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Detailing Your Interior: Leather Seats

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Old 01 Aug 2008, 02:15 pm
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Exclamation Detailing Your Interior: Leather Seats

Hello Everyone,

Welcome back to our Guide to Detailing Your PT Like A Pro! In this Segment, we are going to discuss the proper way to clean, and care for Leather Seats. Conditioning your Leather Seats, replaces the natural tanning oils evaporating out of the hide. The smell of leather comes from these oils. If not replaced, leather will eventually dry out, become brittle and crack. Think of these tanning oils as microscopic, lubricating oils. If you look at leather under a microscope, the fibers look like a pile of rope that's all tangled up. Tanning oils coat these fibers allowing them to bend, move and slip across one another. These oils keep the leather soft and supple. Without lubrication, leather fibers will become stiff and brittle. When repeatedly flexed, stiff, dry fibers will simply break and the leather will develop cracks. Here is a basic plan to clean, and care for your Leather Seats!


* Spray cleaner to a wet applicator pad and apply to one area at a time (i.e. a seat back).
* Gently agitate the surface with a leather cleaning brush. This removes stubborn grime and will not harm the leather.
* Use a clean, damp sponge to rise the leather.
* Towel dry with a clean terry cloth towel.

In addition to regular cleaning, leather requires replacement of natural oils. (The smell of leather comes from oils evaporating out of the hide.) If these oils are not replaced, the leather will dry out, deteriorate and crack. Once every month or two, use a leather conditioner to restore these natural oils and keep the leather soft and supple. Leather conditioners with rich combinations of natural oils that have a high rate of UV Leather Conditioning agents which are especially beneficial on neglected, abused or aged leathers that have developed "character lines".


Apply conditioner to a damp applicator pad and wipe all leather surfaces in the vehicle.

Allow 15 to 20 minutes for the oils to penetrate and give a final wipe down with a clean towel. Don't be alarmed if there is conditioner on the wipe towel. The leather will only absorb as much conditioner as it needs.

If you own a convertible with a leather interior, you should consider additional sunscreen protection. Leather conditioners typically do not offer any UV screening. The best solution is to alternate between a leather conditioner and a good Leather Cleaner which contains UV Protection in its Formulation. For example, one month I'll use a conditioner to keep the leather healthy and supple. The following month, I'll mist and wipe the leather with my Leather Cleaner to add UV protection.

Coated or "Corinthian" leather.

Some leather being used in domestic automobiles has a top veneer of vinyl. This should be considered a vinyl interior and treated with a vinyl dressing. Do not use a leather conditioner on vinyl topped leather. The conditioning oils can not penetrate the vinyl coating to reach the leather. If you're not sure if your car's leather is vinyl coated, check with your car dealer or the manufacturer.

In our next Segment, we will be finishing up our Detail with a couple of final tricks to complete our project!

I hope you enjoy my Tutorial's, and thank you very much for reading my Guide to Automotive Detailing! Till next time, take it easy, and we will see you a little further down the road!

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Last edited by Candyman; 30 Dec 2008 at 08:47 am.
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Old 01 Aug 2008, 03:08 pm
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Default Re: Detailing Your Interior: Leather Seats

Reposting in correct order
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Old 20 May 2009, 11:11 pm
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Default Re: Detailing Your Interior: Leather Seats

What leather conditioner do you prefer, and should this be done in the shade, with seats cool to the touch as well just like waxing or washing your car?
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Old 26 May 2009, 01:44 am
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Smile Re: Detailing Your Interior: Leather Seats

Hey their wantaptcruiser,

Sorry for the delayed response. I have been big time busy with a number of things and am still trying to catch up with everything.

Anyways, their are a number of good Leather Products on the Market that work well. For me, the one I used to use in my Detail Shop was a Product called Lexol. A couple of reasons why I chose to use this Product was that its oils helped bring out the Leathers natural aroma, and unlike some Leather Conditioners, it penetrated deep into the fibers of the material making it softer, and more renewed rather than greasy, and slick as many Products tend to do.

Their are two Leather Products made by Lexol: Lexol Leather Conditioner and Lexol NF Neatsfoot Oil. The regular Lexol Leather Conditioner is formulated for darker colored leathers, and is not recommended for lighter colored Leather as some oils in the Product tend to darken up the natural colors more than its counterpart. Lexol NF Neatsfoot Oil is formulated to not alter the natural color of the Leather, and is recommended for use on lighter colors, or more vibrant colors.

