Today, one of our technicians went for a leather cleaning and conditioning job in Sonoma. The piece was a high-end Italian leather – no problem – but it was a suede. Suede is an unfinished leather, meaning that it has no manufactured pigment applied on top of the dyed hide. This leaves it porous and open to fading, moisture penetration, and the inevitable permanent stains that are at risk in all unfinished leathers.

So you have a beautiful textured, dynamic and extraordinarily soft piece of leather that can’t withstand a drop of water. This leather is so tantalizingly beautiful it is hard to resist, but It’s really not ideal for a piece of furniture unless it’s in that room in your house that is just functioning as a museum rather than a lived in room.

Back to the client – she had a stain on her leather from a few tiny drops of dog saliva. Now we have a twofold problem on our hands. We already know that once a substance has penetrated the hide it becomes permanent. (Think Tattoo) What you might not know – but what our technician had to inform the client – is that cleaning and conditioning is necessary to maintain the integrity of leather. Without regular attention, the leather will start to dry, crack, tear and literally rot. If you clean your leather every 6-12 months, it will stay soft and supple for MUCH longer. Here is where our other problem comes in – to clean and condition we must apply moisture. Professionally applied, this will darken the entire piece by a shade or half shade. (DIY risks a splotchy uneven result) Conditioner adds moisture but also adds a thin layer of protection. This will also change the texture ever so slightly. Most of this we can buff out, but you may feel a difference.

So – what to do??

  1. Leave it as is, to maintain the current texture and color, but risk shortening the lifespan of the sofa?
  2. Live with the stain, but clean and condition to keep the piece well maintained but slightly change the look and feel?
  3. Restore the piece (more about this here) and completely change the color and texture of the piece but get rid of the unsightly stains?

In the end, our technician cleaned and conditioned a sample piece that the client had on hand so that she could see how it would look, and left it with her to dry. We will check back with her and If she likes the result, we will clean and condition for her in half a year when it is time.We didn’t recommend restoration because it will change the look and feel of the piece, and not in the best way. More on that here!