The articles below are by one of the best in the leather restoration business .I have used her products to restore award winning show cars,and interiors of corporate jets being refurbished for resell.The best I have seen.
Clean New or Aging Leather
Lightly soiled leather surfaces can be cleaned with pure soap (our bar soap) and water. For removal of heavy soil use our SUPER CLEANER. It is advisable to apply any cleaner to a damp cloth rather than directly to the leather surface. (Some liquid cleaners are very strong and tend to streak if applied in uneven concentration.)
Apply bar soap or SUPER CLEANER to terry type cloth that has been dampened in warm water and then wrung out. Briskly rub the leather surface. Repeat this process until all the soil is removed from the surface of the leather. Frequent rinsing of the cloth in clean, warm water will promote quick removal of dirt and minimal wetting of the leather. When the leather is exceptionally dirty and the cloth doesn’t seem to be doing the job well enough, use a soft bristle brush (such as a fingernail brush) to scrub in the direction of the dirt creases or in a circular pattern.
A final wiping with a clean, damp cloth (rinsing frequently in clean, warm water and wringing it out well) will remove any soap or cleaner from the surface. If any cleaning agent is left on the surface and not rinsed off well enough, the leather will more readily attract dirt in the future.
Allow cleaned leather to dry THOROUGHLY (at least 24 hours) before proceeding to the next step. DO NOT apply the conditioner (or the surface colorant) unless the leather is thoroughly dry. To remove all surface residue, wipe over leather with a tack cloth or similar product.
Simply stated, America is cattle country; Europe is not. In the United States we have millions of head of cattle roaming the open plains. And contrary to the popular cowboy song, the skies DO get cloudy at times.
In fact, in the dead heat of the summer
sun and the freezing winds of winter, the cattle are exposed to the
elements. They aren’t harmed by it, they just develop a “thicker hide.”
Exposed to barbed wire, shrubs, brush, insect bites, gored with cattle
horns, our American leather comes out tougher indeed, with what we like
to describe as “characteristic markings” (scars).
European cows are pampered. Farmers do not
have grazing lands and consequently have fewer head of cattle. More
often than not, these cows are kept sheltered in barns during inclement
weather and at night. As a result, the hides are finer, thinner and
unblemished in comparison. European leather is finer in quality but not
as durable as American leathers.
In this country, we have developed and used polymer coatings for leather and vinyl which never become stiff and brittle and wear extremely well. But we do not produce very many automobiles with leather interiors. Most of our leathers are used for furniture and wearing apparel. Some American leathers are colored with polymer coatings when durability and wear are important. But even with these coatings, the leather beneath will eventually dry out if not cleaned and conditioned periodically.
Why Leather Goes Bad
So far we know that leather is an animal skin, treated to stop decomposition, soaked, rolled, dried, oiled, stretched, split, dyed, dried again, softened and colored.
The fiber structure is omnidirectional —
which simply means that it has no particular direction or pattern — like
a tangled mass of spaghetti. It will stretch in all directions with no
particular grain pattern or stress. The surface coating does not
withstand this much abuse, however, and when leather is flexed or
stretched continuously in the same spot, the surface coating develops
minute cracks — not yet visible to the naked eye.
Repeated flexing and stretching eventually
causes the color surface coating to chip away in certain areas and
eventually the natural leather color beneath becomes visible. Usually
this appears to be a crack in the leather. It is not a “crack,” though;
it is merely the absence of surface colorant running in a patterned
direction (wear creases).
Darker colors usually show the light color of the natural leather beneath, and light leathers do the same, except that having lost the protection of a resistant color coating, the exposed leather attracts dirt and oils and soon gets dirty and looks like a dark “crack.” Here is where the vat dyed leathers have a little advantage: the color beneath the surface coating, although usually not exactly the same color, is close enough that these creases or “cracks” are less obvious — but still detrimental.
In a frivolous little sports coupe or a favorite old army jacket or handbag, we tend to view this as “character.” Furniture or an expensive automobile eventually begins to show “wear.” A meticulously restored classic automobile requires REUPHOLSTERING! (But NOT necessarily!).
Knowing what we do about the process of
producing and coloring leather, we now have a better understanding of
the care required to preserve it and some of the reasons for its
The preservation of leather is a relatively simple matter. Keeping it clean and supple require no special abilities. Periodic cleaning with soap and water will remove most abrasive surface dirt and regular applications of beneficial oils will help to preserve its suppleness.
Maintenance of Leather
The most rapid deterioration of leather occurs in automobile upholstery. Subjected to freezer-to-oven-like temperature extremes, it is recommended that this leather be treated with an oil conditioner at least every three or four months. New leather should be treated after the first six months, and regularly thereafter. The flexibility and durability can be prolonged by many years with proper maintenance.
Not all conditioners are alike. In fact, one of the leading brands on the market contains about 90% water! When applied to the leather surface, it appears to “soak in” rapidly, but in fact it is the water on the surface that is evaporating leaving only a thin film of oil to benefit the leather.
What should you use to condition leather? Only the best! Our own leather conditioner, of course — SOFFENER!