• Dave

How to Care for Automotive Leather

Note: for care of Alcantara & Microsuede see our separate post


Here is the truth. Your leather car seats are NOT bare leather. Virtually any modern car (regardless of how expensive or exotic it is) will have leather that has been coated with a water-based, clear protective coating. If you own a higher end car, the material they used on your seats does indeed start off as natural leather but its texture and color are artificially corrected then coated with a super thin vinyl coating. This does not mean that you do not need to care for this leather, but how you care for it is critical. Using the expensive leather cream that you use on a leather coat or shoes is just going to sit on top of the vinyl coating and attract dust & dirt. You need products specifically designed and formulated for automotive leather.


There are 3 components to leather care.

  1. Cleaning

  2. Conditioning

  3. Protection

Depending on the condition of the leather and the level of protection you desire these 3 tasks can be performed with specific products for each, or with all-in-one leather care products.


All-in-One Leather Care

If your leather is new or in good shape regular use (monthly) of a good all-in-one product may be all you need to keep your leather in good shape for years. In this category of products there a multitude of options. All-in-One leather care products can be either 2 part ( part cleaner, part conditioner) or 3 part (part cleaner, part conditioner, part protection) Note: When we are talking about all-in-one leather products the protection aspect refers more to UV blockers and some stain repellant properties rather than long term protection. (More on leather coatings later). Protecting your leather from UV rays is critical to prevent fading.


What type of product you use will depend on the type of seats you have. If non-perforated you can use any type of product. If your seats are perforated you should use either a spray or foam product. Creams can dry in the small holes leaving unsightly white dots.


Here are some good examples of all-in-one leather care products


Griot's Garage Leather Care

  • Comes in both cream & spray form

  • Contains 50% cleaner, 50% conditioner

Griot's Garage 3-in1 Leather Care

  • Comes in both cream & spray form

  • Contains 25% cleaner, 50% conditioner, 25% UV blockers

Sonax Leather Care Foam

  • Comes in a foam

  • Cleans & Conditions

  • Contains Beeswax for water repellency

Meguiar's Rich Leather

  • Comes in spray or handy wipes

  • Contains, cleaners, conditioners & UV blockers

Optimum Leather Protectant

  • Comes in spray form

  • Contains cleaners, penetrating sealant polymers & UV blockers

  • Can also be used on vinyl

Mothers All-in-One Leather Care

  • Cleans & Conditions

  • Contains aloe, neatsfoot oil & lanolin


Cleaning

Proper leather cleaning is one of the most important components to maintaining your leather. Not allowing dirt, mud or any other foreign substances to stay on your leather is one of the best things you can do to keep your leather in good shape.


If you REGULARILY clean your leather then you may only need the amount of cleaning power all-in-one products provide. Obviously the more frequently you clean your leather the less dirty it becomes, thus making it easier to clean. For monthly cleaning on properly maintained leather you can spray your product directly on the seats or onto a microfiber towel or applicator. Massage the product into the leather and wipe any residue.



If your leather has been neglected or you frequently get a lot of dirt or jean dye transfer on your seats you will need a dedicated cleaner and a leather cleaning brush to deep clean your seats. Do NOT use any type of brush on leather. Stiff bristle brushes will scratch your leather! The best type of brush for leather cleaning is either horsehair or a synthetic bristle brush specifically designed for leather. Spray your product on the leather, use the brush to loosen the dirt, then remove residual product with a microfiber towel.


Conditioning

If your leather has not been properly maintained after cleaning you should use a dedicated automotive conditioner to replenish nutrients. One of the best products for old, dried out leather is Griot's Leather Rejuvenator. What you do with this product is apply it, then wait an hour. If the leather is dry to the touch you repeat the process until the leather is no longer absorbing the product. At this point you know that the suppleness has been restored to the leather.


Leather Coatings


Coated Leather Seat

Leather coatings repel liquids & dirt, provide UV protection, and make removing stains such as dye transfer easier. These coatings are essentially a ceramic coating for leather. If you are looking for the most durable and robust protection a coating is the way to go. There are 2 types of coatings..

  1. Spray On - These coatings generally have a durability of 3-6 months maximum depending on traffic. They are inexpensive, easy to apply and provide all the benefits noted above, just are not as long lasting as a full Sio2 coating. 2 of the best of these products on the market are Gyeon Leather Coat & Gtechniq Leather Guard




  1. Sio2 Coatings - A ceramic based leather coating will have a durability of 1-2 years depending on traffic. They require a bit more time & skill to apply but if the application instructions are followed are not overly complicated to apply.



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