Why employ a specialist?
Leather and suede upholstery are popular materials used in interior design, especially for furniture. Both are natural materials - leather being tanned hide, pelt or animal skin, usually from cows, and suede being made from the inner splits of a side of leather. Leather is surprisingly resilient and durable while suede is softer, open-textured and therefore more susceptible to dirt and stains.
Both leather and suede are not washable in the way that cotton or other fabrics would be – so don't shove your leather cushion covers in the washing machine! Incorrect cleaning methods can remove the natural preservative oils which leather and suede contain, causing unnecessary wear and tear. Dirt must instead be removed using special leather and suede cleaning products, preferably by a competent professional.
A variety of different types and grades of leather and suede are employed in upholstery and other interior design uses, each requiring specific cleaning and care. This knowledge and expertise is what you pay a specialist for.
The services provided by suede and leather cleaners can be categorised under cleaning, renovation and protection. A skilled professional will also be able to offer you advice on how to protect and minimise future damage to the leather and suede in your home.
CleaningProfessional cleaners can remove grease marks, stubborn soiling, stains from ink, felt-tip pen and foodstuffs. Substances such as wax, chewing gum and paint can also be successfully eradicated. The technology used to clean leather and suede varies, but popular cleaning methods include "Leather Master" and "Leather Magic".
Once leather or suede has been cleaned, further work is required to restore the original finish and condition. This might include re-texturing and re-tinting, which should be included as part of the service if you have paid for an item to be cleaned. Alternatively, you might commission a professional to carry out restoration work on leather or suede which has become damaged or worn.
Renovation services include re-colouring where bleaching or discolouration has occurred, restoring burns, cuts, scratches and soot damage, as well as “nourishing” dried out/cracked leather or suede.
Many suede and leather cleaners will protect your suede and leather against further damage. The process usually involves the application of protective sprays and/or creams which prevent stains and premature wear. This protective barrier can also have the added advantage of retaining the softness of leather or the silky quality of suede.
Professional leather and suede cleaners can offer advice on how to protect items against soiling and staining, the most suitable products to use on your furniture and the frequency with which you should clean and treat it. Advice can also be offered on storage of leather and suede items and how to minimise wear and tear.
Finding a professional
To locate a specialist cleaner, enquire when buying new leather or suede goods. Furniture retailers will often be able to recommend good, local craftsmen. Specialists can also be found in local listings and on-line, or by searching the directory of the Leather Training and Technical Dept which has a limited, though UK-wide, list of contractors. It's essential to ensure any cleaners you employ are familiar with suede or leather and the appropriate methods for cleaning and protecting these materials.
Professional affiliation to one or more of the following organisations might be a good indicator of competency and professionalism: The Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers; The Society of Leather Technologists and Chemists; Qualitas Furnishing Standards.
Training and qualifications specific to the leather industry are also a good indicator of professionalism, while a long-established company suggests a degree of experience and customer satisfaction.
An idea of costs
Expect to pay £30-£40 for an armchair, £40-£55 for a two-seater sofa and £50-£70 for a three-seater sofa. These prices refer to the cleaning of leather and suede only - if your furniture is badly stained or requires renovation, prices will increase substantially.
Rather than rely on rough guidelines, it's a good idea to contact a couple of local professionals to obtain a quote for the work, which will allow you to establish and compare prices. Bear in mind that discounts are often available if you have several pieces that require cleaning.
You can obtain a near-instant quote on many company websites by completing an on-line form. If the item in question is valuable or of sentimental importance, it's not worth scrimping. Leather and suede can sadly be irreparably damaged by incorrect cleaning or treatment, so it's important to ensure your contractor is properly qualified and experienced (see above) if they seem cheaper than the competition.