The ingrediant "Neatsfoot, or Neat" is an archaic name for hooved animals (i.e. cows, pigs, sheep). Neatsfoot oil is oil rendered from the feet of cattle or hooved animals. In the slaughterhouse, the feet would be cut off the animal, split, put into a large vat and boiled. The oils that rose to the top would be skimmed off and sold as "Neatsfoot Oil." Today, thanks to the US military, there is no actual Neatsfoot oil in Neatsfoot Oil! Let me explain. Back in the 1930's the US Army wrote a Military Specification (Mil Spec) that defined the properties of Neatsfoot Oil. Oil merchants bidding for government contracts quickly discovered other, less expensive, oils would meet this Mil Spec. Today, Neatsfoot Oil is any oil, regardless of where it comes from, that meets this US Government Mil Spec. Neatsfoot Oil now is mostly derived from pigs. Lard is pressed and the resulting liquid, which can be supplemented with mineral oil and/or reclaimed motor oil, is sold as "Neatsfoot Oil". Various forms of Neatsfoot Oil based Leather Conditioners can be found today throughout both the Automotive, and Equestrian Industries. Other types of ingredients you can find in various Leather Conditioners include Lanolin, Mink Oil, pressed lard oils, and Banana Oil. All of these oils have a good, but limited effect when conditioning Leather, and in some cases like Banana Oil is used more so to provide a pleasant smell.

A few things Not to Do!

Avoid cleaning or conditioning leather that is hot from being in the sun. Do not spray a cleaner directly on the leather. Use an applicator sponge or cloth to apply the cleaning solution. Spraying a cleaner on hot leather can cause spotting and discolorations. Never, ever use a multi-purpose, high pH, or highly alkaline cleaner on leather. Your better, aniline dyed leathers, the kind used by Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, Audi and Lexus, should be cleaned with a product in the pH 5 to 5.5 range. That's actually a mildly acidic solution. Most multi-purpose cleaners and spot removers have a pH of 12 to 13. If you spray a multi-purpose, high pH cleaner on leather and buff with a dry cloth, the cloth will often turn brown. The consumer will believe it's dirt coming out of the hide. It's not dirt, it's tanning agents. You are actually detanning the hide! Remember, whatever chemical solution you put on leather remains in it!

As basically outlined above, to clean Leather, Wet a washcloth or Microfiber cloth with water, leaving it as damp as you would if you were going to wash your face. Spray the cleaner on the cloth and begin to wash the leather as if your were bathing. Don't forget the stitch lines. Dirt left in the stitch lines can cut through upholstery thread over time but proper cleaning will extend thread life. Especially soiled areas can be agitated using an upholstery or soft leather scrub brush. After bathing each section, rinse the washcloth to clear it of dirt, wring it out, wipe off any excess cleaner then towel dry with a clean, dry cotton or Microfiber cloth. Always remember to clean one manageable section at a time. For example, with bucket seats, clean the seat back and then move on to the seat bottom.

Then to Condition Leather, lightly dampen a cotton or Microfiber cloth or applicator towel folded into four with purified drinking water which does not contain any chlorine, or other minerals or contaminants, so that it doesn't absorb too much conditioner. Spray the applicator cloth or pad with conditioner and wipe it into the leather. A little conditioner goes a long way. Multiple light applications are better than one heavy application. Wipe the entire leather interior of your car and then allow 20 to 30 minutes for the oils to be absorbed. After this time, lightly buff the leather with a dry cotton or Microfiber cloth to remove any excess conditioner. Do not be alarmed if you see Conditioner left over on your Towel as the Leather will only absorb as much oils as it needs.

One last thing to watch out for:

Always try a test spot no matter what type of Conditioner you are using to assure that you do not wind up pulling up colored dyes used in some types of Custom Aftermarket Leathers.

I hope that gives a better idea of Leather Conditioning, what I recommend and why, and how to properly use the Chemicals to clean and condition any Leather Components you may run into.

If you have any further questions, please let me know and I will be more than happy to try to give a good write up.

Go easy, and I will catch you later on.


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