How To Look After Leather Car Seats

May 08 2019

Leather car seats are of one of life’s little luxuries, and can look amazing when they’re new or well looked after. However, there’s something about the material that seems to age terribly. It needs a lot of care and attention to be able to pull off leather car seats, as the material tends to crack and tear quite easily.

This is normally not a huge issue for people until they go to sell their car and find that even the most attractive BMW or Audi will struggle to be sold as full asking price if it has aged leather seats. So, how can you look after leather seats so that it doesn’t become a problem in the future?
 

Why Do Leather Car Seats Crack?

 
1. Leather is a natural product
Just as our skin ages and wrinkles, leather does the same. It goes dry, brittle and cracked and if nothing is done about it, eventually it will tear.
 
2. The sun ages it quickly
Unlike other car seat materials that don’t age badly in the sun, the texture of leather changes when it’s exposed to the sun’s UV rays.
 
3. It loses flexibility
When it does age and get hit by the sun, leather will get dry and brittle and will eventually crack due to a lack of flexibility.

 

How To Care For Leather Car Seats

There are several ways to help keep leather supple and looking good.
 
• Keep leather out of direct sunlight
If possible, keep your car out of the baking sun during summertime. If you don’t have a garage, a couple easy alternatives are either a full car cover, or a roof & windows cover.
 
• Avoid spilling things on leather
Leather trim can discolour badly (and very easily) due to hand moisturiser getting onto it. When someone enters the car and pulls the door shut, that hand moisturiser is transferred to the handle, door trim, gear stick and steering wheel. It then discolours it, and it’s annoyingly difficult to remove once a build-up of it has occurred.
 
• Don’t get leather soaked
If you’re caught in a downpour and jump in your car soaked, don’t just leave the seats damp at the end of the journey. Give them a wipe down with a dry, absorbent cloth, like this one from Chipex, otherwise the damp can turn to mildew down the back and sides of the cushioned areas where you normally can’t see.
 

How To Clean Leather Car Seats

Keeping your car’s leather clean not only makes it look good, but it also prepares it for the protection stage. Here’s a list of some products and techniques for cleaning leather in a car;
 
• If your leather has already been cleaned, protected and ‘fed’, then there’s nothing wrong with giving it a wipe over with a damp cloth, to get rid of any surface dust or dirt, and then drying it with another soft microfibre.
 
• If your seats have ingrained grime from a long period without being cleaned, a cloth just won’t do the job – it’s time to get out a leather brush and cleaning products.
 
• For ingrained dirt use a leather brush. A normal scrubbing brush is way too harsh for the leather, so you do need a specific one.
 
Note: when using a leather brush, do not scrub hard at the leather, otherwise it could be damaged even further. Instead, use a gentle but consistent movement, alongside the products below.
 

Which Cleaner Is Best For Leather?

You should use a cleaner product to help lift the ingrained dirt away from the surface of your leather car seats. If the surface is particularly grimy and oily, heavy duty cleaning products are best. Our top pick of cleaning products for leather are:
 
▪ Britemax Interior Cleaner
▪ Dodo Juice Supernatural Leather Cleaner (also seals and protects)
▪ Swissvax Leather Cleaner
▪ Auto Finesse Hide Cleaner
▪ Valet PRO Leather Soap
 
Choosing and using leather protectors
◦ For a great looking leather trim inside your car, you’ll need to use a leather protector. It’s best to use a leather protector before the leather starts to dry crack, so using it when the car is young will help you in the long run.
◦ Not only does leather protector make your interior look great, it also keeps it looking that way, and allows you to command a better resale value.
◦ Once you’ve cleaned the leather thoroughly, it’s time to lay down some protection. There are different types of protective products, which include leather conditioners and sealants. A lot will protect from those damaging UV rays, which is important. Remember to always check the product description before applying it, as some are not suitable for certain types of leather.
 
Our favourites are:
▪ Auto Finesse Hide Conditioner
▪ Swissvax Leather Milk with Vitamin E
▪ Meguiar’s Gold Class Leather Conditioner
▪ PolishAngel Charisma Leather Conditioner
▪ Gtechniq L1 Leather Guard Anti-Bacterial
▪ Gyeon Leather Coat Q2
▪ Nanolex Textile & Leather Sealant
 
◦ Written by Chris Davies – an award-winning motoring journalist writing for CarProductsTested.com
Photo credits: Ford Shelby Cobra GT500 Show Car, cmonville ; Cracked leather car seat, Tobias Toft; Porsche car seats, Bryn Pinzgauer;