What you didn’t know about leather furniture, and how to clean it!

Buying leather furniture is often about having a thing of beauty in your living room or workplace. Leather sofas are considered to be comfortable and hardwearing too.

There’s another big factor in the leather vs fabric debate. Recent research shows that 95% of people who buy leather furniture expect it to last longer than fabric. Also, the popular perception is that leather is easier to clean and maintain.

However, there are some important furniture industry ‘secrets’ we want to share with you, particularly with regards to leather sofa maintenance.

Some will have a major impact on how you clean a leather suite from day one, so it lasts for many years.

Exploding myths about leather

Let’s make it clear from the start that leather furniture is not low maintenance and something you can clean easily! Not if you want it to stand up to heavy use and continue to look good.

You will see all sorts of advice on leather sofa cleaning on social media. One of the most prevalent is that all it needs is a quick wipe with a damp cloth, or that common household products can lift off stains – like toothpaste!

If you use inappropriate products, the abrasion and chemical reaction you trigger is damaging to the leather surface. It could be damage you can’t see, but over time it contributes to leather cracking, tearing and losing its elasticity and shine.

The truth is that leather needs specialist substances to get it clean and to maintain its structure and integrity. It also requires specialist knowledge of how to use those leather cleaning and protection products correctly to keep your sofa fresh, attractive and pliable.

Different types of leather for furniture

The ability to keep leather clean and looking fabulous also hinges on its initial quality.

Did you ever wonder why some leather sofas are £600 and others are £3,000? This is partly due to design and manufacturing standards, but also the grade of leather used.

Using modern, precision tools, cowhide can be split into three layers.

The top layer – called top grain or aniline leather – has the highest quality and strength. It is used for high-end sofas and chairs and has either no pigment or minimal pigmentation added, due to its natural aesthetic.

The second layer is used for mid to top range leather furniture. It is usually pigmented and stamped to give it the distinctive look of leather. It is fairly strong and long-lasting, with proper care and cleaning.

The third split of cowhide is used for cheaper items of furniture (as well as multiple other manufacturing uses). It too is pigmented and stamped, but it tends to be thinner, weaker and easier to damage.

There is another type of leather used in furniture production too. This is when the shavings from the splitting process are glued together with other fibres and components – such as cotton or flax mixed with plant oils – to produce Eco-leather.

Eco-leather is extremely light and cost-effective, making it popular to use in aircraft and car seats for example. Eco-leather is important for anyone keen to buy sustainable furniture.

Whichever type of leather is used, it will be coated in a protective polymer and stain guard. Though the quality of these can vary between manufacturers too.

Different cleaning demands of different leathers

As you would imagine, the methods for cleaning leather sofas – and the relative long-term success you can enjoy – depends on the type of leather involved.

Your aim should be to maintain the integrity of the polymer and the ability of the leather to repel pollutants.

You can’t assume that an aniline leather sofa – with its superior strength and quality – needs less maintenance and cleaning. The lack of polymers in its construction means that you need to clean and protect its surface every three months, to maintain its looks and elasticity.

Other types of leather will need to be cleaned and restored at least every six months.

Incorrect cleaning or neglect allows pigments and coatings to degrade, making leather more prone to soaking up spills and splashes, and susceptible to scuffs, cracks, tears and fading.

More tips on leather sofa cleaning

There is one more myth about maintaining leather furniture you should be aware of.

Sadly, not all firms offering leather sofa maintenance are effective, due to their misconceptions or emphasis on keeping their costs down.

One of their most common errors is cleaning leather sofas with the industrial version of a baby wipe! Using any kind of baby wipe or lotion-saturated cloth on leather is seriously wrong. The chemicals – no matter how ‘kind’ they are – are designed to neutralise the alkalinity of a baby’s urine or add moisture. It is the sort of thing that has a detrimental effect on the finish of leather sofas!

Instead, invest wisely in expertise and appropriate cleaning products for leather sofas, to be sure your furniture stands the test of time.

How much does it cost to properly clean leather furniture? Expect to pay around £60 and £80 per seated area, but this includes cleaning the surface and restoring its protective elements.

For free advice on leather furniture cleaning and maintenance, please get in touch. We are always happy to share our industry knowledge and know-how.