leather furniture out of direct sunlight.

·   If you use your leather furniture outdoors, do not leave it exposed to the elements.

·   Do not put wet newspaper or other printed material on the leather.

·   Do not let spills sit on the leather, especially alcohol or an acidic liquid. Remove them immediately by blotting them with a soft cloth.

·   If your leather gets wet, let it dry naturally. Do not apply a blow dryer or heat gun to the leather.

·   Do not use tape or adhesives on the leather.

·   Do not use saddle soap or leather products made for shoes on the leather.

·   Do not use home remedies such as hairspray, and do not use detergents or cleansers that are not specifically made for upholstery leather.

·   Don’t let your dog try to bury his bone in the sofa. Leather can scratch! Protect it by covering it with a waterproof blanket or throw made specifically for that purpose.

·   Keep hair sprays, perfumes, and household fragrances away from your leather.

·   Do not sit on light-colored leather with denim jeans that have never been washed.

Maintain Your Leather Furniture Regularly

Upholstery leathers with pigment and protective agents in the topcoat require the least amount of maintenance. These types of leather are often referred to as “semi-aniline.” 

The best way to maintain this type of leather is to clean it regularly with both a dry and a damp cloth: you should dust it with a dry cloth every few days and wipe it down weekly with a damp cloth weekly. Avoid using soap, and do not over-saturate the cloth. You can also use a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush nozzle.

Unprotected leather (suede, nubuck, distressed, naked, or pure aniline) should not get wet unless it has received an extra protective agent; instead, wipe it with a dry cloth.

Clean Your Leather Furniture Regularly

We believe there is no need to purchase commercial leather maintenance and cleaning kit. 

All you need to do is clean your item with a mild, non-detergent soap such as Ivory or Castile soap every few months. 

First, create a lather using a damp cloth and rub it in a circular motion onto the leather applying soft pressure. Then, use a clean damp cloth to wipe away any excess soap and dirt. Do not over-saturate the leather, and always let it dry on its own.  

As we have already indicated, many unprotected types of leather should not be exposed to moisture. However, if you want to try a damp cloth, apply it on an out-of-view area first, such as the back of a seat cushion, and let it dry before using it on the entire piece of furniture.

How to Handle Spills and Stains

Regardless of what type of leather you have, you should wipe spills up immediately with a sponge or clean cloth. Even if the spill is absorbed, it should dry out and dissipate over a 24-hour period.

For spills and stains on protected leather, use a cloth dampened with warm water and a touch of a mild, non-detergent cleaner, such as Castille soap, and gently wipe the area in a circular motion, gradually making larger circles around the stain. 

Allow the area to air dry – do not use a blow dryer or heat gun. For tough stains, you might want to purchase a leather cleaner, as long as you try it out in a test area first. Do not use common household cleaners or “home remedies,” since they can dry out or discolor your leather.

It is possible that stains can’t be removed from leather that doesn’t have any protection, particularly if the stain is caused by acid, alcohol, or any oily substance such as olive oil or suntan lotion. Your best bet is to call in a professional to see if their stain can be removed.

For ink and lipstick stains on leather furniture, we recommend purchasing an ink or stain remover made specifically for use on leather. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t remove ink from naked leather.

Don’t go out and buy leather cleaners or conditioners, i.e. wax, mink oil, saddle soap, or polishes, from the local shoe repair store. These products might not be made for upholstery leather and could possibly harm your furniture. And please do not try any home remedies or use harsh cleaners not made specifically to clean or condition your leather!

Condition Your Leather Furniture Regularly

Your leather should be conditioned every 3 to 6 months. It’s an excellent cure for leather that has dried out and a great preventative technique to keep it healthy and supple. 

There are many excellent products on the market. Most of them can be rubbed into the leather with a dry cloth, with the excess then gently wiped off. Conditioners are supplied as lotion, creams, or oils and will be soaked up by the leather.

If you have unprotected leather such as suede or nubuck, you might be able to source a conditioner made specifically for that kind of leather. Don’t forget to try a test area first.

Polishing Your Leather Furniture

Polishing is not considered part of leather care. It is more about aesthetics than anything else: some people welcome a bright, shiny look. While some commercial polishes have moisturizing elements, it doesn’t necessarily protect the leather. Many types of leather will develop a sheen of their own with constant use.

Waterproofing Your Leather Furniture

Leather is inherently water-resistant.  Most leather sold for use on furniture is treated with a waterproofing agent. If you want additional protection, we recommend that you stay away from commercial leather waterproofing products since they may give your leather an unnatural, plasticky look. 

You might find products made specifically for unprotected leather during your online search. Again, we highly recommend first testing it out on an area that is not visible.

Basic Leather Maintenance Will Keep Your Leather in Great Condition

Now that you understand more about what to expect when you purchase furniture upholstered in leather, go ahead and enjoy it! Leather is a natural product that will react to use as well as to its environment. You should welcome your leather’s individuality and unique characteristics. Remember: leather only gets better with age!

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