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How to Fix Leather Scratches

How to Fix Leather Scratches

Posted by Daniel Sutton on Jun 2nd 2014

They say our scars show our character. Those marks we wear on our skin prove the depth of our resolve. They show a fighting spirit, and give us pride. Sure, sure. Poets are clever like that. They can make boiled cabbage sound like ambrosia of the gods if they wanted to. But a scuff’s a scuff, and no matter how much we try to romanticize it, fact is, that creeper looks u-g-l-y. So here’s our brilliant plan for those of us who just like the look of a clean chalkboard.

Plan A – the art gum eraser. Everybody should have an art gum eraser. These things are really handy for just about any old household profession, boasting infinite applications including erasing graphite stains, pencil scribbles, lead scuffs, and, um, curing away pesky crayon graffiti. Happily for us, curing leather scratches is a specialty among its mind-boggling repertoire, so prepare thyself for imminent stupefaction!

Handy Home Remedy

Unfinished and suede leather will often rub away easier than finished. It’s a good idea to figure out which you have before you try to treat it, and you can read up on that in our blog “How to Identify Types of Leather.” Ordinarily, a bit of easy rubbing and elbow grease should be enough to take out unfinished scuffs. If this is not the case, resort to your art gum eraser, or a suede brush for suede. You will want to use this gently. Rough handling is the most common source of leather scratches, so take care. Gently massage in the direction of the scuff until it begins to ease away. If you have finished leather, this tactic may or may not work as easily. In either case, if your art gum eraser fails to work, you’ll need to resort to a more potent leather cleaner and conditioner.

You’ll need to be careful here. Leather cleaners can have adverse effects if used on the wrong types of leather. Stay away from commercial cleaners – pH levels on these can seriously hurt your leather (“Common Leather Care Mistakes” and “How Does Leather Breathe?”). Instead, use a leather cleaner, such as Chamberlain's Straight Cleaner no. 2, or another pH balanced recipe, such as the suds from a handy home remedy mixture of warm water and mild soap. Regardless of what you use, test your leather cleaner first. Gently rub it in a discreet spot with a soft, white cloth, and let it dry. If you don’t notice any discoloration in the leather, excess color rub off on your cloth, or any other negative effects, you should be good to go. It is doubly important this test is performed before using on unfinished leather.

Massage a small amount of leather cleaner gently into the leather scratches, and wipe off any excess fluid before allowing it to dry. You may want to be aware that the spot you apply cleaner to may dry slightly darker than the rest of your leather, so waiting for your routine cleaning and conditionings where you can clean the whole piece evenly might work for you better. This should generally be performed about twice every year (“How Often Should I Condition Leather?"). If you need to apply it before this, try to go easy on your leather cleaner, and any spots should disappear after a short time.

Secret Weapon

What’s that you say? You’ve endured all this raucous hullabaloo and those leather scratches are still jeering at you? Dang, that’s a real 1812-er you’ve got there. Chances are your leather scratches are pretty deep. Blame it on the cat. Fret not, leathermancer, we’ve got a secret weapon to deploy yet.

Thing about leather conditioner, it nourishes leather, restoring it and feeding it back together. It’s all the good stuff leather needs to stay strong, supple, and not actively tearing apart. There's a limit to its effects, but it will be able to disguise common scratches quite effectively and strengthen the protein bonds that hold the leather in one piece. Consequently, it's also good to add any time you use a leather cleaner. As always, you’ll want to test any conditioner you use first, using the same method you used to test your leather cleaner. The same rules take effect here, too – ordinary conditioners will likely darken suede and unfinished leather, so try to find a leather conditioner specifically designed for them. For most finished leather, however, Chamberlain's Leather Care Liniment no. 1 will be your dream machine. Alternatively, if it’s a leather couch you’re trying to spice up, you could go with Chamberlain’s Furniture Treatment no. 5, which is specifically designed for that. Go crazy.

After you’ve tested your leather conditioner, apply it lightly and evenly over the leather scratches, and let it dry for about 15 minutes before buffing the rest off. It’s a good habit to let the conditioner sit overnight for maximum absorption before giving it further use. You should also note that the same uneven drying may occur here as well, so try to wait for your regular cleaning and conditioning routine before taking care of leather scratches.

Until Next Time

Well, that be that. Leather scratches aren't too tough to combat, are they, ye old salt? A little love, a little alcohol, and everything’s right as rain. Talking about leather, that is. Just clarifyin’. Fare ye well, leathermancers!

Daniel Sutton

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