Buying leather furniture is a long-term investment. To keep sofas, chairs, and other decorative elements in good condition for as long as possible, one of the essential cleaning products is leather waterproofing. Indeed, unlike what you might think at first glance, leather isn’t waterproof, and water is one of its greatest enemies. Drops of water can cause permanent stains, and other chemicals present in some liquids, such as certain soaps, can also permanently damage the appearance of the leather. The slightest drop of water that isn’t immediately cleaned up will leave a mark, and the furniture in which you’ve invested will lose its luxurious appearance and its value.
To prevent an accident from damaging your leather furniture, here are a few tips for choosing the right waterproofing that will keep it in good condition.
Identify your leather
Before choosing a waterproofing agent, you should make sure to familiarize yourself with your furniture to select the most suitable product. You can find identification tags on some furniture or ask the manufacturer if necessary. Generally speaking, there are two types of leather: protected and unprotected.
Protected leather is the most common; it’s also known as finished leather, semianiline, pigmented aniline, or pigmented leather. It’s a more durable, stain-resistant leather, because it’s actually a leather that has been stained then covered in a layer of pigment to give it a certain colour and protect it. It may have a rougher feel than pure leather due to the number of coats of pigment and protective layers. Unprotected leather – also known as unrefined or pure aniline leather – is also stained to give it a uniform colour, but no colour pigment is added. It therefore has no protective layer, which makes it quite soft to the touch but also much more vulnerable to stains and other accidents. More expensive because it’s untreated, unprotected leather has a unique texture in certain places, revealing the natural grain of the leather and sometimes a patina effect.
Clean the surface
Before applying the waterproofing agent, it’s important to properly clean the surface of the leather furniture. To do this, begin by dusting every corner of the furniture with a small vacuum cleaner. You can then use a small, slightly damp cloth (remember: we don’t want to leave water marks) to wipe the surface gently. Be very careful not to scratch the leather, even if you see marks on it. It’s generally advisable to avoid using chemicals at this stage, since you risk using the wrong ones. If you have a good product specially designed for protected leather furniture that’s non-abrasive (watch out for ammonia), you can use it to finish up the cleaning. Pure leather, however, is much more sensitive to chemicals, which are not recommended before applying the waterproofing agent. When in doubt, distilled water and a few drops of mild soap will do the trick nicely.
Once the surface is clean and dry, you can proceed to the waterproofing step.
Apply the waterproofing agent
To choose the right product, we recommend reading the product instructions carefully to make sure you have a suitable waterproofing agent. We recommend airing out the room where the product will be applied, since, depending on the size of the furniture, strong odours will persist in the room. If the product comes in a spray, apply it evenly to the fabric from a distance, then let dry for the time recommended by the manufacturer.
After a few hours, you can check if the waterproofing agent has taken hold by letting a few drops of water trickle onto a hidden corner. If the water penetrates, a second coat may be required. If the water beads on the surface, however, then the waterproofing agent is working.
For large pieces of furniture, it’s advisable to rely on a professional for the different steps of the process to make sure you don’t make any mistakes. The golden rule if you want to proceed alone is to first test the product on a small, hidden surface.