How to Care For Leather
When it comes to leather, there are silent killers; agents that cause it to deteriorate, weaken and eventually rip, peel or crumble. You don’t see them coming because they usually creep up slowly, damaging your leather slowly, diminishing its original strength and beauty.
When you know the enemy and have the right armoury of defence, keeping leather looking and feeling beautiful is easy. Watch out for these leather assassins. Read on to learn what damages leather and how to care for leather.
No.1, Body Oils
When it comes to knowing how to care for leather, this is a big one. We need body oils or sebum to keep our skins looking and feeling young and supple. Without them, we’d be wrapped in itchy, dry, wrinkly old skin. So, if they’re that good for us, how can they be so bad for leather? Every touch and every rest of an arm on an armrest is coated with body oil that’s loaded with salts, enzymes, hormones and acids. Add medications and your leather is being force-fed a bitter pH cocktail that eats away at its insides.
Whilst you and your pets are chilling on the sofa, you are slowly painting it with body oil. You don’t see its impact immediately but after a while, you’ll notice dark, greasy looking patches, cracks and flakes or delamination of the finish. This is a sign that oil has penetrated through the outer coating, accumulated and has literally rotted the fibres of your leather, turning it them to mush Oil soaked leather loses its strength, thins and tears. Sadly, it’s past a point of return and RIP once lovely leather.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Wipe your upholstery with a professional grade leather cleaner every 3 months. This will intercept the accumulation of oils. Next, take out an ‘insurance policy’ for your leather by using a leather protector. This will help to repel oils, reducing their destructive impact.
Harmless dust – no one ever said. Although it seems insignificant, dust contains particles of matter such as soil, pollens, human and animal skin and hair cells, paper and textile fibres, ash, minerals and a myriad of other polluting substances. Mixed with body oils, perspiration and anything else that settles on the surface of your couch, it forms a sludgy paste. This is the dirt you see on your couch. Here, it acts like a sort of micro-abrasive sandpaper that erodes the manufacturer’s coatings. In the absence of a physical barrier, the sludge penetrates the leather via the pores where that harmless dust grinds the fibres and ultimately destroys your leather.
No.3, Salt & Chlorine
Wet, chlorine or salt soaked cossies. Containing harsh chemicals, they have no place on leather so remember to change or dry off before sitting on your luxurious leather with a wet derriere.
Another invisible assailant of leather is humidity. The effects of water on leather vary depending on the amount of water exposure. The amount of moisture in the air is considered “normal” when it’s around 30-40% relative humidity. This means the air is not too dry or too saturated. Entering via the thousands of pores in its surface, humidity is readily absorbed by leather. Some moisture is very beneficial to leather but too much is detrimental. With inadequate moisture, leather becomes dry, brittle and cracks. With optimal moisture, it stays soft and supple. Yet, with too much, mould and mildew can set in.
In a warm, damp environment with poor circulation, airborne fungi and bacteria spores can embed in your leather. If it’s also carrying residual organics spills, you have the perfect climate for a lush mould and mildew garden. Other than managing the levels of humidity around your leather, regular cleaning is the best preventative and corrective measure. What if you and your leather jacket get caught in the rain? Don’t worry, your jacket will be fine providing you hang it in a protected space where the air circulates. Let it dry slowly. Don’t force dry it or hang it straight in your wardrobe whilst it’s still damp.
No.5, Household cleaners
It can’t be said more simply; using the wrong products on your valuable leather can kill it. Just because it’s natural or already in your cupboard doesn’t make it harmless, cheaper or suitable. Boot polish, alcohol, perfumes, beeswax, hair spray, markers, window cleaner, nail polish remover, detergents and baby/wet wipes are unsuitable leather care products. They can dry out, fade, stain, crack, clog, mark or rot your leather. The damage they inflict can be swift or slow but always unforgiving and costly. Beware of seemingly harmless natural and home-made recipes such as olive oil leather conditioner. These remedies may look good on the surface but can wreak havoc on the inside of your valuable upholstery leather. Knowing how to care for leather is largely about using the right leather care products correctly. Stick to professional grade leather care products that are developed specifically for the health and longevity of your leather.
Due to the porous nature of leather, airborne particles can penetrate and cause odours and discolouration. Leather that is frequently in an environment of cigar, cigarette and open fire smoke, as well as cooking fumes, needs a bit of extra care. To minimise the effects of smoke on leather, give it fresh air, regular cleaning and protection.
When you know what damages leather, caring for it becomes easier. Adhere to a 3 monthly care regime using quality leather care products such as the Leather Hero’s Leather Care Kit. As time rolls on and it’s hard to regret taking good care of your things, including your leather furniture.