How to Clean Sticky Feel From Leather

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Stickiness on anything is annoying because it's, well, icky, and it transfers to your fingers, your clothes, and anything else touching it. If the sticky matter is on your luxurious leather items, such as expensive car seats, furniture, accessories, and clothing, you'll want to clean them with thought and care so you don't wind up with worse problems or possibly permanent problems. The methods for dealing with a sticky feel on leather are actually very basic, but you'll still need to consider your leather type.

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Know Your Leather

Because there are several types of leather and many types of finishes found in leather goods, a cleaning approach for one type may not be such a good choice for another. Online search results for how to clean leather often show failure to consider leather differences, recommending the same cleaning approach across the board. Since you don't want to cause damage, it's important to know what type and finish you're dealing with even if you're using a pretty basic cleaning procedure.

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Leather Types and Finishes

Leather is categorized by how much of the original hide remains present.

  • Full-grain leather​, used in furniture, footwear, and saddlery, is the strongest leather. From the outer hide layer, it shows imperfections, adopts a patina, and is water-resistant.

  • Top-grain leather​ is used often for fine shoes and accessories. Removal of imperfections from the outer hide softens the leather but decreases strength and the ability to repel water.

  • Genuine leather​ is not top quality and is from no specific hide layer. Often dyed or painted, treatments that are used create a perfect, uniform look.

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Leather can be treated with several common finishes to alter color, texture, finish, and flexibility. Aniline, semianiline, and pigmented full-grain leathers are high-quality leathers with different degrees of pigmentation and protective coatings. The pull-up leather finish, also called waxed or oiled leather, is created by imbuing the leather with extra oil and spray-coating with wax to create a rugged appearance.

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Cleaning Away the Sticky Feel

Test whatever cleaning solution you use on a part of the leather that won't be seen, especially if you don't know the leather type or finish, and avoid homemade cleaning solutions containing ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda, as these may be too harsh for your leather. There are tons of quality commercial leather cleaners from which to choose that are safe and suitable for different leather types, but if you're simply dealing with stickiness, these are usually unnecessary.

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To clean sticky full-grain leather, use a saddle soap that's 50 percent fat or a glycerin-based soap. Wet a sponge or soft cloth with warm water, wring out the excess, and rub the cloth over the soap. Do not work up a lather. Gently wipe the sticky area. If the sticky residue remains, go over it again using a bit more pressure. Wipe with a clean, damp cloth and then allow the area to dry without using heat.

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Aniline and semianiline leathers, along with full-grain leathers that are pigmented, can be wiped with a warm, damp cloth for removal of sticky residue. Just make sure you wring excess water from the cloth. If the stickiness is stubborn, use a warm, damp cloth rubbed over a bar of specifically Ivory-brand soap. Rinse with a clean, warm, damp cloth and allow it to air-dry. Do not use heat.

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Don't Forget Leather Conditioner

It's always a good idea to condition leather after cleaning it, even if you've dealt with no more than a bit of stickiness. Make sure the conditioner is suitable for the type of leather you have. Follow the label directions, which will usually direct you to apply it with a cloth or sponge in a circular direction.

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