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Cleaning leather, whether it’s a leather garment or leather upholstery is a very specialized procedure and great care has to be taken to avoid damaging the delicate material. Many commercial cleaners claim to be able to clean any stain or blemish off of a section of leather and may actually do more harm than good, especially if used improperly.

Because leather is a natural material, it has to be colored and possibly sealed to be used commercially. This staining process will tint the leather a specific color and all the leather used for a particular coat or sofa is normally colored in the same group to ensure a consistency of shade. Even with this staining process being done with the same colored stain, at the same time, on all of the leather pieces, there will still be a normal variance in color based on how the particular section of leather absorbs the stain. Once this stain is applied and allowed to dry, the leather is then either used as a natural material or is sealed to help it retain the color over time and protect it from damage by liquids. If the leather is left in its natural state, it is called unfinished leather. If it is sealed for use it is called finished leather, and each of these needs to be cleaned a different way.

In a finished leather product, the sealing process will actually create a barrier between the leather itself and any outside contaminants. This seal is intended to be on the surface of the leather for its entire life and if the sealant is removed the leather can become worn very quickly and damaged. Over time this sealant will wear down and one of the main ways you can continue to keep your leather looking great is by applying a leather conditioner to the surface of your coat or furniture on a regular basis.

The best way to clean a finished leather product is with a commercial leather cleaning kit. These kits typically contain a cleaner, polishing cloth and a leather conditioner to use once the cleaning is finished. Many people will try to clean leather surfaces with simple water and a mild soap solution. While this may work for many types of finished leather, you need to test it first in an inconspicuous area to be sure it won’t stain or damage the surface. If you do use water and a soap solution, be sure it is a mild liquid soap and try and remove it from the surface of the leather as quickly as possible to avoid water stains. You should only use a soft brush to agitate the solution on the surface of the leather and work on a small section of the material at a time. Once you are done with the cleaning, be sure to let the surface air dry for a day before applying the leather conditioner. This is to ensure that you don’t seal any of the moisture from the cleaning process into the material that may later develop into a stain.

A better approach would be to use a commercial leather cleaning kit. These kits are specifically designed to protect the leather during the cleaning process. The cleaning solution used in these kits is a not a water based cleaner and is more suitable for a wider range of leather products. You still need to be careful about applying too much liquid to the surface, but the cleaning solution is better suited to avoid staining the leather.

Cleaning unfinished leather is another matter and requires using a solution like saddle soap as a cleaning solution. Because of the natural state of the leather, extreme care should be taken to not scrub too hard when cleaning an unfinished piece of leather as damage may occur. There are also commercial cleaning kits available for unfinished leather that will include the proper cleaning solution that is gentle on the leather, a cleaning brush that can be used and sealing oil that can be applied after the cleaning is done to seal the unfinished leather against further staining and damage.

The other preferred option is to have a professional cleaning company do your leather cleaning for you. For garments, a good dry cleaner will have the training and materials needed to clean and seal any leather jacket or skirt that may need to be cleaned. If it is a piece of leather furniture like a couch or sofa, there are professional cleaners for this as well. Many times a professional carpet cleaning company is also skilled at cleaning leather and can do this as part of a carpet cleaning appointment. They have specialized equipment and solutions to clean the leather and can also apply professional sealants and conditioner to restore the leather to its original appearance and texture. Using a professional cleaner for your leather cleaning needs will ensure that your leather furniture will look and feel like new for a long time. Leather goods


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