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Leather Furniture Tips and Care

Leather upholstered furniture used to only be for the wealthy.  They were usually large stately pieces that featured extensive button tufting and the characteristic brass nails at the front of the arms.  Almost all pieces were very dark in color and had shiny glazed finishes.  That is no longer true in the furniture industry today.  Manufacturers of leather furniture have successfully convinced the general public that leather furniture is attainable for most people.  Leather has become so popular that we would benefit by being better informed regarding the terms that are being used and the proper placement and care of contemporary leather upholstered furniture.

Without exception leather is the most durable and long lasting fabric covering that has ever been used.  Leather lasts 4 to 5 times longer than any other upholstered fabric.  It is fire resistant, does not crack or peel, resists heat and sun, wears gracefully by becoming more supple with age and it holds its color fastness.  Generally you can not go wrong purchasing fine leather furniture but it is wise to be informed before you buy.

How leather is processed

The easiest way to understand the process of leather preparation is to understand the layer separation in which the leather is split across it’s thickness into a top layer (the hair side) and the under layer (the cow side).  The top layer is called top grain, since that is the side exposed to the elements.  The under or inside is much stiffer and less durable than the top layer and sometimes is used to cover the non-wear surfaces such as the sides and back since they don’t flex well.  This is a practical use for the “coated split leather” as it is called.

The top layer or top grain leather is “graded” into two main types.  The highest quality is “Full Grain Leather” which does not require buffing or sanding to the surface.  It can be used without correction to the grain.  The next “grade” is “Corrected grain Leather”.  By its name you can tell that some correction was necessary, such as, buffing or sanding the grain to make it more acceptable to the consumer.  Just by way of the explanation you can see that the Full Grain Leather is the more expensive and most attractive.  Although Full Grain Leather is more desirable, the attributes that make leather a durable and long a lasting piece of furniture still hold true even for the less expensive grades of leather.

Next we must talk about Dyeing and Finishing of the leather.  Aniline dye is by far the most common and it refers to any clear dye that penetrates the leather, giving it color without the use of pigment.  This process is used in all tanned leathers including nubuck and suede.  It should also be noted that semi-aniline and corrected grains are finished with pigmented dye to add color and help dress off the buffing and sanding of these leathers.

Placement of Leather Furniture

The placement of your leather furniture is very important to ensure years of service.  Do not place leather furniture too close to a radiator, fireplace or a direct heat source, even a heater vent.  Maintain at least 2 feet between any heat source and the piece.

Avoid placing your leather furniture in direct sunlight.  This will also dry out your leather and cause it to fade.  Although leather is the most durable covering available anything exposed to direct sunlight will fade over time.

Whenever possible position your leather furniture away from high traffic areas that may be susceptible to family members or visitors who will inadvertently rub against it.  This may seem trivial but leather that is continuously will show marks that may not be able to be removed by conditioners.  The best policy is to place leather furniture at the far end of the footpath. This way you can display its beauty more openly and at the same preserve its look.

Care of Leather Furniture

Weekly - Dusting your leather weekly is very important to keep leather pores free from dust particles.  Simply wipe it with a soft cloth.  Don’t under estimate this seemingly small task; it goes a long way in the long term care of your leather.  We will discuss more thorough cleaning next but remember not to neglect the weekly maintenance.

Spot Cleaning -  As always the quicker you get to a spot or stain the greater success you will have.  Most spills of food and beverages should be wiped up using a damp cloth with a light detergent soap, such as liquid hand soap. 

All other stains such as ink marks, grease, blood, urine, wax  or gum should be removed using a professional leather cleaner.  Just follow the instructions that come with the product.  It is a good idea to have a good leather cleaner on hand so that you will be able to address the problem immediately after it happens.

Quarterly - When you first place your new leather furniture be sure to use a high quality leather conditioner/preservative to protect it and keep the leather supple.  You should fully clean your leather furniture four times per year using quality leather cleaner.  Pay special attention to wear surfaces, arms, backs and seats.  After a thorough cleaning always re-apply the conditioner/protectant to ensure many years of trouble free service from your leather furniture.

In Conclusion    

The popularity of leather furniture is a testimony to its value because of its durability and beauty for many years of service.  We hope that this information will aid you in the selection, placement and care of your leather furniture.

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