Leather Upholstery Needs Extra Attention

by Don Elliott on August 9, 2012

Just like your own skin, the leather surfaces of your car need careful attention to retain their soft subtle surface well into maturity. Regular cleaning and conditioning will prevent premature aging, cracks, and loss of color. Maintenance is not difficult when using the right products and on a regular schedule.

If you use an auto detailing service, review their procedure for leather interior care. Auto detailing shops have access to some very good leather treatment products not readily available at your local auto parts store.

If you are a do-it-yourself kind of guy or gal, knowing a thing or two about your cars leather upholstery can add some logic to your maintenance program.

Cowhide is the standard material in almost all of today’s vehicles. The hide itself is dyed (sorry, no red or blue cows on the planet!), and then a surface finish is applied. The surface coating protects the leather from wear and soiling, and also from the sun.

Surface finishes are most often urethane products that have to remain flexible and permeable to match the benefits of the underlying leather. All car leather surfaces are not the same. Aggressive cleaning products used while the car is still relatively new can actually shorten the lifespan of the leather upholstery so it is important to find an expert in car upholstery repair.

Working with leather is always best while the leather surface is warm. Leather, like skin, is a porous surface. When warm, the pores open up and drink in the surface treatment. Initially, it is best to wipe down the seats with a damp 100% cotton towel to pick up dirt, grit and grime, the worst enemies of your cars leather surfaces. Water is actually good for the leather when used moderately.

There are a variety of leather surface cleaners available from your dealership made specifically for your car. These cleaners are compatible with the surface finish applied at the factory. Any cleaner that you use should be free of silicone oils, waxes and petroleum solvents. Wipe down all of the surfaces being careful not to leave any extra cleaner in the crevices and seams where the stitching could become discolored or rot.

Second, apply a quality water based leather conditioner that is pH-balanced and specifically made for automotive upholstery. Read the label. Avoid conditioners that include petroleum distillates and glossing agents. These surface applications provide a quick finish that can come off as a greasy smear on your clothes.

Finally, using a clean damp cotton towel, wipe down all of the leather surfaces one more time to remove any excess conditioner.

Keeping the leather surfaces clean and conditioned should be part of your car’s regular maintenance schedule. Leather is pretty tough stuff but a little extra care will help it to look better for a longer period of time.

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