Methods for Cleaning Leather Upholstered Furniture Safely

leather 1Leather furnishings have been touted as being easy to clean and low maintenance, which is why it is considered ideal by many. And yet there seems to be a lot of rules when it comes to cleaning leather – do’s and don’ts, what to do and what not to do, that it can often get confusing. Leather may be easy to clean, but the difficulty then is deciding how your leather furniture should be cleaned. The repercussions otherwise can be drying, cracking, fading, or staining on your expensive leather upholstery.

The first thing you should always do is to check the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning your leather upholstered furniture. These instructions always come with warnings on what to do and what not to do, and needless to say, you should follow these instructions closely. Doing so spares you the difficulty of identifying the type of furniture you’re dealing with, and how the cleaning should be done for your specific type of leather furniture. Following the manufacturer’s instructions also guarantees that you keep the manufacturer’s warranty, which is always a good

As a general rule, however, you should first be aware of what type of leather furniture you have before you can determine what safe methods you can use to clean your furniture. This is because there are different types of leather furniture, and they are distinguished by the type of protective coating that they have. The less protective coating, the greater care you should take in cleaning.

In following any cleaning method, always remember to test your cleaning solution on a small and inconspicuous spot first, just to be sure that the cleaner will not result in any fading or discoloration on the leather surface of your furniture. Never place your leather furniture in a spot where it will be exposed to direct sunlight because this can cause the leather to dry and even crack.

Finished or Protected Leather

Also sometimes referred to as corrected leather, this is the easiest leather type to clean. They are referred to as finished because they are coated with thick, protective layers of pigment and polymer, making them more durable and stain-resistant.

An easy way to distinguish this type of leather is to scratch it with your fingernail lightly. If doing so doesn’t leave a mark, then it is most likely finished or protected, and you are dealing with the easier-to-clean type of leather furniture.

First, start vacuuming using a brush attachment. Once this is done, you can continue cleaning using a solution of mild nondetergent soap with distilled water. Use a soft cloth or microfiber to clean. Finish off with wiping the surface over with plain distilled water, and then use a clean towel to dry.

Avoid using any cleaner that contains ammonia, detergent, oils, or any other abrasive material or cleaners with caustic ingredients. The reason for this is because the protective topcoat of your finished leather will break down over time, and faster if you use chemical-based cleaners. If you maintain your furniture properly, however, it can last you a very long time.

Unfinished or Unprotected Furniture

This is what is referred to as aniline leather because other than being treated with aniline dye, there is little to no protective covering for this type of leather. These are easily the more expensive types of leather furniture, with a soft, supple texture to it as compared to the stiffer surface of protected leather. Unfortunately, that expensive texture also means that it has less protection against staining and wear and tear. Proper maintenance of aniline leather is very important to prevent fading, cracking, or staining, but the lack of protective coating also means you have to be doubly more careful when cleaning.

In fact, many recommend simple dusting or a gentle cleaning with a clean, soft cloth, or regular vacuuming to clean this type of leather furniture. You may use a moistened or a damp clean cloth or sponge, but never use anything other than a minimal amount of water to wipe down unprotected leather furniture.

How can you tell if you have aniline leather? Using the same fingernail scratch test above, if your finger leaves a mark, then your leather furniture is unprotected. That also means that stains will be more difficult to clean. Never use chemical-based cleaners on aniline furniture. In fact, if you are unsure about how to clean your aniline leather furniture, you might do better by hiring professionals to do the cleaning for you. Many carpet cleaners also offer leather cleaning services for furniture and upholstery, and they will be able to give your leather furniture a thorough but gentle and safe cleaning. This is especially true when you have a stain on unprotected leather. If you are unsure about how to remove the stain, err on the side of caution and don’t experiment with cleaning methods. Hire a professional instead.