• by Montgomery Miller
  •  March 7th, 2018

The Care and Conditioning of Your Fine Leather

Don’t you love the weather in Texas? Chilly and rainy one day, hot and humid the next, capped off with a roaring thunderstorm. My mother, who was from east Texas, used to say, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute,” and she was right of course. But no matter the conditions, we Texans are a hardy bunch, handling pretty much whatever Mother Nature can dish out. Not so much when it comes to the fine, very comfortable leather we enjoy so much in our vehicles.

Lexus, *Tesla, Acura, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover and the rest of the luxury car lineup offer full leather interiors that give new meaning to the term “comfort”. Of course, Tesla, you may have read, announced a move last year towards “vegan” leather for it’s interiors (the steering cover is still leather), but T Sportsline, a company offering custom upgrades for Tesla buyers, will deck out everything inside including the dash and doors as well as the center console and the seating in the finest leather money can buy. So, if you’re a Tesla fan but love the look and feel of leather, T Sportsline has you covered.

There are a number of different leathers available, each with it’s own special qualities and character. Grained leather is a heavier, thicker leather, described by some as being more like a rhino skin, and less susceptible to showing wear than the softer, more polished Oxford leather.

Nappa leather, available in many colors, describes a particularly soft, chrome tanned smooth leather of a variety of animal skin types and areas of usage. There is a distinction from natural, slightly pigmented, pigmented and sanded leather. “Natural” Nappa leather is also referred to as “Aniline” leather.

Whatever style of leather you prefer, if the hide is to retain its supple feel and beauty in our often-harsh Central Texas environment, it will require regular care, cleaning and conditioning. It is far better to spend a little energy and time conditioning and protecting your beautiful leather now, rather than scrambling to salvage it later, often a costly proposition.

Maintaining fine leather requires a regular, gentle cleaning with a high quality, one-step cleaner. There are a number of quality, well-respected products to choose from. Wolfgang's, Weiman, Bick 5, and Chemical Guys all offer highly respected leather cleaning products.

The key is regular, careful and gentle cleansing before the leather can be conditioned properly. Over time, as any leather ages, the essential protectants added into the leather during the tanning and conditioning process, are lost, leaving the skin vulnerable to the effects of sun, heat, dirt, body oils, moisture and air pollution. For seat leather, there is the added wear and tear resulting from the constant rubbing from blue jeans and other abrasive fabrics.

To keep leather looking and feeling its best, you must first clean it and then replace the lost moisture and protection. Before applying any cleaning product, you will want to gently dust the leather surface with a soft cloth or microfiber towel. This removes dust particles that can scratch a highly polished leather surface. Some people may use a damp cloth for this initial cleaning but since the water in this area can be very hard, you might inadvertently be stripping away some of the protectants used to preserve the leather.

Always use a soft cloth or microfiber towel to apply the cleaner. Use, gentle, circular motions combined with light agitation and be careful not to scrub the surface. This technique will help to open up the pores in the leather allowing body oils and grime that have collected to rise to the surface of the leather where it can be more thoroughly removed.

Once the leather surface has been cleansed, you can move to the second phase of the care process which involves conditioning the leather with the best product you can buy. Wolfgang offers a very fine product as does Chamberlain's, Meguiar's and Leather Nova. One product that stands out is Leather Honey, which gets many accolades but is so rich, it can darken the tone of your leather. So, if you have a lighter color leather it may be best to stick with lighter conditioning creams. Whatever product you use, it is recommended that you first test the product on a small area that is not highly visible.

These conditioners are all formulated to be absorbed into the leather, penetrating deeply to moisturize and nourish the skin. Regular conditioning with quality products permits the leather to retain its elasticity and softness, reducing the effects of aging that may cause drying and cracking of your fine leather.

Beware of less expensive, mass consumer brands that often contain petroleum distillates, silicone oils and gloss agents that are less effective at penetrating the leather fibers and end up being wiped onto whatever fabric it comes in contact with. To maintain the health and beauty of your leather, do a little research and choose a quality, pH-balanced leather conditioner that has received high ratings from consumers.

If you clean and condition your fine leather on a quarterly schedule, your leather should remain soft and supple for many years. Lighter colored leathers will of course require a bit more cleaning and conditioning. Darker leathers will need better protection from sun exposure since some of the dyes used may be subject to fading under constant assault by UV rays.

Here in Texas, the sun and heat and humidity can be brutal on leather products. If your vehicle is frequently outside and exposed to these harsh conditions, consider using a reflective shade for your windshield to help reduce heat and UV exposure. You can further reduce UV exposure by applying a quality tint to all of your windows.

To be sure, the comfort and luxurious feel of fine leather in your vehicle can make your driving experience all the more pleasurable, and properly cared for, your fine leather will last for many years. Happy motoring Austin.

About the Author

Montgomery “Monty” Miller is a writer and founder of Austin based GlobalSpeed AdGroup, a full service creative advertising agency. His father, a San Antonio native, was a film and television writer with a long career beginning in the 1950s “Golden Age of Television.” In the mid-90s Monty worked in Synergy Marketing for The Walt Disney Company and prior to moving to Austin in 2015 he served as Vice President of Marketing with Flight Sciences International, a consulting firm specializing in fuel conservation planning for airlines worldwide.

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