Proper leather care for finished and unfinished leather furniture is not widely understood by furniture owners. When you have leather articles, whether clothing or furniture, the first step to proper leather care is to know the type of leather you’re dealing with. Just like you know what type of detergent is appropriate to wash your clothing, the same is needed for your leather. Imagine if you used bleach on your favorite red top; what would happen? That's right, it would not be pretty. The same is true if you use the wrong leather care on your valued leather items. Using the wrong cleaner or method can also create an ugly situation!
Finished leather is a material that has a layer of protection on it. This type of leather is easier to clean and condition than unfinished or natural leather. All leather is natural, but finished leather has an extra layer over it that protects its color, provides it’s texture and also determines how porous it is. It is also protected with a clear coating that enhances its protection. Finished leather will be less likely to stain and can resist water or other liquids. Cleaning this type of leather is easily completed with a cleaner, such as Chamberlain’s Straight Cleaner No 2, and a clean cloth. Simply apply the leather cleaner to a soft cloth and gently rub the formula into the leather in slow circles. Once you have cleaned the entire leather item, wait for the leather to dry and apply a leather conditioner, such as Chamberlain’s Leather Care Liniment No 1, to replenish’s the leather’s natural oils. About 80% of leather furniture is made of finished leather.
Keep in mind that some finished leather has an extra thick clear coating that can make it difficult for leather conditioners to absorb through. Sometimes the coating is so thick that a furniture leather conditioner is not needed or recommended. Cleaning these types of finished leather can be accomplished with warm, soapy water and a damp cloth.
Unfinished leather is a whole different animal, so to speak. This is natural leather in all of its glory. While beautiful, typically richer in color, and softer, it is more susceptible to stains and other damage because the leather has no protective clear coating and is highly absorbent. If you are unsure what type of leather you have, read our blog “How to Identify Types of Leather”.
Aside from the physical differences, unfinished leather also requires a different cleaning technique to ensure its longevity. Wipe unfinished leather with a soft cloth or dry soft- brush only. IF you must use a leather cleaner, clean the entire piece seam to seam and accept that it may darken a shade even after it’s dry. One of the best things about unfinished leather furniture is the patina that it develops over time. A patina is the nice amber or honey color the leather develops by absorbing oils from daily contact with your skin. Don’t be worried if you start to see this kind of change in color. It’s inevitable and highly desired by most people.
You do not need to feel overwhelmed with leather care for finished and unfinished leather furniture, even though it seems like a big job. The biggest hurdle is knowing the type of leather that you own. If you are unsure, it is best to find out from where you purchased the leather item to ensure that you use the right leather cleaner and products on your beautiful investment or you can read our blog post, “How to Identify Types of Leather.”
Chris Repp (www.leatherhelp.com)