Leather furniture is bilingual. To some it speaks luxury, sophistication, and elegance; to others, it says down-home sink-into-bliss comfort. No matter which you heard when you decided to purchase your recliner, sofa, or dining room chairs, they won’t retain their natural rich beauty and supple feel unless you give them the right type of loving care. This applies even if you go with aniline-dyed leather furniture which is meant to look lived-in
In order to understand how to care for your leather furniture, it helps to consider how you care for your skin. After all, although many prefer not to think about it, leather is tanned cowhide. Therefore, the same dos and don’ts that apply to skincare apply to caring for leather furniture.
The Don’ts of Caring for Leather Furniture
Sunlight will cause leather to become dry and brittle so never place it in front of a window or sliding door where it will be in direct sunlight.
Although leather furniture is durable and will stand up to a year after year of everyday use in the busiest of households, it’s also sensitive to cold temperatures. So it should never be placed in unheated sunrooms or screened-in porches where it will do well three seasons of the year, but come winter, the freezing temperatures will cause it to crack, just as it cracks your chapped lips.
Another thing to keep in mind when deciding where your leather furniture should go is how dry it is. Just as your skin tends to dry out during winters spent in well-insulated heated homes, a dry environment will rob leather of its moisture. So, if you have visions of cuddling on the couch with your sweetie in front of a blazing fireplace, it may be good for our relationship but not for the leather couch. It will lead to cracking. Other places to rule out are next to a radiator or under an air conditioner.
The Dos of Caring for Your Leather Furniture
Cleaning and Moisturizing.
Leather furniture needs to be kept clean and moisturized but only with gentle cleaning agents and moisturizers. So, right off the bat, you can rule out soaps and detergents. Even ones whose labels say they’re “mild and gentle” can turn them dry, brittle, and eventually cracked. Ditto for saddle soap, cleaning agents, furniture polish, and varnish. Any of these can damage your leather furniture beyond repair.
Instead, clean up spills with a dry microfiber cloth as soon as they happen and use a soft brush for crumbs. Stay away from rough clothes or stiff bristles since they can scratch some soft grades of leather. If your cleaning needs to go a little further, the first vacuum to remove whatever dry dirt can be lifted, and then wipe down the chair or couch with a microfiber cloth dampened with a few drops of nondetergent soap diluted in distilled water. To finish up the job, rinse top to bottom with another cloth dampened only with distilled water, then dry with a clean towel. A word of caution, though – no matter how mild the soap purports to be, always test a small area first to make sure it doesn’t discolor it.
Although you may moisturize your skin twice a day, every morning and night, your leather furniture only needs to be conditioned twice a year. There are a number of leather conditioning oils on the market that will maintain your furniture’s oils and keep your furniture feeling soft, but unless you want to end up with permanently sticky furniture shun any that use wax or silicone.
But What About Stains?
The best way to avoid a stain is to wipe every spill promptly lest the leather absorbs it. Sodas and juices are the easiest since all you need is the soap/distilled water mixture described above. However, if the stain is a more stubborn one you will have to use a cloth soaked with non-detergent soap and warm water. Conclude the job by blotting with a dry soft towel.
You need to go a different route with a stain caused by body oils or grease. Do not use water. Just try to blot it out with a soft cloth and if that doesn’t work, sprinkle the stain with cornstarch or baking soda and leave it to sit overnight, so it can soak up the stain.
Yes, leather furniture calls for a lot of TLC, but keep in mind that, like any job worth doing, caring for leather furniture is worth doing well.