Soap for sofa?

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Tara_H

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Something of a passing thought, but I'm sure there are experts on the forum who can weigh in :)

We have a second hand leather sofa badly in need of care. It was recoloured at some time before we got it, from a warm mid-brown to a dark almost black brown. I'm not sure exactly how it was done, but it's wearing in some places, and actually peeling in spots. Basically it makes me just want to exfoliate the whole thing 🤭

I read up a bit on cleaning sofas and found two basic techniques; solvent (isopropyl alcohol, ethanol, acetone, etc.) plus steel wool, or saddle soap.

Looking through the forums, saddle soap seems to be a very superfatted soap, potentially dual lye, but it doesn't seem particularly scrubby. On the other hand, a test patch with methylated spirits is definitely weakening the colouring, to the point where I could probably scrub it off with steel wool, but that doesn't strike me as being terribly great for the leather...

Does anyone have experience with soap for such an application? @earlene's blacksmith soap with pumice is coming to mind, but I'm not sure if there are contraindications? 🤔
 
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I've never tried to make saddle soap, but have used it. It does a nice job of cleaning leather gently. It is not abrasive.
Personally, I wouldn't use anything harsh or abrasive as it may damage the leather, especially if it is peeling in places. What you have may be laminated leather, that is a very thin piece of leather adhered to another material. You can probably get saddle soap at a horse supply store, a shoe repair store, or the internet. After cleaning, I would apply some sort of conditioner like mink oil or neatsfoot oil.

If you decide to make your own saddle soap, would love to hear your process; sounds like a fun experiment. 🎇👍
 
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Tara_H

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Thanks!

When I say it's peeling, I'm pretty sure it's the colour that's peeling off, rather than the leather itself. We had to partly disassemble it at one point to get it through a door and from the inside pieces that I saw, it's genuine leather, and quite thick. The peeling effect looks like bad sunburn - hopefully this picture gives a better idea; you can see right in the middle a small peeling patch, but it's also rubbed and flaked off in a lot of places.

1641471803398.png

That's what makes me think that some kind of gentle abrasive action would be needed, I don't think the coloured layer will come off with just washing alone. But I don't want to damage the leather, or at least any more than necessary to get it to a consistent colour all over, because it looks terrible like this.
 

TheGecko

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I'm not sure exactly how it was done, but it's wearing in some places, and actually peeling in spots. Basically it makes me just want to exfoliate the whole thing

If it was dyed properly, it shouldn't be flaking off...think shoe polish, but for furniture instead of shoes. Shoe polish only colors the surface, it doesn't actually stain the leather.

I did find How to Remove Leather Dye and you could try it on a spot that won't be noticed since it's not perfect. Since you said it's a thick leather and if it was dyed with a polish-like substance and not an actual stain, you should be able to remove just the surface. But you'll also want to be prepared to properly stain the leather.
 
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Agree with gecko - the colour is sitting on the surface and that is what's peeling off. I wouldn't use anything abrasive for fear of damaging/scratching the leather below. I like the idea of removing the leather dye as suggested, and then making a saddle soap with a fairly high cleansing number but with some superfatting to nourish the leather. You should use it at least twice a year ( when I bought my leather sofa he said i should clean/condition at the start and end of daylight savings each year as that is easy to remember).
 

TheGecko

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I wouldn't use anything abrasive for fear of damaging/scratching the leather below.

If the leather is thick, it's okay...it's not uncommon for leather to be thinned out in the processing, you just want to take off the surface and then condition it.

I would also recommend to the OP that they try locating local 'leather' craftsmen/women.
 
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