Spills and Stains on Leather Furniture
Dealing with spills and stains on leather is tricky and has a lot to do with how the leather is treated with color. When a pigmented coating is applied to the leather’s surface, it is more resistant to water-soluble spills and stains. If the hide is treated with an aniline dye, the leather becomes exceptionally soft and porous, which means spills soak up quickly and stains are difficult to remove. To test your leather to find out what type of dye was used, place a drop of water in a location that’s not often seen, like under a cushion. If the water soaks in the leather is aniline-dyed and especially vulnerable to stains.
Suede is another vulnerable leather; not only because of the dying process but because the nap is porous and quickly wicks up stains. Both regular use and liquid spills can flatten the nap of the suede, and only a professional leather refinisher can restore the nap.
In terms of care, you can wipe leather with soft cloth dampened with water to clean off an occasional spot if you do not let it get damp through. Never let water stand on leather. Sun will bleach and cause deterioration of leather, and heat will make it crack and dry. Use saddle soap or another leather conditioner according to product directions. No matter what type of leather furniture you have, vacuuming should be an important part of its regular maintenance. Suede can be brushed with a terry cloth towel to spiff up its nap. Beyond vacuuming, there’s not much you can do for aniline-dyed leather, and if it becomes stained or soiled, professional cleaning is your only recourse.
As with most spills, the faster you clean it up off pigmented leather, the more success you will have avoiding a stain. Water-based stains like ketchup, cola, coffee, grape juice, milk, mustard, and red wine are easily removed when cleaned up quickly, but oil-based stains like crayon, ballpoint-pen ink, lipstick, Italian dressing, and cream shoe polish will not come off.
Since color is essentially painted on pigmented leather, chances are good commercial leather cleaners and cleaning solvents, ink removers, and paint removers will likely remove color. When faced with stains that won’t come out, call a professional.