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How to Fix Sticky Leather

How to Fix Sticky Leather

Posted by Daniel Sutton on May 21st 2014

Well, that was a nice episode of another Stark getting murdered in Game of Thrones. I’m going to get more popcorn and – hey – I can’t get off my couch. No, it’s not because I ate too much. It’s because my couch is super, super sticky! Hang on, I’m off now. Geez, that was tough! Whatever am I going to do with this gloppy hunk of hide now?

We can tell you what to do now! So your couch has sticky leather, which can mean a few things. Perhaps that big liter of coca cola you were chugging got a little clumsy in your hands and decided to give your hard-working leather a drink for a change. Or maybe you used a little too much conditioner last time you went to give the girl a shine – one of many “Common Leather Care Mistakes.” Body oils pooling around can sticky up your leather after a while. Or maybe it got under the sun for a tan and things went really, really south. Sunlight does that, you know. Sunlight (or any direct heat) and leather are a bad mix, and really good at making sticky leather. Remember that.

Fortunately for you, these problems have solutions. And by solution, I mean a literal solution of good old fashioned leather cleaner and conditioner. Listen up.

Deadly Spill

If you find a fresh spot of sticky liquid, dry it up pronto with a paper towel or cloth. Dab – I repeat – dab, do not wipe. If you wipe, you will merely be smearing the liquid into the leather, and will be making your situation decidedly worse. Allow the fabric to absorb the liquid on the surface of the leather. After you’ve gotten off as much as you can, it’s time for a clean.

This is the tricky part. Regardless of whether or not your sticky leather is the result of a spill or anything else, a good cleaning is usually the best way to go. But depending on what type of leather you are dealing with, a cleaner that is good on your leather briefcase may be traumatizing for your suede sofa. Suede, nubuck, and most unfinished leathers are highly receptive to conventional leather cleaners and conditioners, and will often permanently darken in color when exposed to these treatments. Read about what to do with unfinished leather like these in our blog "Leather Care for Finished and Unfinished Leather Furniture."

Always test any leather cleaners or leather conditioners you are about to use before applying them to the entire leather surface. First, test the recipe on a discreet area of the leather with a white cloth, and let it dry. If there is significant color rub off on your cloth, discoloration on your leather, or any other side effect, know that if you choose to use that recipe, those effects will be present on the entire item, and may not go away. It is generally advised to be more cautious with unfinished leather rather than finished leather, which has a protective coating to block out most contaminants. Bicast, a more common sticky leather offender, is leather overlaid with a heavy polyurethane coat, and thus its protective coating makes it easier to clean than unfinished counterparts. You will, however, want to use a cleaner designed for bicast leather, and test it using the same process as above. Bicast leather does not need to be conditioned.

Spongy Time

If you’ve got a cleaner that seems like it’ll be just the ticket, go ahead and put a light layer on a soft cloth or applicator pad. If you’re still looking, Chamberlain's Straight Cleaner no. 2 is a good leather cleaner to try that’s very effective for most leather types. After you’ve got a layer on your applicator, lightly wipe it against the surface of your leather in circular motions, applying the cleaner in light and even layers. Don’t rub too hard, or you may get color displacement. After any visible contaminants are gone, grab a clean cloth and dry up any excess fluids, and leave the leather to dry in a cool, indoors area away from sunlight and direct heat. This cleaning process should help remove any of the body oils, spills, and excess conditioner that settled in your leather.

As an alternative to leather cleaner, you can actually use a home remedy involving soap suds. Mix water and mild soap in a bowl - mild soap, not dish soap, and gather the suds onto a soft cloth or applicator pad while avoiding getting it wet. Rub this solution gently against spots on your sticky leather, dab up with a clean cloth, and leave to dry in a similar place as above. Repeat as needed.

Mint Condition

After your leather has dried, you’ll want to condition it to restore those natural lubricants you lost during cleaning. As always, test first. Chamberlain's Leather Care Liniment no. 1 is an all-natural blend of oils and nutrients perfect for most types of leather, and works wonders with Chamberlain's Straight Cleaner no. 2 if that’s what you chose.

When you are ready, apply your leather conditioner to a soft, clean cloth or applicator pad, and wipe in circular motions on your leather as before. Make sure you give everything an even, thin coat, and don’t rub too hard. When the surface of your leather is covered, leave it to dry for a bit. Come back about fifteen minutes later and buff off any residual conditioner. Shiny! This conditioner will protect your leather from future exposure to harmful substances, and will keep it lubricated to prevent sticky leather from causing you mischief in future.

Hope that helped!

Daniel Sutton
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