Leather Interior Cleaning and Care

Care and cleaning of traditional and modern leather interiors

Leather automobile interiors, once reserved for only higher end models, are now available in a variety of vehicles from compact coupes to gargantuan SUVs. Yet with the comfort and luxury of leather also comes a degree of added maintenance. As most of us don't have a butler and staff to clean and condition the leather interior of our motor coaches, we end up having to do it ourselves.

Driving in the modern world can put more stress on leather than the tea and crumpets crowd ever dished out. Greasy fingerprints from forays with french fries can leave behind damaging deposits. Oil from skin or skin lotions can also harm leather if not regularly removed. Spilled milk, in the form of a latte, really can make you cry when you get the resulting repair bill. The good news is, thanks to modern science, proper care of leather interiors has never been easier.

Knowing the Breed

With regular cleaning and conditioning, a leather interior will last for the life of the vehicle, even with all the abuse that the modern world can dish out. The main concern is to determine is what type of leather interior you have, then choose cleaners and conditioners designed specifically for the task. Traditional leather interiors are made of 100% leather, where as some modern interiors are leather coated with a supple vinyl. Suede, while itself a form of leather, calls for a completely different cleaning and conditioning process.

A quick test to determine which type you have is to use a small amount of cool clean water. Traditional leather will absorb water, where vinyl coated leather will repel it. Either way, a few drops of water won't harm your interior. If you're still questioning what type of leather interior you have, another good place to look is in your owner's manual, or to contact the dealer or manufacturer directly.

The next step is to determine the right cleaners and conditioners for your leather. Saddle soap and conditioners, while good for your baseball glove or go-go boots, are not to be used on automotive leather of any kind. The soap contains alkalis, which can permanently damage the material in your seats. Household detergents and cleaners can damage leather as well. Always use only a product designed for the type of leather your vehicle has.

Getting a Clean Slate

Removing harmful oil and dirt deposits is the crucial first step. Always use clean soft cloths to prevent damage to, or inadvertent removal of the leather dye. Stubborn dirt lodged into crevices may require the use of an upholstery brush. Removal of gunk and grime must be done before conditioning the leather, as you don't want to permanently push these contaminants into the pores.

After the leather is clean conditioning is in order. If you are lucky enough to own a Ferrari with a Connolly interior your leather must be fed after cleaning with "hide food" designed by the very people who manufacture the interiors for the prancing horse of the asphalt and concrete world. For the rest of us there is a world of products specifically designed for all types of leather conditioning. Some products even come with ready to use pre-moistened cloths for easy detailing.

While cleaning and conditioning your interior be sure not to leave any tools or sharp objects in your pockets that could put a hole in your seats and your good time. As with any cleaner, conditioner or chemical that involves the potential for ruining something really expensive, always test first in a small, inconspicuous area before going too crazy.

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