How to Care for Your Leather Furniture?

Extend the life of your leather furniture by following these maintenance tips

Credit: BoConcept

You should clean and re-moisturize leather furniture every six months

Learn how to extend the life of your leather furniture

Luxurious leather furniture looks inviting and feels comfortable, and yet stains, scratches and wear can make natural hides look positively hideous.

By choosing the right leather from the start, regular cleaning and preventative maintenance can protect your investment for decades, says Dave Marryatt, 20-year veteran of cleaning leather and the owner of NuvoClean.

Q. What type of leather furniture should I choose?

A. “The two main types of leather used for furniture are aniline (or semi-aniline) and pigmented (or protected). Aniline is closest to naked leather, with natural grain and marks showing through. It has been dyed but does not have a protective coating. It’s very absorbent so it won’t tolerate spills. It’s not suitable for heavy use or around kids and pets. Pigmented leather has an even colour with a shiny polymer finish, which prevents spills from absorbing. 

Eighty per cent of leather furniture problems I see are as a result of choosing leather not suitable to its use or situation. Depending on quality and the care given, leather furniture should 
last at least twice as long as fabric furniture.

Q. How should I clean my leather?

A. “Never use harsh chemicals or any abrasive material. Weekly, dust or vacuum your furniture with a soft brush. You can spot clean pigmented or some aniline leather by blotting stains then rinsing with distilled water. Don’t use tap water as leather is sensitive to changes in the water’s acidity or alkalinity. Choose a cleanser specifically manufactured for your type of leather. Pigmented leathers vary in quality so if you use detergent, you can damage the polymer coating and your leather will dry and crack.

Q. Water and dirt don’t stain the cow; why will they hurt my leather couch?

A. “While the cow is alive, it has the ability to replenish the moisture in its hide. With furniture, we have to replenish that moisture to keep its resistance. With aniline leather, they add fatliquor, which helps the hide stay soft and keeps it from drying. Once leather dries out, it starts absorbing stains.”

Leather 101

  • The biggest myth is that leather doesn’t require maintenance. Don’t believe this. Leather needs to be cleaned and re-moisturized every six to 12 months.

  • The worst problem is leaving professional cleaning until it’s too late; then full restoration may be required.

  • A proper professional cleaning costs about $300 
for a sofa.

  • If your leather is white or light-coloured, avoid contact with dark cushions or throws as fabric dye molecules 
could transfer to the leather.

Contact an expert:

Originally published in BC Home magazine. For monthly updates, subscribe to the free BC Home e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the bi-monthly magazine.