Leather goods develop an agreeable patina, with some becoming darker and softer as they age. A patina is a thin film on the surface of leather and is valued for its aesthetic appearance. It is considered desirable as it often enhances the value of the item. Through misuse, this patina may be lost, but there are ways of restoring it. Before you start the process of restoring the patina to your leather item, you need to know what kind of leather you are working on. The Furniture Clinic website has an excellent chart to help you find out.
Things You'll Need
- Magnifying glass
- Several soft clean cloths
- Bristle brush
- Leather cleanser
- Products to repair specific problems (optional)
- Leather re-coloring cream (optional)
- Leather conditioner
Gauge the condition and type of leather. Suede, nubuck and aniline leathers have very little or no protective coating. They require special care and should be taken to a leather specialist. Pigmented leather is more robust. Use a magnifying glass to examine whether any finish has been applied. Check the color and look for any markings that may help identify what kind of leather it is.
Feel the leather for softness, smoothness and grain pattern. Apart from appearance, how leather feels and handles provide a clue to its type. For example, aniline leathers feel like real skin -- light and flexible – whereas a heavily pigmented leather can feel a bit like plastic. Leather for domestic purposes is usually pigmented to protect it for heavy use.
Check for any deterioration of the leather. Are there any ink or pen stains, or moldy patches? Identify any cracks, splits or cigarette burns. These will need to be cleaned and repaired before you can start to restore the patina on the leather. Gather the products you will need to clean and repair these before beginning any restoration
Make a list of all the problems you have ascertained. Any major problems will need a specialist's advice. Simple things like mold or spot stains should be cleaned using a damp cloth. Don't use direct heat to dry the leather.
Test the leather for colorfastness by putting a small amount of leather cleaner in an inconspicuous spot. If there is no deterioration, use it to clean the leather by rubbing a generous amount into the leather with a clean cloth. Leather is a porous material, just like human skin. Dirt and oils accumulate in those pores, causing discoloration and stains. Use a bristle brush to remove dirt, particularly from wrinkles as well as the cleaner residue. Finish off by buffing with a clean cloth.
Apply any solution as required to treat mold, holes or cracks in the leather, following manufacturer instructions. Slightly mottled or scratched leather can be restored with re-coloring cream. Rub the cream into your antique leather in a circular motion, then buff to a shine with a soft white cloth, again following the manufacturer instructions.
Apply a high quality leather conditioner to restore the oils, life and sheen to your leather item with a soft clean cloth. Use a suitable bristle brush to stop the conditioner from building up. Wipe and buff gently to a shine.
Tips & Warnings
- Genuine leather requires very little care. Keep it out of sunlight and dust it regularly. Any minor spots and marks should be immediately rubbed with a little soapy water, but nothing abrasive. Wipe the soap off with a clean damp cloth and buff it dry with a dry cloth.
- Do not use furniture polish, oil, varnish, ammonia, cleaning solvents or silicone-based leather conditioners. Only use specially formulated products for antique leather.
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