Tacky Leather: UV Damage
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.
There’s a lot to like about sunlight. It’s warm and happy and refreshing, gets us our healthy daily dose of Vitamin D, and keeps our potted plants blooming all fragrant-like. There’s also a lot not to like about sunlight, be it sunburns, ultraviolet radiation, or excruciatingly sweltering heat. Sunburns can give us some empathy for our leather, which suffers most at sunlight’s latter two harms: heat and UV rays.
Heat on its own can be dangerous for leather at high temperatures and enough exposure. A household blow-dryer can actually be used to shrink leather items. UV radiation is even more dangerous, causing your leather to prematurely age and break down on a molecular level. While our human skin can merely replace this dead skin with new skin cells, leather lacks this ability. As your leather is saturated by UV rays, vital preservatives and chemical bonds are broken down, giving your leather a faded appearance, or flakes, or, your very own sticky situation.
If the leather’s gotten to this point, it’s probably a better idea to seek the help of a leather care professional. Not to say you can’t treat the leather yourself. You’ve got options. Just keep in mind this will be a restoration process, and results might not be immediate, no matter what you do. Needless to say, if you think your leather may be suffering from UV damage, the first thing to do is take it out of the sun. After that, the process is pretty straightforward.
1. Apply Straight Cleaner No.2 to your leather for a thorough cleansing. Alcohol cleaners are particularly effective here, as they penetrate leather pores more deeply than other leather cleaners. Allow your leather to dry naturally.
2. After the leather has dried completely, apply a Chamberlain’s Leather Milk conditioner. Considering your leather was affected by UV damage, the best recipe here is likely to be Auto Refreshener No.4, which contains UV repellents that will protect your leather from future radiation damage.
3. Apply your conditioner gently, in light and even layers, giving only as much as naturally absorbs. You may require several sessions to completely restore the texture. That’s okay. As long as you do not over-conditioner your leather (applying more conditioner than the leather can naturally absorb), you should begin to notice the texture being restored within a week.
Cleaning and conditioning is a way to refresh your leather by clearing out its pores and restoring its vital oils and nutrients. Through this process of cleanse and condition, leather can nearly simulate our own healing process, purifying its wounds and revitalizing the fibers that hold it together.
If standard leather care remedies do not work here, the best option really is to call a leather care professional. Some leather can be destroyed beyond repair with too much UV exposure, so it’s always best to tackle the problem earlier than late. If your leather has merely becoming faded from sunlight exposure, and shows no other symptoms, leather conditioners can help to enrich its color again. Under severe fading, however, it is more efficient to simply redye the surface with leather dyes. If possible, it is best to purchase your dyes at a local leatherworking shop to color match them with your leather. Otherwise, leather dyes can be found at numerous locations online, such as Fiebings and Advanced Leather Solutions.
If UV damage 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 simply received too much conditioner recently. Click here to read about Over-Conditioned Leather. 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!