Treating your staff to a luxury selection of executive leather chairs is all well and good, but if you’re not an attentive owner, your chairs could end up needing replacing well before their time.
Perhaps more than any other type of upholstery, leather requires the utmost in care and maintenance. Your loving attention will be rewarded with a beautiful and long lasting piece of office furniture that will retain its comfort and appearance for many years to come.
Firstly, lets highlight the differences between two common types of leather office furniture.
1. Faux Leather
Faux leather, or artificial leather, is often used as an alternative to the real stuff due to cost constraints or moral/ethical concerns. You can imagine the uproar if PETA executives were found to be using plush leather chairs.
Faux leather is created using synthetic materials and will often use a plastic finish to achieve an appearance as close to leather as possible. Due to the lower costs related to using plastic as opposed to the real thing, faux leather will often be available at a much more affordable, discounted price than expensive real leather chairs.
2. Real Leather
Created using tanned animal skins, leather is a durable and flexible material that is often used to upholster high cost, luxury office furniture and seating. The skins will be tanned using a variety of methods including chemical and organic techniques.
Real leather generally comes in four variations. These variations are full grain, top grain, corrected grain and split grain. Full grain is a leather that has not been buffed or sanded to remove any of its imperfections. This leather will retain its full strength and breathability and develop a patina over time as opposed to wearing away. Top grain has been sanded and finished. This creates a slightly plasticky texture with less breathability. This leather is more resilient to stains and cheaper, but will not develop a patina over time. Corrected grain uses a synthetic grain applied over the top of the leather to hide any imperfections or blemishes, achieving a uniform finish for the end product.
Let’s start with a few maintenance tricks and tips that you can use on a day-to-day basis to keep your furniture looking its very best.
1. Keep real leather out of direct sunlight
Long term exposure to direct sunlight can have the same damaging effect on leather as it would your own skin. Discolouration, degradation and fading are a few of the aesthetic effects that sunlight can have on your leather chair. This doesn’t mean you have to work in a cave for the rest of your career but try to avoid sticking your leather office chair right in front of any big windows.
2. Regular dusting
Dust and debris can gradually damage your furniture over time so keeping up with a regular cleaning schedule is essential for providing long-term maintenance. When trying to get rid of that pesky dust, use a very soft cloth instead of microfiber dusters or bristled brushes that can scratch and deface the leather. Keep it light and keep it gentle.
3. Regular vacuuming
Using a soft bush attachment, use the vacuum to remove debris from the cracks and crevices of the chair as well as on the body where your dusting may have missed. Dust and grit can cause damage to the seams of your leather chair and may dragged along the material by clothing and movement.
4. Regular cleaning
Use a slightly moist hand cloth and warm water for generally cleaning, however avoid using a moist cloth when it comes to removing stains. Don’t use an absolutely sodden sponge as it will leave smear marks across the furniture. Water should generally be room temperature as hot water will cause the leather to bond to the soap and cold water will stop the soap from dissolving at all. After cleaning, using a chamois cloth to dry and buff the leather. Avoid using abrasive sprays such as furniture polish unless it is specifically prescribed for use on leather.
5. Dealing with spillages
When it comes to spillages DO NOT WIPE. Wiping can smear the substance across the leather and cause even further stains. Always blot any spilt liquids or in the case of solid substances use a blunt knife to carefully scrape it off, being careful not to mark the leather.
6. Getting rid of stains
A quick test is often necessary to determine whether your leather is finished or unfinished. This can achieved by squeezing a small droplet of water onto the leather. If it is immediately absorbed then the leather is unfinished and will likely require a professional clean. If it beads then the leather is finished and you can apply these methods for cleaning the surface.
- Use a specialist leather shampoo that is suitable for your leather chair.
- Using a cotton bud, apply isopropyl (rubbing oil) to the stained area to try and lift the blemish. This is best as a last resort as the alcohols harshness could lead to discolouration and lightening if the leather.
- Use a non-acetone based nail varnish remover and apply to the stain using a dry cloth. Follow this up with a leather shampoo and conditioner.
- Talcum powder and cornstarch are useful for absorbing oil spills from the surface of the leather. It is likely that you will need to follow this up with a thorough shampoo.
Long Term Care
Leather is a long-term investment and on top of general maintenance tasks there are a number of long-term tasks that should be completed to keep your office furniture looking spic and span.
1. Consult a professional
Submitting your furniture for a professional clean every year is recommended. It will help you to get rid of those stubborn markings that you may have missed or struggled to remove with traditional methods. It is likely that after this thorough clean they will apply a high grade conditioner that will help to soften the leather for your continued comfort.
2. Use approved cleaning materials
Check out the manufacturers website or the office chairs user manual to find a list of approved leather cleaners for use on the product. Test the cleaner or conditioner on a small piece of leather in a hidden location to double check before continuing with a full clean.
3. Apply leather cream/conditioner
Every few months, after carrying out your general cleaning process, use a suitable leather cream to maintain the materials strength and appearance. Apply using a dry cloth in circular motions once the leather has dried after its clean and buff this with a chamois. Make sure that the office chair is completely clean otherwise the cream will seal in the dust and oil from the stain.