How do you clean and condition your leather?

Recently I was called about what to do with a leather sofa that had been neglected and had child and pet damage. The first thing I always ask about is the type of leather. This is important to know, because you need to treat different leathers accordingly.

I usually don’t ask if it is aniline, semi-aniline, waxed, pull-up or finished. Most people only know the jargon that was used by the sales person at the store and that might have been incorrect. So my first question is: Does it absorb a water drop quickly, or does a water drop stay on the surface?

If it absorbs, we are looking at an aniline or waxed variation. Finished leather has a pigmented color coat with a protective topcoat on it and is very water resistant if in good shape.

Finished leather is pretty robust and when you want to clean it, you can use a kitchen sponge with a white or blue non-scratch cleaning pad. Obviously do not use a green scrubby pad as they are abrasive and will damage your furniture but the blue or white, if used gently, will not damage a finished surface.

Aniline leather needs to be treated gently. You do not want to scrub aniline as this can leave permanent rub marks in the leather. The proper way is to apply cleaner to a cloth and wipe in one direction. You can also spray cleaner on the leather if it needs more cleaner but still only wipe in one direction. It is better to moisten (not soaking wet) the entire surface of a leather panel than just get one spot wet.

So, after hearing that water absorbs and also her description of the scratches on the leather, I knew that it was a lightly waxed semi aniline.

So the best approach is as follows:

First: Clean it. Get all the crumbs, pet hair and dust out from between the cushions, wipe off any dust from the back of the sofa and back cushions.

Second: Condition the leather. This is incredibly important. Leather can last for decades if the fibers are kept soft and flexible. If the leather fibers are allowed to dry out, they will break and the leather will crack.

Third: In this case, it needs to be finished off with Wax It! This is a neutral color wax that will give aniline leather a nice sheen and soft feel again. Since aniline is unprotected, its pores are open and susceptible to dust and grime. Sealing this with a wax is what will keep it clean and gives it that glow that makes this type of leather so beautiful. The wax is also what removes any scratches and gives a uniform appearance.

In this picture you can see how Wax It! brings the sheen and depth of color back to the leather. Compare the first panel that has been waxed to the ones that have not been done yet.

The customer followed these steps and you can see how it brought the sofa back to life.

There is one last step that needs to be taken and is not that difficult. If you look at the back cushions you can see that they are compressed and deflated looking. One of our services is stuffing the cushions again. This is normally not difficult. Most cushions have a zipper on the back. They are filled with a synthetic batting material that can be found at most hobby/craft/upholstery/fabric stores. We call it Dacron. It comes in rolls. Fold it 3 times, approximately the size of the cushion and push it in from the back. Push the existing cushioning to the front. Take some batting and pull it apart into a fluffy ball and push it into the corners of the cushions until the cushions look evenly filled and not saggy.

Now your sofa would look almost brand new.

Hans Andersen
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