As long as you stick to natural leathers and avoid finicky suede, nubuck and bi-cast options, keeping your leather clean and pliable is actually quite simple. The first and most crucial step is to purchase high-quality leather furniture. It costs a bit more, but its longevity and ease of care are well worth the price. Once you have the right leather, keeping it properly moisturized is as simple as applying a leather conditioner once or twice a year.
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Check Your Warranty
Before you lay a finger on your leather couch, make sure you look at your warranty information. Some leather manufacturers dictate that you must use very specific leather cleaners and moisturizers. Others demand only that you use a professionally manufactured leather couch moisturizer rather than a homemade concoction. In these cases, using something other than what the manufacturer recommends can void your warranty.
If your warranty demands that you use a specific product, then use it. If it asks only that you use a commercial product, you can search for one made from all-natural ingredients. Avoid making your own natural moisturizer, though, until the warranty has expired.
Ways to Minimize Drying
Leather dries out and needs a little TLC from time to time, but you can slow the drying process a bit. One way is to avoid placing your leather furniture in direct sunlight. Like other materials, leather can dry out and fade when exposed to the sun. Place your couch in an area where it won't receive direct sunlight or use blinds and curtains to shield it.
Drafts too will dry your leather quickly. Avoid blocking heating or air conditioning vents with a leather sofa or chair. Take note of how the air moves in your home and arrange your furniture so leather pieces aren't sitting in drafty spots.
How to Moisturize and Condition
Whatever you use to condition your leather, always test your leather furniture moisturizer in an inconspicuous area. People often skip this step, and the results can be disastrous. This step is particularly important with colored leathers that can grow darker with treatment. Always test a spot on the back of the couch or in an area hidden by the cushions before proceeding.
When moisturizing leather, always apply conditioner and buff the couch with a clean white rag. Dyes from a colored rag can rub off onto your furniture, so always stick with white. Apply the conditioner with one towel, massaging the moisturizer into the leather and then wiping away any excess as you go. After moisturizing, use another clean towel to buff the leather to a shine.
For added protection, keep your leather as dry as possible when using creams and liquids on it and make sure you don't rub too hard. Saturation and heavy scrubbing are surefire ways to damage your leather.
Basic Homemade Leather Conditioner
It's best to avoid soaps when cleaning and moisturizing leather, but natural baby soaps work well as long as they're free of dyes and colorants. To clean and moisturize leather furniture in one step, add one tablespoon of a natural baby soap and a few drops of vinegar to one quart of warm water. Dampen a cloth in the mixture, wring it out well and wipe down your furniture with it. Allow the furniture to air dry when finished.
Homemade Beeswax Moisturizer
Another popular homemade moisturizer is beeswax. To make a leather conditioner, place beeswax, cocoa butter and sweet almond oil in a double boiler using a 1-1-2 ratio. Over medium heat, stir the mixture until the beeswax melts and the ingredients blend together. When they blend, remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for at least 30 minutes.
Upon cooling, your mixture will congeal into a waxy substance reminiscent of lip balm. Apply the wax to your leather furniture with your fingers. Massage it into the piece, wipe away any excess and then buff the leather to a shine.
Lemon Oil Conditioner
Natural oils make great leather conditioners, and some experts recommend using olive oil to keep leather supple. Others feel that olive oil damages leather over time. To play it safe, avoid olive oil in favor of natural lemon essential oil. Just place 10 to 15 drops of lemon oil on a clean white rag and gently work it into the leather.