Leather is a luxurious material that adds a touch of sophistication and comfort to anything it covers, from furniture to clothing.
But as beautiful and durable as leather is, it requires proper care to maintain its appearance and quality over time.
Neglecting to clean leather can lead to unsightly stains, cracks, and a dull appearance. This can be frustrating, especially if you’ve invested a significant amount of money in a leather item.
It’s very disheartening to buy a new leather sofa, only for it to be ruined by water stains and cracks a few years later.
In this article, we’ll go over the different types of leather, a step-by-step guide on how to clean leather, and some maintenance tips to keep your leather looking great.
So, whether you have a leather couch, jacket, or shoes, we’ve got you covered.
Types of Leather
Before we dive into the cleaning process, it’s important to understand the different types of leather and the specific care requirements for each.
There are several types of leather, including full-grain, top-grain, genuine, bonded and faux leather.
- Full-grain – Full-grain leather is the highest quality leather and is breathable, durable, and ages beautifully.
- Top-grain – Top-grain leather is a step down from full-grain leather, but it is still a high-quality leather that is durable and easy to clean.
- Genuine – Genuine leather is real leather, as the name suggests, but it is the lowest quality of leather.
- Bonded – Bonded leather contains a mixture of real and faux leather.
- Faux – Faux leather is made from plastic and is made to look like real leather, but without using animal skin.
It’s important to know the type of leather you have so that you can choose the right cleaning products and techniques.
For example, full-grain and top-grain leathers can be cleaned with a damp cloth and a mild washing up liquid solution, while bonded leather may require a special cleaning product designed specifically for that type of leather.
In this article, we’ll go over the cleaning steps for each type of leather to help you maintain the appearance and quality of your leather items.
Determining the type of leather
Identifying the type of leather you have is crucial in ensuring that you are using the right cleaning and maintenance products.
Look at the surface
To determine the type of leather, you’ll want to look at the surface of the leather.
Full-grain and top-grain leathers have a natural grain pattern that is visible on the surface, while genuine, bonded, and faux leathers tend to have a uniform, smooth surface.
Check the backing
Another way to determine the type of leather is to check the backing.
Full-grain and top-grain leathers will have a leather backing, while bonded leather will have a synthetic backing.
Additionally, you can check the edges of the leather to see if the colour is uniform or if there are any variations.
Full-grain and top-grain leathers will often have variations in colour on the edges, while genuine, bonded, and faux leathers will have a uniform colour all around.
Try the water test
You can also try to do a small water test to determine the type of leather. Just add a few drops of water to the leather and leave it for some time.
Full-grain and top-grain leathers will absorb water and leave a dark spot, but the water will eventually dry and the spot will disappear.
Genuine, bonded, and faux leathers will not absorb water and will instead leave a water spot that will not disappear.
It’s important to determine the type of leather you have so that you can choose the right cleaning products and techniques to maintain its appearance and quality.
In this article, we’ll go over the cleaning steps for each type of leather, so you can have confidence in keeping your leather looking its best.
How to Clean Leather
Before you begin the cleaning process, it’s important to prepare your work area and gather the necessary supplies.
Start by removing any loose dirt or debris from the leather using a soft brush or cloth. If there are any stubborn stains or spills, it’s best to address them as soon as possible to avoid them setting in.
Next, determine the type of leather you have and choose the appropriate cleaning products.
- Full-grain and top-gran – For full-grain and top-grain leathers, you’ll need a mild washing up liquid solution, a damp cloth, and a dry cloth.
- Bonded and genuine – For bonded and genuine leather, you may need a specialised cleaning product specifically designed for that type of leather.
It’s also important to do a patch test before you clean the entire surface.
Apply a bit of the cleaning solution to a small area and let it sit for a few minutes.
If the colour of the leather changes or becomes discoloured, you’ll need to choose a different cleaning solution.
Once you’ve prepared your work area and gathered your supplies, you’re ready to begin the cleaning process.
By following the proper steps and using the right cleaning products, you can ensure that your leather items look their best for years to come.
Once you’ve prepared your work area and gathered your supplies, it’s time to start cleaning the leather.
Full-grain and top-grain
For full-grain and top-grain leathers, start by mixing a mild washing up liquid solution using a few drops of washing up liquid in a bowl of water.
Dip a damp cloth into the washing up liquid solution and wring it out so that it’s just damp.
Gently wipe the leather surface in a circular motion, being careful not to saturate the leather with water. If there are any stubborn stains, you can use a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub the area.
After you’ve cleaned the leather, use a clean, dry cloth to remove any excess washing up liquid and moisture.
Leave the leather to air dry completely before using it again.
Bonded and genuine leather
For bonded and genuine leather, you’ll need to follow the instructions for the specialised cleaning product you’ve chosen.
Usually, you’ll want to apply a small amount of the cleaning solution to a soft cloth and gently wipe the leather surface, being careful not to saturate it with water.
After cleaning, use a dry cloth to remove any excess moisture and let the leather air dry completely.
For faux leather, you can simply use some warm water with washing up liquid and a soft cloth. Make sure the cloth isn’t soaking by wringing it out. After cleaning, just wipe the leather dry with a microfibre cloth.
It’s important to remember that leather is a natural product, and excessive cleaning or the use of harsh chemicals can cause damage.
Always follow the instructions for the cleaning product you’re using, and if in doubt, consult a professional leather cleaner.
Proper maintenance is key to keeping your leather items looking their best for years to come.
After cleaning, it’s a good idea to apply a leather conditioner or protectant to help keep the leather supple and prevent cracking.
Choose a product that’s appropriate for the type of leather you have and follow the instructions carefully.
It’s also important to store your leather items in a cool, dry place when not in use.
Exposure to direct sunlight or extreme temperatures can cause leather to fade or crack.
If your leather items are going to be in storage for an extended period of time, it’s a good idea to wrap them in a breathable material to prevent mould and mildew.
Finally, try to avoid exposing your leather items to liquids or oils, as these can cause permanent stains. If you do get a spill, be sure to clean it up as soon as possible to prevent it from setting in.
With a little bit of care and attention, your leather items can look great for years to come.
Cleaning leather can seem like a big task, but with the right tools and techniques, it’s a breeze.
Remember to always start by determining the type of leather you have, and choose the appropriate cleaning products for the best results.
When cleaning, be gentle and avoid saturating the leather with water. And after cleaning, be sure to condition the leather and store it in a cool, dry place.
A few extra tips; be sure to do a patch test before cleaning the entire surface to make sure the cleaning solution won’t cause any discolouration, and if in doubt, consult a professional leather cleaner.
So go ahead, give your leather the love it deserves, and enjoy its beauty for years to come!
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