Lonnie’s Place: Leather Furniture, the Myth and the Reality

Lonnie’s Place: Leather Furniture, the Myth and the Reality

[Mark Stanley has asked me to write about leather cleaning.]

We will be covering leather from the standpoint of: “what the consumer is told vs. what the truth is” and how it affects both the consumer and the professional cleaner.

That, in itself, is a mouth full and the task of writing this article is a labor of love. It has long been my belief and personal experience that consumers, for the most part, have no idea what type of leather they are getting when they buy and how well it will truly perform. Why?

Sales people are inadequately trained by the store selling the leather furniture or the sales person “stretches the truth” to make the sale. Most of the time, the sales person only knows what someone else told him and that person got it from another person who knew very little! So, what does the consumer know? Even with the best intentions, a sales person usually leaves the consumer woefully unaware of the type of leather they have purchased and the maintenance it requires.

I have personally had a sales person tell me that the only difference between different types of leather was the color! I have been in homes where the consumer was led to believe that leather furniture was low maintenance, children friendly, impervious to pets, and only required wiping down with water occasionally.

Heck! They might as well have been told that it would clean itself! Here in lies the cleaner’s concern. When the professional leather cleaner gets to see the piece, it is on the average about 5-6 years old. Much of damage can occur in that length of time

Leather Should be professionally maintained. Leather is the “Mercedes Benz” of furniture and it needs a skilled technician to properly clean and care for it.

Case in point, if leather cleaning were easy, there would be 500 leather cleaners in every city. Leather comes with various finishes and top coats. The five main types of leather will be classified in this article as:

1. Aniline
2. Semi-aniline
3. Protected
4. Nubuck
5. Suede

These have subdivisions, which include:

1. Wax pull-up
2. Oil pull-up

There are numerous Top Coats, which we will not explore in this article. We will focus
on the five main types, which I listed. I will not go into the specifics of how each type is made but I will classify them into two categories:

1. Protected
2. Unprotected Protected

Protected leathers include Semi-Aniline and Protected. These leathers have had a
topcoat applied to give the surface more durability and clean-abilty. These are also the
least expensive leathers to purchase and the least difficult for a professional to maintain.

They are susceptible to finish problems related to pigment cracking do to improper
maintenance, dogs and cats scratching and clawing, as well as pigment loss due to
inadequate adhesion.

Unprotected leathers include Nubuck, Suede and Aniline. These leathers can become a
maintenance nightmare. These unprotected leathers will readily absorb moisture and
easily become stained. Oils and perspiration will also soak into these leathers, many
times, causing dye displacement. Numerous types of stains will cause discoloration of
these leather fibers and cannot, even with effort of the most skilled leather cleaner, be
removed. These are the softest, most comfortable, and most expensive leather. They
are also very high maintenance. Leather should be professionally maintained (semi-annually). This includes cleaning, rejuvenating the moisture and fat liquors that have evaporated, and applying the proper protection. The consumer should preform spot cleaning with the proper cleaning agent.

That brings us to the proper cleaning agents. The pH of leather is approximately 4.5 and water is 7.0. It is highly recommended that only properly formulated water-based cleaning and preserving agents are used. Without going into a lecture on pH values, it is important to note that the pH range difference between 4.5 and 7.0 is 500 times stronger than that of finished leather. Many sales people and deck tags indicate that you may dust the leather with a mild soap and water. What is mild? Most likely, few of the cleaning agents at the consumer level are truly safe for leather cleaning. We have seen water rings, dye loss, rotting leather and cracking all from wrong cleaning agents. Saddle soaps, mink oil, and other products are not made for leather furniture and can damage some leathers.

It is seriously recommended that the consumer purchase cleaning agents from a professional
who specializes in leather furniture care. How will the “downward-spiral” of all this lack of information be stopped? It will stop when sales people and consumers start educating themselves. Companies such as ours can teach these classes.

Knowledge = Power!

Don’t be left defenseless!

For further information on Leather furniture cleaning restoration and repairs, I can be reached at: 816-966-9065

Lonnie McDonald
LMCCA Director
President/CEO of LeatherPro
Integrity Carpet Cleaning Inc.