The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Sunday Activity

Don’t let the weather affect your leather

AH! sinking into the soft, layered comfort of a leather couch can be so....o cozy. But maintaining this fabric is not too easy a task.

Leather is a very difficult surface to clean. Although it is tough and long lasting, it stains easily. Also, since there are so many types and different finishes, it is difficult to ascertain the best method of care and cleaning. But the scene is not all too dismal as these days professional upholstery cleaners abound and they can be called home to restore the shine and sheen of stained leather.

General cleaning

Gently vacuuming leather and suede regularly will prevent a lot of everyday dirt and grime from slowly soiling the surface. Also wiping non-porous leather – which beads water for a short while – with a damp cloth will help to keep it clean. Do not use water on porous leather or suede.

Don’t try cleaners, solvents and other usually normal cleaning solutions on leather. It is by nature a very porous material and often cannot be completely restored. The key is to blot or wipe up the spill as quickly as possible. For suede and porous leather—naturally tanned and pigmented—any spill must be immediately taken care of or a stain will surely result.


Specialised care

There are some commercially available leather and suede cleaners. They will vary widely in their effectiveness depending on the stain type, surface etc. In many cases you will need to consult a professional.

Leather is very difficult to clean or spot on your own. Basically since leather is dyed all the regular methods of removing stains don't really apply. The experts recommend just using some leather conditioner and wipe the moisture raises the inks to the surface for easy wiping (but that depends on the soil). In all cases always test a small unseen spot before you use anything on the leather, even certain leather cleaners remove dyes from leather.

Beer the brunt

You’ve been entertaining guests and in all this wining and dining beer gets spilt on to your leather sofa. How to clean beer out of the sofa, especially if the cushions are sewn into the couch?

If the leather is pigment dyed you can try to clean it, if it is aniline dyed leather (softer and very porous), you really have no option but to get it professionally cleaned.

Many leather removers will actually remove some of the dye. If this happens there are products which restore colour to the leather.

Be sure to use a leather conditioner after cleaning.

Even eatables can leave stains on leather upholstery. In all such cases there is not much you can do yourself. It is best to seek professional help.

Mould on handbag

If a handbag or purse has mould on it, assuming that it is tanned and pigmented (as opposed to patent, suede, etc), you can try to clean it by simply wiping with a damp (not wet) soft, white cloth and then leaving it in the sun to dry.

Shoe shine

To clean leather shoes remove surface dirt with a brush.

If shoes are wet and muddy, knock off as much as possible and allow the rest to dry.

Use a stiff brush to remove this dry, caked on dirt.

This residual stain can be wiped off with a damp cloth.

Apply polish using a soft rag.

Buff and polish with a soft, clean dry rag such as an old diaper or an appropriate shoe brush.

Paint taint

What to do if you’ve been wearing a leather jacket and have leaned up against a door or wall, transferring marks of white paint to the jacket? Realistically, there is little that can be done. If the paint is water based the possibility exists that a mild solution of warm water and dish soap may loosen it enough to remove the paint. However, since leather is always dyed, using something strong enough to remove the paint will certainly remove the dyes as well. Unfortunately, this is a job for a professional dry cleaner if you want it removed completely and have the dyes restored.

Lest your weather get under the weather, it is best to act swiftly and preserve its untainted status.

—Chetna Banerjee