5 Things That Ruin Leather (and 3 Things That Fix it)

The allure of leather cannot be denied–it’s durable, long-lasting, stylish, and easy to care for. Leather furniture in your home sets a tone for sophistication, and leather upholstery in your automobile looks almost regal. But while leather will last much longer than any other type of material, it is not impervious to damage. If not properly cared for and protected, the quality can suffer and deteriorate, and damaged leather just doesn’t look good at all.

What Causes Damaged Leather?

There are a few simple things that can result in damaged leather–knowing what they are can help you better protect your leather furniture or upholstery and keep it looking pristine for many years.

1. Exposure to Sunlight

Leather’s arch-nemesis is that big bright ball in the sky–the sun. Too much exposure to direct sunlight can not only affect the color of your leather, but also cause damaged leather that looks old and worn. Keep note if your leather furniture is exposed to sunlight on a daily basis through a window, or if the sunlight beams through your car windows. Consider moving furniture out of the direct path of sunlight, and park in shady areas or in your garage.

Damaged leather is commonly caused by exposure to sunlight.

2. Extreme Changes in Temperature

Damaged leather can occur if you move a piece of leather furniture from an area that is a relatively stable warm temperature to another area that is much colder or hotter. For example, moving a leather couch from inside the house to an outdoor balcony, or keeping your car outside if the temperature dips greatly at night.

To prevent damaged leather on your furniture, keep it in areas where the temperature stays the same. To better protect leather upholstery in your car, park your car in the garage at night to protect it from rises and falls in temperature.

3. Not Cleaning Stains Right Away

It happens–from time to time, you or someone else might spill something on your leather. If you don’t take care to clean it right away, the stain can become permanent. A good leather restoration kit will have a protectant or other leather cleaning items that can help you clean the stain without damaging the leather, as products with harsh chemical can…

4. Use Harsh Chemicals and Soaps to Clean Your Leather

Products with harsh soaps, detergents, and chemicals can actually result in damaged leather rather than clean leather. Look for specially made leather cleaning solutions and leather restoration kits to make sure that you are taking car of your leather properly–other products can cause dry, cracked, dull leather.

5. Too Much Heat

Keeping the house warm is nice and comforting, but if you’ve got your leather furniture too close to a heating vent, you could wind up with damaged leather. Keep the furniture away from heating vents, and again, park cars in shady spots or the garage.

3 Things That Fix Leather

1. A Good Leather Cleaner

For starters, have a good leather cleaner on hand to safely remove dirt, oil, stains, and other grime from your leather without the use of harsh chemicals.

2. A Leather Restoration Kit

If your leather is starting to look a little weathered, it might just need a little TLC to get it looking shiny and new again. Use a leather restoration kit to moisturize the leather and restore its look, as well as keep it protected from future leather damage.

A leather restoration kit can help moisturize, repair, and protect your leather.

3. Olive Oil or Baby Oil

If you’ve got a scratch or small tear in your leather, do not despair. You can often use olive oil or baby oil to repair the damaged leather. Lightly apply the oil to the affected area with a cotton ball, allow to dry for an hour, then see how it looks. Repeat if necessary.

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  • Very Helpful Article. Did not know about Olive Oil or Baby Oil. Thanks!

  • Great advice. I don’t have a lot of leather made item so I’m not really aware how to take care of it.

    • Thanks for infos,does anyone knows what brand of repair kits is good but at a budget price?thanks.

  • I had a plastic box sitting on one of my leather sofas during the summer and moved it in the fall only to find a gummy mess. Nothing had spilled but I figured that it was the humidity of an unconditioned space. I wiped off as much as I could. Not knowing if something had spilled, I used Goo-gone. I wiped off this and let the area dry for months. It’s still tacky. I was hoping that it would dry and I might lightly sand and then polish the area with oil. So baffled.

    • Goo-gone is too harsh imo. We bought a couch that someone whipped down with a harsh spray cleaner AFTER we purchased it. It left the leather tacky/rubbery/sticky. I immediately went over it with Leather Honey and it definitely make it sooo much less sticky.

      • Leather Honey is the best stuff 16$ on Amazon for a bottle a little goes a long way, Put a little bit on a foam paint sponge or a regular paint brush and brush it on and let it sit overnight it will soak in and then get micro fiber cloth and wipe off excess and is better than new,

  • My many, many pairs of shoes, leather, faux leather, cloth, have become infested with Mildew. I have wiped them with Concrobium mold control, exposed them to UV light bulbs, repeatedly, but mildew returns. I’ve also wiped all surfaces where stored with same product. I fear my entire apartment is contaminated, but shoes are first concern since they tend to get covered quickly. Should I use your block? Your leather treatment or both. Does leather treatment block growth. Some shoes inner lining has deteriorated due to treatment, and some unglued soles. At wits end.

    • Clean it off, which you have already done, but you clearly need a dehumidifier for your whole apartment to prevent it coming back.

  • Very informative! Will definitely take what you said into consideration before parking my car to see if it will be sitting under direct sunlight for a long time. I’ve noticed that my leather interior had some spots start to fade, my friend told me to get a full window tint to prevent it from happening, now that you’ve mentioned how sunlight and too much heat ruins leather I’ll definitely be booking my appointment for a full window tint from Authentic Details which is local here in Austin. My friend had his car tinted by them and I saw that they have multiple tint options over at their website.

  • Thanks for pointing out that heat can easily damage leather. Some of the shoes that I’ve been keeping in my bedroom have become quite fragile whenever I handle them. Perhaps I should consult a shoe repair service to know if they are will salvageable.

  • My husband’s leather chair has blistered in the area that his head rests. He is almost bald and uses no products on his head/hair. The chair is covered in real leather and a whole hide was used to cover the chair. Found your tips very useful but not sure if i should attempt to deal with this problem without some specific advice. Many thanks.

  • Good information. Can Liquid Gold harm leather?

  • I have tried leather color balms to restore the color on my leather chair and the color keeps wearing off. Help

    • Depending on the condition of the leather, it seems that you may need a good leather cleaner followed by a leather conditioner. We recommend checking out our 303® Leather Cleaner and 303® Leather Conditioner. If the leather needs re-dyeing, or the surface is overly damaged, then consulting with a professional upholster may be useful.

  • I bought 2 used beautiful-looking Natuzzi sofas, only to discover that the reason they looked so good was because they were covered with a black dusting that covered worn areas. (It’s not mildew.) It’s taking a LOT of cleaning to get the black powdery stuff off; I’ve been using Awesome, which is probably too harsh, and the leather that’s underneath is kind of matted and dull-feeling from wear.

    Is there any hope for these sofas? Do you have any recommendations?