Elizabeth Brumbaugh

How to Clean Leather Furniture

Walking into the door of Brumbaugh’s Fine Home Furnishings one will come to a few realizations:

  1.  “This is one HUGE place”
  2. “This is one HUGE place that is filled with an enormous amount of furniture”
  3.  “This is one HUGE place, filled with an enormous amount of leather furniture”
  4.  “I’m pretty sure I can find a piece here”

The selection of a piece of fine leather furniture from Brumbaugh’s is an investment, an investment for the future. Leather furniture not only enhances the look of a home, if cared for correctly, leather furniture can continue to be the centerpiece of your decor for years to come.

The purchase of leather furniture can be a daunting proposition. One of the biggest apprehensions about buying leather furniture is the continued care of the piece. But one should take notice that fabric instead of leather is a risky proposition. Fabrics are not only more difficult to clean, they retain odors. Leather will provide a longer lifespan for your furniture. In reality, the majority of leather can be cared for relatively easily, requiring very few special needs.

Essentially there are two types of leathers used in most furniture: finished and unfinished. First, we will examine finished leather.

Finished Leather

Finished, or coated leather, has a protective finish and is more versatile – especially in its care. The easiest method of caring for the leather is basically to vacuum or dust regularly. This removes surface oils that find their way onto leather from normal everyday use. When dusting its best to use a white cleaning cloth as this eliminates the possibility of transferring dyes from the cloth into the leather.

Leather creams and conditioners may be used for general care a few times a year, thus keeping the leather hydrated and pliable. This will diminish the likelihood of the leather cracking, thus causing more damage than just an unsightly stain.  When applying a cleaner or cream/conditioner, its best to test a discreet spot to make sure it doesn’t damage the leather.

As you are dusting and doing everyday cleaning around the house, resist the temptation to use ordinary cleaning products, oil, furniture polish or dusting sprays on the leather furniture. These products, though effective on other pieces, actually damage leather items by removing its finish.

Some stains may not need the talents of a professional to remove. Though when dealing with leather it’s best to consult someone regarding its removal, it can be remedied at home.

Grease stains can be brought up by blotting with a soft dry cloth (do not wipe or rub these stains), changing out cloths as needed, so as to not put grease back into the leather. After bringing up as much of the grease with a cloth as possible, sprinkle talcum powder or cornstarch on the surface and allow for it to sit for a few minutes. Brush the powder away with a soft bristled brush, and repeat as necessary.

 In conclusion here is a simple four-step process to help you remember finished leather care:

  1. Dust regularly.
  2. Use a clean cloth.
  3. Find a good leather cream or conditioner and test on a small sample area.
  4. Stay away from ordinary furniture polish or dusting sprays.
    • If you have a grease stain, call a professional and do NOT wipe or rub the stain.  Try some cornstarch if you choose not to contact a professional.

Unfinished Leather

Now let’s take a look at unfinished leather. Unfinished leather, ie., Aniline, Nubuck, and Suede, does not have a protective finish or coating. Though they may be dyed, they have not been treated and are more susceptible to damage from soil absorption and solutions. These pieces can be cared for on a regular basis, mainly by frequent dusting.

Leather creams, conditioners or saddle soap are discouraged in the care of unfinished leather as these items could change the appearance. In some cases, on some uncoated leathers, some soils or deposits can be removed with an art gum eraser. However, due to the nature of the leather, it’s best to consult a specialist for most stains or soils.

When you acquire a piece of leather furniture, look at it as an investment in quality and comfort that will last for a number of years. Understand the type of leather you are purchasing, finished versus unfinished. And when caring for your leather be sure and purchase the right type of cleaner.

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