Things to Know about Cleaning Leather Upholstery

The first thing you need to know about cleaning leather is that you should only clean with leather cleaners labeled for leather upholstery. Don't use leather shoe or saddle cleaners on upholstery. Never make the mistake of putting on shoe polish on your leather upholstery.

There are also stains that are hard to get rid of because they're problems that run deeper than the surface. When your leather get dye or ink stain on your upholstery, it's usually not removable. You'll need new leather or new color coating to fix it. You can blot it out with rubbing alcohol but typically it's permanent.

Other Things You Need to Know About Leather Cleanup

  • Body Oil Stains: Did you know that your body oils can end up making a stain on your upholstery? It's true. When the stain is deeply absorbed, you'll have to do some recoloring or reupholstering to fix it as well.
  • Urine and Vomit Stains: These should get special treatment if you weren't able to remove the urine or vomit immediately, leading to staining. A leather professional might be in order. Usually, new padding and leather might be required.
  • The Importance of Moisturizer: Your leather should be moisturized three to four times every year. This can add years or decades to the lifespan of your leather if coupled with proper cleaning techniques. Don't forget to only use products marked for use with leather upholstery specifically instead of leather in general.
  • Deterioration Should Be Avoided: Don't wait for your leather fibrils to become dry and brittle before attempting to save the leather. The can already be at that state yet still remain flexible. Moisturize and clean the leather before it's too late.
  • Considering the pH: Certain leathers can only be cleaned with the right pH or acidity. Certain products for leather can't specifically be used for leather upholstery because they're the wrong acidity and/or contain the harshest of chemicals.
  • Slow Breakdown: Be wary of products that seem okay in the beginning but later on, they break down into harmful chemicals that destroy your leather regardless later on. This is one of many reasons why leather polish for shoes should only be used on shoes and leather conditioner for upholstery shouldn't be used on belts and bags.
  • Myth Busters on Leather: Don't use saddle soap on leather upholstery. Keep using it with your saddle and nothing else. Avoid using traditional dressings like lanolin, neatsfoot oil, and mink oil as well as other lubricants, waxes, fats, and oils. Don't use cleaning wipes, "natural" cleaners, household cleaners, and baking soda either. Ditto alcohol and acetone or any products for imitation leather.

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