Car leather seats reconditioning | Easy instructions & tips

How can you recondition your leather seats? What do I do about wear and tear on the leather? On this page, we dive into the world of leather preparation in the car, clarify open questions and give valuable tips. Since the topic is very complex, you are welcome to ask our product experts any time!

The preparation of car leather seats

The list of wear and tear on leather surfaces in cars is almost endless. The main ones affected are, of course, the leather seats. These can be found in many vehicle classes nowadays. But leather steering wheels or center consoles also show signs of wear. The possibilities for reconditioning are numerous and depend heavily on the individual case.

Old leather behaves differently than new, certain stains are all the more noticeable on colored leather and each care product is specifically suitable for a different type of surface. In any case, the goal is always a preparation, cleaning and care of the car leather seats for a clean and noble appearance and long-term protection and preservation of the leather. Quite generally, the 3 appropriate product categories are called analogously: Leather Cleaner – Leather Care – Leather Sealer

The first step: inventory

Before reconditioning, you should look at which leather surfaces in your car are affected, what kind of leather seats you have and what age and condition they are currently in. This is because aging makes leather less greasy and dry. This of course also makes it more cracked and dirt is no longer stopped as effectively.

Over time and through regular use, there are also more and more signs of wear, such as abrasion from clothing. It is therefore always important to ensure sufficient lubrication. Basically, you can first check how dirty the surface is by wiping it with a light-colored, damp cloth.

An important test before preparation is also the water drop test. Here you look with a drop of water at an inconspicuous place, whether this rolls off or soaks into the leather. Although this happens quite rarely due to color and protective layers, it can occur with an open-pored, perforated or cracked material. Here, special caution is required and you should in no case proceed with too much wetness. You should then either already have good experience in leather seat reconditioning or consult an expert.

Another distinguishing factor in leather preparation is the age of the material. Older leather is always in need of care, the only question is how regularly. Because preventively, of course, it is good to pay attention to protection and care before reconditioning. We recommend every 6 – 12 months. For this there are classic means such as leather grease, leather oil or leather balm. You should use these all quite sparingly and also find the right product depending on the degree of gloss.

This simply requires a little trial and error and experience. Matte leather tends to need less grease and oiling products and should not be polished unnecessarily, unlike shiny leather. New leather, that is, up to 2-3 years old, you should mainly seal. Such a layer protects against mechanical friction, but also UV rays and thus against fading.

Matte leather tends to need less grease and oiling products and should not be polished unnecessarily, unlike shiny leather. New leather, that is, up to 2-3 years old, you should mainly seal. Such a layer protects against mechanical friction, but also UV rays and thus against fading.

Comparison Before After Leather Preparation

Remove mold and stains on leather

Although the subject is always presented as somewhat complex, leather preparation is not witchcraft for the amateur car care professional in most cases. In any case, it is always recommended to work in small steps. Since leather is a natural product, it is also very sensitive and it is essential to avoid overly aggressive cleaning agents. That means you start with mild cleaners, the gentler the better. When cleaning car leather seats, work away from seams to avoid staining the area. The agent should always be applied on your applicator (brush or cloth) and not directly on the leather.

We actually always recommend the use of a cleaning brush when cleaning leather seats. It is important that this is made of natural hair so as not to damage the car leather. In particular, this applies to an existing grain. A good microfiber cloth always helps with drying, because especially with perforations (punched holes) the moisture can otherwise soak in and form mold in the long term.

Speaking of mold – it should be cleaned as soon as it becomes known. A home remedy helps here: diluted vinegar essence. If you wait too long, you can still fix the appearance, but not any deep-seated odors. As a preventive measure, it definitely helps to keep the humidity in the vehicle as low as possible, i.e. to allow plenty of air to circulate.

Clean worn leather seats

More difficult than cleaning stains is definitely refreshing a worn leather interior. Here we’re talking about cracks, discoloration from jeans or rubbed-off paint. Especially in heavily used areas such as the entrance to the driver’s seat, these are more common. Basically, the best thing to do here is to react quickly. If cracks form as a result of aging leather, a leather care product or leather balm will help. If the leather is stained by clothing, on the other hand, a leather cleaner is needed to remove the stains.

In the case of abrasion of color, unfortunately, only tinting helps, because the color layer simply no longer exists. Even though you will hardly find your original leather color with the corresponding patina, there are suppliers with a range of different shades. An important aspect when you want to refurbish car leather seats is often the smell. This natural leather scent, intense especially in the beginning, sometimes lasts shorter and sometimes longer, however it is actually impossible to restore. You could only try artificial means such as a leather perfume and use more or less intense depending on your gusto.

If the leather interior already has larger cracks and, for example, the upholstery is already visible, only a saddler or special leather repair store will help. Because then you have to work with new leather, and of course as true to the original as possible.

Clean and prepare other leather surfaces in the car

Nowadays, cars are becoming better and better equipped, so that even parts such as the gearshift knob, center console covers or the dashboard can be leathered. The degree of wear here varies greatly. The leather steering wheel in particular, of course, is subjected to continuous wear and requires cleaning and care. Damage includes stains, sweat residue or grease.

Here you have to work very carefully and only with a mild cleaner. As a preventive measure, you can regularly apply a leather sealant to the steering wheel. In case of abrasion or cracks of the leather in the interior, as always, only a sanding pad, a tint by a suitable color spray and the advice or even the work of a professional will help.

The origin of genuine leather in vehicles is almost always cow. Natural leather is best recognized by the soft feel of the material and the smell, but also by the natural aging process. When it comes to appearance, things get a bit more difficult again, as artificial leathers have become better and better in the past. Genuine leather is breathable, even with heavily tanned surfaces. Accordingly, care products are absorbed much better, which is why you should always be a bit more careful here.

Faux leather, on the other hand, is less sensitive to both daily wear and maintenance. So you can’t do as much damage when preparing the leather, and you also have a wider selection of cleaning agents. For example, many not-too-aggressive all-purpose cleaners are suitable for the interior, but you can also try leather care products, of course. Alcantara, contrary to what many people think, is not real leather or suede, but also artificial leather. More precisely, it is a microfiber surface. Again, universal interior cleaner and a damp cloth will help out in most cases.

Reconditioning the car leather seats is a complicated issue when you make it one. Because in 90% of cases a few basic conditioning agents as explained above are enough. Often, aggressive leather conditioning agents only cause damage and are only useful in special individual cases in the hands of professionals. Otherwise, a few simple rules apply: Leather seats and leather upholstery should be cared for sparingly and not too often, but regularly. We recommend refreshing the leather about every 6 months. You should achieve great results with a few standard products: A cleaner, a care and a protection or a sealant. These are often available as practical leather treatment sets. After that, it’s time to try it out and gain personal experience!

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