There are dozens of leather cleaners available on the market. How do you choose which one is right for your leather?
The most important first step is to know the type of leather you have. Is it a protected leather or a raw leather without any protective coating? Raw leather is highly absorbent and as such any liquid leather cleaner will simply soak in to the leather, potentially staining it. This classification of leather is often called “unfinished” or “pure aniline.” If you don’t know or aren’t sure, then always do a test in a non-obvious area first to see the effect of the cleaner.
The next point to consider is if your leather is actually a candidate for cleaning. If there is obvious soiling and related issues on the leather, then its a clear candidate. If however the issues are deeper, that is. there is staining or related discoloration that is in the leather, not on the leather, then a cleaner might budge it a bit but not eradicate it completely. In reality its like trying to clean a tattoo from your skin.
Furthermore, be careful not to use harsh household cleaners as they may do more harm than good.
As a general rule, automobile grade leather is well protected and a good candidate for cleaning. Most but not all leather furniture is protected so test first and finally leather garments are tricky, be very sure to test the effect of a cleaner before proceeding.
If you decide the leather is a candidate for cleaning, how do you choose what will be most effective for your leather? A good information source are professional leather technicians who understands the chemistry of leather and who professionally cleans leather for a demanding clientele. Find out what they use.
My personal experience as a professional leather technician is 23 years deep. My team and I have tested all kinds of leather cleaners. In the end, to control quality and improve effectiveness, we established a performance wish list and handed it to our chemists. Here’s the list of what we as leather technicians wanted:
— effective cleaner that would gently lift ground-in soil from the leather.
— degreasing agent to resolve topical greasy residue.
— pH balanced to the leather so as to not damage the leather.
— creamy consistency so you can see it’s application.
— pleasant odor.
— non-darkening formula for application to delicate leather.
Our chemists determined that the cleaner should be surfactant based for the best gentle, yet effective cleaning power. A surfactant will lift soil particles off the leather’s surface for easy removal when you wipe away the soapy residue.
They also determined that is should contain a degreasing agent to resolve surface grease and oils. That presented a serious problem. Surfactants and degreasers are incompatible with each other. Like oil and water, they separate from each other in a bottle. So, our cleaver chemists came up with a way to allow them to co-exist through a combination of high-speed mixing and emulsifiers.
The resulting mixture was too alkaline for leather as leather is acidic (4.5 – 5.0). So the pH was adjusted. You see, a leather cleaner that is not pH balanced to leather will do permanent damage as a cleaner’s alkalinity will accelerate the breakdown of leather. So a cleaner with the wrong pH does far more damage than good. I bet you didn’t know that.
Thickeners and other chemistry’s were then added to make it creamy, and easy to manipulate or control on the surface and not soak into the leather.
After rigorous testing we knew we had a winner and named the baby SG-5.
The next break through was in application. We needed a cleaning tool that will gently agitate the leather’s surface and allow the cleaning properties work most effectively. After testing dozens of applicators, we’ve determined the best is an exfoliating glove. It’s a wonderful tool, allowing excellent finger dexterity to get into the crevices and creases. It’s gentle abrasive action won’t scratch the leather yet it helps to gently scrub away soil and grease.
Finally, a micro-fiber towel is the best tool for removing the soapy residue as it’s lint free and very absorbent. So you are not just pushing the soil around the leather, rather picking it up off the leather’s surface.
A leather cleaner like SG-5 with an exfoliating glove and micro-fiber towel works wonders in cleaning leather. This process was developed and tested in the most rigorous laboratory — in the hands of professional leather technicians. If you want a good leather cleaner, use what the pros use. Leather goods