How to Care for an Original Eames Leather Lounge Chair

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The original Eames leather lounge chair is a piece of American design history. Herman-Miller has produced this upscale chair since 1956, when the manufacturer began its flourishing partnership with designers Charles and Ray Eames. The design has not changed since then, but some materials of that era are no longer available. Nevertheless, Herman-Miller offers three versions of rubbed oil wood finish and two colors of upholstery that are very close to the original materials. Periodically oil the wood surfaces of the wood finish and clean the metal and leather as you would maintain any other fine furniture.

Things You'll Need

  • Soft, dry cloths
  • Vacuum cleaner with crevice tool and upholstery brush
  • Sponge
  • Mild soap
  • Mixing vessel
  • Pre-softened paste wax
  • Fine abrasive pad
  • 000 grade (super-fine or extra-fine) steel wool
  • 360-grit (super-fine) sandpaper
  • Soft cotton cloth
  • Boiled linseed or light tung oil

Leather Care

  • Dust the leather seat, arms and back of your Eames lounge chair with a soft, dry cloth. Vacuum the chair with a soft, upholstery brush attachment if you cannot remove all the dust and use a crevice tool to vacuum the space between the seat and the back as well as the space between the leather pads and the wood of the chair arms.

  • Mix mild liquid soap, such as Castile soap or organic dishwashing soap, with about 1 pint of lukewarm water in a mixing vessel according to the directions on the soap package. Moisten a soft, clean, dry cloth with the solution and wipe the leather surfaces of your chair with it. Work up a lather when you wipe the leather surfaces.

  • Dry the leather surfaces with a clean, dry cloth. Allow the leather to air-dry before you sit on your chair again. Repeat Steps 1 through 3 whenever dust or dirt accumulate or if you notice embedded stains on the leather surface of your chair.

  • Wipe up any spots and spills that may occur as soon as possible with a clean, water-moistened cloth or sponge and repeat Steps 2 and 3, if necessary. Wipe oil and grease stains with a clean, dry cloth and allow the oil to be absorbed by the leather.

Metal Maintenance

  • Wash the coated metal legs of your Eames lounge chair with a cloth soaked in a mild detergent and water solution. Moisten a second clean cloth with fresh water and rinse the metal surfaces with it. Dry the legs with a soft, clean, dry cloth.

  • Apply pre-softened paste wax, which is available from automotive supply stores, to the legs to remove any scuff marks you notice. Follow the directions on the wax package. Use only natural wax and avoid silicone or other artificial products.

  • Obtain touch-up paint from your Herman Miller dealer or service representative if you need to cover any scratches on your chair legs. Use it according to the directions on the package and specify your exact model and finish of chair when you purchase it.

Wood Veneer Care

  • Dust the oiled wooden back and sides of your Eames leather lounge chair with a clean, soft, slightly water-moistened cloth. Wipe the wood dry with a soft, clean, dry cloth. Follow the grain pattern when dusting and wiping.

  • Brush the wooden areas of your chair lightly every few months in the direction of the grain with a light abrasive fiber pad. Inspect the wood to see if it appears dry.

  • Prepare for oiling the wood surfaces when they appear dry by gently rubbing the wood in the direction of the grain with "000" grade steel wool. Lightly sand the wood with 360-grit sandpaper to further prepare the surface by removing deeper scratches and nicks.

  • Wipe the sanded surface with a soft, dry cloth to remove traces of abrasive and old finish.

  • Apply a small amount of boiled linseed or light tung oil to a soft, dry, cotton cloth. Wipe small areas of the wood surfaces in a circular motion and then re-moisten the cloth or a replacement to cover adjacent areas until you have applied oil to all the wood surfaces on the sides and back of the chair. Wipe off any oil spills from leather or metal surfaces as quickly as possible with a soft, clean cloth.

  • Rub the wooden surfaces with a clean, dry cloth 10 minutes after you finish coating the wood with oil to dry it. Polish the wooden surfaces with a clean, dry cloth within three hours of finishing the procedure.

  • Wait overnight for the oil finish to dry before you sit on your Eames leather lounge chair again as partially dry oil can damage clothing.

Tips & Warnings

  • Oil the wooden finish only when it appears dry. The intervals between coats of oil will become shorter as the chair ages.
  • Never use standard leather cleaners, saddle soap, furniture polishes or dusting products on any part of your Eames leather lounge chair. These products destroy the special finish of your chair. Do not oil the wooden surfaces of your chair unless it is an antique chair or a modern model that is actually made with one of the three replicated oiled finishes available from Herman Miller. Use a quality polish every month and emulsion wax semi-annually to care for modern Herman Miller wood finishes.

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