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Car Care: Leather Maintenance and Care

Discussion in 'Model S: Interior & Exterior' started by Todd Burch, Sep 22, 2012.

  1. Todd Burch

    Todd Burch Electron Pilot

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    To my surprise, I didn't find an existing leather maintenance thread.

    From the Model S Owner's Guide:

    Whuh? So how are we supposed to clean and condition the leather, which I've read is always needed to keep it supple and prevent cracking? It sounds like this statement is saying that we shouldn't condition the leather at all!?!?!
     
  2. mknox

    mknox Well-Known Member

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    I've settled on wiping down with a damp cloth on my leather interiors and they've all held up fine. I had a kind of comical bad experience with leather treatments in the past: my seats became so slippery that I had trouble staying in place and had to keep cinching up the seatbelt to keep from sliding around.
     
  3. Todd Burch

    Todd Burch Electron Pilot

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    Thanks for the tip, strider! I'll have to pick some of that up. The wording in the Model S Owner's Guide seems to be a little bit too heavy-handed.
     
  4. shokunin

    shokunin P85 & S40

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    #5 shokunin, Sep 23, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
    Anybody with a Model S know if the leather is coated (like most cars). Nappa leather typically (supposedly) does not have a clear coat finish, which most cars have to protect the leather. The clear coat allows stronger cleaners to be used since it there's a layer of clear to protect the leather underneath. If there is no clear coat on the leather then a more specialized cleaner is recommended.

    TEST: If anyone can quickly put a drop of water (distilled would be preferred) and see if it just sits on top of the leather or if it starts to absorb into the seat after a few minutes?

    If it starts to absorb, wipe it off quickly. I'd use Leatherique products for conditioning and cleaning. Leather Masters also sells some good products and have special dye transfer cleaners for removing blue jeans dye as well as a protectant to prevent jeans dye from transferring. Ultima Interior Guard Plus is a good all around interior protectant that leaves a non-glossy, non-greasy finish on the interior including leather.

    If it does not absorb, then the leather is coated and almost any leather cleaner can be used.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Very true, that is what happens with coated leather. Most leather cleaners/conditionesr contain oils and penetrating solvents that when applied to coated leather, do nothing other than sit as a layer on top of the coated leather, it cannot penetrate the clear coat. So when it dries it either leaves a sticky mess if applied too much or too slippery if applied properly, but simply not able to penetrate the leather

    Leatherique
    http://www.autogeek.net/leleca.html

    Leather Masters
    http://www.autogeek.net/leather-master-auto-care.html

    Ultima Interior Guard Plus
    http://www.autogeek.net/ultima-interior-guard-12.html
     
  5. artsci

    artsci Sponsor

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    While I know nothing about how the Model S leather is manufactured and treated, most of the leather used in car seats has been extensively doctored and treated. While creases and wrinkles are common and natural in all hides, the manufacturers use coatings of various kinds to create an artificially "perfect" surface. In many cases the coatings create textures and other surface treatments that look good but adversely affect the longevity of the leather.

    I've had a side web business for over then years developing and selling accessories for the Honda S2000. Many are leather products. They're all made by Townsend Leather, a maker of premium leather hides, seats, and other items. They do custom work for show cars, make leather seats for private aircraft, and other high quality work. I've visited their factory in upstate New York and learned more than I need to know about leather care. On the other hand, I have learned how leather should be maintained.

    First off, many of the leather care products marketed commercially, and it's a very long list, do the leather more harm than good. As an earlier post noted, for normal care the best treatment is a wipe-down with a damp cloth. Forget saddle soap, Lexol, and most of the other well-known leather "care" products made by the big name companies. Under normal use leather car seats will not need any special cleaning or treatment more than once a year. Townsend makes a leather care kit for this purpose, which is available here:

    Rick's Custom Leather

    Scroll down to the bottom of that page and you'll see some useful information about leather care, a detailed description of what's in the kit, and click-through to order the kit.

    I've used the kit on the leather seats, steering wheel cover, and other items in my Honda S2000 and they all look like new after 11 years.
     
  6. Todd Burch

    Todd Burch Electron Pilot

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    To revive an old thread, has anyone applied leather care products to the seats yet? What are your impressions?
     
  7. ddenboer

    ddenboer MODEL X #1770

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    Haven't done anything yet, but feel with my kids in the back, I will need to rather soon. I have a bottle of Zaino "Leather in a Bottle" which our local Zaino distributor gave to me when I had my last car detailed (he gave it to me for my leather Pixar messenger bag which was looking worn and it made it look new).
     
  8. shokunin

    shokunin P85 & S40

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    The leather is coated in my P85 black w/red piping. I ended up just using Ultima Interior Guard Plus as a light protectant on the leather and Gtechniq i1 on the alcantara. Actually I used Ultima Interior Guard plus on nearly all the interior surfaces. Aerospace 303 on the EPDM weatherstripping (door/windows) and plastic frunk and trunk panels.
     
  9. artsci

    artsci Sponsor

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    As I said in my earlier post on this topic, forget all the commercial products, especially those made my outfits that specialize in polishes, waxes, and paint protection -- that includes Zaino and the other ones mentioned on this thread. They're made by people who don't now much of anything about maintaining leather and the concoctions they cook up are more like to do harm than good. Tesla's advice is spot on: don't use the commercial stuff. A light wipe down with a damp cloth is the best maintenance you can do. If you have to use a cleaner or conditioner, buy it from a company that makes and treats leather hides, not someone in the auto products business. Here a company in the leather business that knows its stuff: The Townsend Leather Group. They sell a maintenance kit.
     
  10. dsm363

    dsm363 Roadster + Sig Model S

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    Thanks. Is this the cleaner you recommend then?
    Townsend Leather Group: Leather Care Cleaning Products
     
  11. artsci

    artsci Sponsor

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    That's good and recommended but they also sell a leather kit that includes cleaning wipes, a conditioner, and a stick for removing stains. detail_kit.jpg

    It's out of stock now but I highly recommend it. I've use it for over 10 years on my S2000 leather, which still looks like new.
     
  12. strider

    strider Active Member

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    I applied this yesterday throughout the car but avoided the alcantara. Dash, doors, seats, etc. Looks great as it always has - been using it on all my cars for years. I think the UV protection is a good idea above and beyond conditioning.
     
  13. Discoducky

    Discoducky Active Member

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    So I just used Tanner's Leather Cleaner and Conditioner. I've been using these products for over a decade and used to use others when I would detail cars in high school. This stuff is great. I've been using it on my 03 Mini Cooper S for the past decade and it's kept the leather pristine. It only takes a small amount and seems to last for at least 6 months.

    Today, on my tan leather, the cleaner was picking up quite a bit of residue on the leather. It turned my white cloth dark grey. And it really soaked up the conditioner. The seats look great now, very supple and smooth. I'm wondering if TM didn't prep the leather at all? I'm planning on doing this whole process again in about a month to see if the leather still is taking in so much residue.
     
  14. SamGarber

    SamGarber S85 "Whale Shark"

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    As part of my detailing, XPEL and tinting, I also opted for the Opti-Guard on the interior leather surfaces...

    883735_682915931728109_2076320759_o.jpg
     
  15. missmelon

    missmelon Member

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    If there's one thing you'd get in the interim, what would it be as I wait for the kit to come back? The cleaner, 3-1, or wipes?

    A microfiber cloth should work, correct?
     
  16. First Impression

    First Impression Local Vendor - Florida

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