Tacky leather problems? You are not alone. Here at Leather Milk, this is among the most common problems we hear about. People sit up from their leather recliner, surprised when their leather wants to come up with them. Or when they discover an old coffee stain that's sticky to the touch and spoiling a once lovely texture. Even after applying a slather of leather conditioner - which is supposed to help - people can be bewildered to find mere hours later that their beautiful leather has not developed the rich, luscious sheen they had hoped for, but instead a sticky, white film.
There are a variety of reasons for this. Leather - a living creature that breathes and ages - is very sentimental. It remembers most everything it's touched and everywhere it's been, breathing in scents, oils, and other substances through thousands of tiny pores. Given the right materials to absorb, leather grows healthy and strong. If it is exposed to bad things, it will grow weak and dry out, or it will become sticky.
Tacky leather can usually be attributed to one of three things: spillage, UV damage, or over-conditioned leather.
Betcha didn't know this one! Indeed, it is possible - even easy - to give your leather too much conditioner. Leather can only eat up so much conditioner before its starts to regurgitate. As conditioner absorbs through tiny pores, it can build up. When too much conditioner is passing through at once, or if the leather is already saturated with conditioner, oils can become highly concentrated going down. Eventually, they can block up the pores entirely, preventing any more conditioner from passing through. What often happens is that individuals apply a very large amount of conditioner all at once, thinking they are doing their leather a favor. You might liken this to someone force-feeding your mouth an entire pizza all at once. If you can pull it off, you are one awe-inspiring immortal. But chances are, you're not going to down that pizza. You're going to spit it back up. When you do, things get sticky.
So what if our leather is already sticky from too much conditioner? Can we restore our tacky leather back to that rich, supple texture we love again? I'm confident we can. Curing over-conditioned leather can be a pain, but it's fortunately fairly easy to fix, provided you don't wait too long for it to set it. Overconditioned leather can be a more serious problem when left to its own devices, as these excess oils saturating your leather's innards have a terrible propensity to rot the leather's fibers to an icky clump. So always try to treat your leather sooner, rather than later. Your first step will be to help the leather breathe again.
1. Dab up as much excess conditioner as you can with a soft, clean cloth. Your goal is to get the surface of your leather as dry as possible before you begin. This will allow your cleaner to penetrate the pores directly, saving time and resources (and a potentially drawn out cleaning session).
2. Apply Straight Cleaner No.2 to the affected area. Leather cleaners - especially alcohol leather cleaners - are particularly good at deeply cleansing leather, penetrating its pores farther than any other cleaner. Afterwards, allow your leather to dry naturally. If you're stranded without Straight Cleaner, rubbing alcohol can also make a decent substitute, but make sure you test it first in a discreet area.
3. Keep cleaning until the texture fully softens again. This shouldn't take more than a few days at most. If the leather feels rough or dry afterwards, you may want to top it off with a small amount of Leather Care Liniment No.1 or other Chamberlains leather conditioner for optimal detail.
If you want extra quick results, you can also try this handy home remedy on your leather when you are not actively cleaning it! Use at your own discretion, of course - this remedy is not for every leather, and tends to work better on cowhide and other tough leathers.
1. When your leather is completely dry (do not use immediately after cleaning, while the leather is still wet), sprinkle a small amount of corn starch or baking soda over the affected area. Leave this powder on your leather overnight.
2. If the powder has turned yellow in the morning, it has pulled out excess oils. Dust off the powder, and apply the powder again next evening.
3. Alternate between powder and leather cleaner until your leather's texture is restored. If you leather begins to feel dry, rough, or squeaks, apply Leather Care Liniment No.1, or other Chamberlains leather conditioner.
You can prevent over-conditioning your leather by applying your leather conditioners gently, and only giving as much as naturally absorbs at a time. Use thin, even layers, and allow your conditioner to dry completely before giving it another application. Some leathers may absorb conditioner more quickly than other leathers, and some may require less amounts of conditioner before they are fully satisfied. The trick is to get to know your own, unique leather. Experiment and grow familiar with it, and develop a routine. Mistakes are bound to happen, but go gently, and give your leather care, and you'll develop an excellent technique in no time.
If over-conditioning is not the source of your problem, your leather may also have become tacky due to excess exposure to an unfortunate spill or stain. If you think that's the case, read up on Tacky Leather and Spillage. Alternatively, your leather may have received too much exposure to UV radiation from sunlight. Click here to read about UV Damage. If you have any other questions that we've yet to answer, you can always contact us on our customer service page.
Hope this helps!