Leather and leather-effect chairs are popular in offices and workspaces. They offer support, comfort, and an air of distinction. Treated correctly, leather can also last a lifetime, making it a great long-term investment. 

However, they can require some frequent TLC to stay in good shape and stand the test of time. Office chairs withstand particularly heavy use and may suffer from stains and accumulated crumbs from lunchtimes spent at a desk. In this post, we’ll cover how to clean all types of leather chairs yourself with just everyday household products, as well as what to consider when purchasing commercial leather cleaning products. 

How can you find out what your leather-effect chair is made from?

High quality faux leather chairs can be difficult to distinguish from the real thing. While genuine leather is made from treated animal hide (often cow), faux leather is made from plastic polymers such as polyurethane or PVC.

Some furniture will also be upholstered with bonded leather, which is made from scraps of genuine leather bound together with polyurethane.

faux, bonded and real leather

Natural leather and high quality faux leather in particular can be hard to discern from each other. However, these features may help you to figure out what your chair is made from:

  • Stains and spills will sink into real leather, but sit on top of most faux and bonded leathers
  • Real leather rarely cracks or peels over time, although it can become hard and brittle without proper conditioning
  • Real leather has a smooth, soft texture with a random grain and does not come in artificial colours
  • Faux leather’s grain is usually very uniform, as it’s applied using a roller. It is also often less pliable.
  • Bonded leather is usually thinner and less durable than other leathers. It is also the most liable to fade in direct sunlight.
  • Real leather has a distinct, natural smell. This may be faint in bonded leather but won’t be present with faux leather.

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Does Faux Leather need to be cleaned differently from genuine leather?

The cleaning process for all of these materials is similar. You should hoover the chair, clean it with mild soap and water, let it dry naturally, and then condition. 

However, genuine leather is usually tougher, water absorbent, and will need to be treated at least twice a year to prevent it from drying out. It is also especially important to take care of spills on genuine leather immediately, as it’s permanable and the liquid can easily sink in and become difficult to remove.

The surface of bonded leather is often the most fragile of the three, so you’ll need to be the most careful when it comes to any abrasive cleaning materials when it comes to this material. 

Faux leather doesn’t usually absorb liquid, so treating this kind of upholstery involves adding a protective layer rather than letting conditioner absorb deep into the leather fabric. This can be achieved through using specialist faux leather conditioner or baby oil after cleaning. 

How do you clean a real leather office chair?

  1. First, you need to remove as much dust and debris from the chair as possible. This can be done with a hoover or a soft brush. Pay particular attention to areas of wear and tear, as well as the seams of the chair. This is often where grit and crumbs accumulate. If your chair has wheels, you can also use the brush to remove dust from the mechanism, onto a sheet of newspaper.

  1. Next, you should clean the chair with soap and water. Too much moisture can damage leather, so fill a bowl with warm water and a dash of mild soap, dip in a cloth, and then wring it out until it is damp rather than moist. Use this to wipe the chair all over. 

  1. While the chair is still damp, sprinkle a coating of baking soda. This will remove any excess moisture and grease as well as deodorising the chair. Lightly rub the soda in with your hand and leave to dry for an hour.

  1. Vacuum the chair again to remove the baking soda.

  1. If there are any stains on the chair, use the soapy water in a spray bottle and a soft cloth or brush to spot clean them. If the soapy water isn’t working, you can also try a mild vinegar solution. 
find out how to reduce stains in the office

  1. To disinfect the most-touched surfaces of the chair (such as the arms), you can try using some 70% rubbing alcohol solution on a dry cloth. This can also be effective for removing ink stains. Dab gently as alcohol and harsh rubbing may stress the surface of the leather. 

  1. Once the chair is completely dry, you need to condition and seal the leather. This will keep it supple, help avoid cracks, and may stop future stains from sinking into the material. There are several ways to do this, which you can read about below.

Conditioning Leather Furniture

Depending on the conditions your leather is kept in, you should usually treat your leather every 6 to 12 months. There are a mixture of opinions on how to best condition your leather. 

If you want a more natural option which you can rustle up with household materials, you could try a mixture of beeswax, cocoa butter, and almond oil. These can be combined in a ratio of 1-1-2 in a saucepan and put over a medium heat until completely melted. Once cooled, this will create a natural balm. You can massage this into the office chair with your fingers, before buffing the leather with a dry, microfibre cloth. 

conditioning a leather chair

You can also purchase many different commercial products for treating leather. These include:

  • Leather creams (particularly good for aniline leathers, and come with the least risk to your leather’s colour)
  • Leather waxes (less moisturising, but offers good surface protection)
  • Leather oils (excellent for keeping the leather soft)

Conditioners will often come with instructions for what kind of leather they should be used on and how to get the best effect out of them. For all types of conditioners, it’s recommended to test them on a small, hidden patch of the chair before applying it more widely. This allows you to see whether the chair is reacting well to the product and evaluate whether it causes any colour change.

For a product which will soak deep into your leather, avoid conditioners with silicone or petroleum-based solvents. These chemicals can have surface-level benefits but may shorten the life of your chair. Particularly if animals frequently visit your office, you may also want to look out for a non-toxic conditioner. 

Get help from the professionals

A Cleaning Service provides quick and easy upholstery cleaning for businesses. Our services include complimentary stain protection and deodorization to leave your office feeling brand new.