How to Condition New Leather

October 22, 2018

We frequently have customers who come in and ask us about various aspects of leather furniture repair and leather conditioning in San Diego, CA. One of the most common questions we receive comes after people purchase a new piece of leather furniture: “How can I condition my new leather?”

This question, while understandable, arises from a bit of a misunderstanding about the leather curing process. For the most part, leather upholstery is either sealed or finished, meaning there is no conditioner that will penetrate through its color and protective coatings down into the leather’s substrate. This means you should not bother applying any oil or silicones to the leather, because it will just sit on the very surface of the leather and only serve to collect debris.

Testing your leather

While the usual processes of “conditioning” your leather won’t be used on your new furniture if it is sealed, you still need to figure out if that leather is sealed, and there are several methods of doing so.

The best way to do this is by wiping the leather with a slightly damp rag. If the leather does not darken from absorbing the water, this means the leather is sealed. You want sealed leather for upholstery, because if you ever spill anything on it, or if it gets exposed to debris and soil, you don’t have to worry about contaminants penetrating the surface and permanently staining the leather.

If the leather slightly dampens, this means it’s partially sealed in what is often referred to as “semi-aniline” leather. This usually refers to leathers that have softer finishes.

Finally, if the moisture soaks into the leather like a sponge, this means you have completely unfinished leather, or what is referred to as “full aniline.” In this type of leather, there are only the color dyes, with no pigment coat. You need to be extra careful when working with this type of leather, because it will stain easily. You should also avoid using oily conditioners with this type of leather, because it could change the pH of that leather and attract soiling.

Protecting the leather

So if you can’t condition your leather even if it hasn’t been sealed, what can you do? You need to do whatever you can to protect it.

One simple step you can take is to keep the leather out of the sun as much as possible. The sun’s ultraviolet rays and the infrared heat can oxidize the leather and degrade the color, making the leather feel harder and dryer. Help with this by closing blinds, or avoiding putting leather furniture in areas that get a lot of direct sunlight. If only one end of the furniture gets sun, you can put a throw over that area.

You should also avoid using saddle soap, which is known to harden upholstery leathers. Instead, you can wipe the leather down with a damp cloth regularly to clean. If you have dirt or oil that gets on it, use a mild soapy solution.

For more information about leather conditioning in San Diego, CA, contact Total Leather Care today.

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