Having acquired a wealth of experience in our thirty years of developing technologies for leather manufacture, we utilised our knowledge of the finishing (coatings) science used. Ultimately this allowed us to create a performance cleaner and protectant for pigmented leathers typically used in automotive, mass transportation, motorcycling and athletic footwear applications. Our products are suitable for commercial, industrial and retail customers to clean and maintain their leather products.
All of our cleaning products have the following benefits:
All our cleaning products have the following benefits:
- Created by Leather Technologists for modern leathers
- Gently cleans the all-important coating of the leather
- Restores the original feel and look to the leather
- Unique chemistry recreates the new leather aroma
- Top-coat friendly system employed
- Aqueous based, pH balanced formulation
- Silicone-free to ensure no slippery or shiny surfaces
The topic of leather cleaning and maintenance is driven by the understanding of how the leather is made. The following information is given to try to help the consumer understand a little more, and we begin with a diagram of how finished leathers are made:
Effectively we take the hide or skin of an animal. We then put the pelt through a series of operations and ultimately turn it in to a piece of leather through tanning. We then retan it to give it the necessary characteristics that the final article requires such as the base dyed colour, softness, water resistance, etc. We then coat the leather on the surface, as necessary, to give further surface specific characteristics with what is effectively a type of paint. That is the simplistic view, but the chemistry used is extremely technical, and the chemistries we employ have changed massively over the last few decades. As a consequence, the way that we should look after and maintain the leather has also changed.
Older style leather, made up to the early 1990’s, were created with retanning systems where the oils and fats (which give the leather its softness) were not ‘fixed’ to the leather fibres in the grain and corium zones and could actually migrate out of the leather over time (often seen as fogging). And it was for this reason that conditioners and hide foods were indeed necessary to replace the lost softening agents. Also, the coatings used on leather years ago, were fairly poor with regards to abrasion resistance and flexibility over time, resulting in wear and cracking.
By contrast, modern day leathers are much more advanced and tested to much higher specifications. The lubricants used are almost always synthetic, they are modified so that they lock on to the fibres and so do not migrate, contain humectants to maintain a natural balance of moisture in the leather (this is very important), and the coatings used are now multi-strata highly crosslinked polyurethane and acrylic blends that provide extremely high performance levels of abrasion resistance, flexibility, cold crack resistance, etc., giving much more durable leather.
As a consequence, the way to clean and maintain your leather has also changed. The notoriously old style regime of ‘clean and feed your leather’ is outdated. The cleaning is still extremely important, but the feeding is now somewhat of a myth, because these so called ‘conditioners’ struggle, if at all, to penetrate into the leather due to the resilient coating systems used. Typically, conditioners are based on natural ingredients such as beeswax, lanolin, etc. and their chemical make-up will not allow them to pass through the finish on the leather.
Many other brands continue to sell conditioners, with suggested application techniques of applying the conditioner on to the leather surface, leaving for a period of time before wiping off any excess. This generates a real issue in that the conditioner, if wiped off will appear to be gone, but actually it will still be there on the surface to some degree, especially in the ‘valleys’ of the grain pattern, and will actually be detrimental in picking up dirt and soiling more quickly. This then forces you to clean the leather sooner, and then recondition, ultimately creating the ‘quick-soiling’ scenario all over again. Also other brands suggest their conditioners are required for maintaining softness, but the moisture content of the leather is the most critical aspect, and that is controlled through the humectants and special fatliquors used in modern leather manufacture.
The truth is that modern-day leathers do require maintenance, but through regular cleaning. A lot of cleaners are very generic, and their formulations can actually cause minor damage to the coatings if used in excess or not cleaned off properly. That is why Dr Leather created a specifically designed cleaning product, based upon our experience of actually making and designing new leathers for many OEM brands, where we actually know and utilise all the latest leather technology years ahead of its actual launch in products to the general public.
Through our field testing with professional detailers, we quickly realised that a product range in either pre-impregnated wipes or liquid format would be most suitable. Since its creation, many detailing and leather maintenance companies have moved across to our product, realising the following benefits:
- A far simpler, more time effective solution to the usual two-stage products.
- Allows the detailer to save money in a faster cleaning procedure, only having to control the need for a single all-in-one product.
- A genuine polymeric formulation specific to the modern-day leather coatings.
- Avoidance of any silicone-based materials which can negatively alter gloss and handle characteristics.
- Easy to dispose of wipes, avoiding the need for multiple cleaning cloths, which require regular washing.
Finally, we should mention that we have incorporated the traditional leather aroma from veg tanned leathers, as part of the formulation for rejuvenating the leather to that brand new leather smell. This aroma was checked with a number of 'old-school' tanners to make sure the smell was just right, just to be sure. But if you prefer it without the fragrance, please get in touch so we can help you.
Whilst the finishes used on modern day leathers are extremely tough and durable, their topcoat chemistry can sometimes be compromised allowing soiling, with further issue for white and light coloured leathers being susceptible to dye staining, particular from denim jeans.
Firstly though, in order to control and improve upon something, one must be able to measure current performance as a benchmark that is analogous to actual wear. To do this we utilise the Martindale Tester, which allows two different materials to rub against one another under specific conditions, such as temperature, humidity and pressure, and of course number of cycles.
The automotive industry utilises control fabrics which are contaminated with different staining compounds in a standardised rubbing action over the leather surface via the Martindale abrasion tester. After a set number of cycles (in this case 2000) the degree of colour change on the surface of the leather is measured. Subsequently the soiling is wiped off, in this case by means of our Dr Leather Cleaner product, and the colour change is remeasured.
For Anti-Soiling (VDA Test), contaminants are applied on the leather by standardized soiling cloths as follows:
*EMPA 104: Polyester/cotton, soiled with carbon black/olive oil
*EMPA 128: Cotton jeans with indigo/sulfur black, soiled with carbon black / olive oil
On the left side, you can see that the standard automotive leather can become soiled fairly easily, and that our Dr Leather Cleaner does an excellent job in cleaning it off, but it is not perfect. I should point out here that these tests are quite extreme, and you should never get the leather this dirty before cleaning. On the right side you can see the same leather which has been treated with Dyeblock and immediately the differences are appreciable in the reduced amount of soiling and the improved capability of being cleaned.
The Dye Ingress testing is similar; contaminants are applied on the leather surface via a control “soiling cloth”, where one of the best current standard targets is the Jaguar Land Rover denim fabric with indigo dye, soaked in alkaline sweat solution (BS1006 E04) tested to 1000 cycles, pressure 12Kpa. We then need to achieve a particular colour transfer standard requirement of ≥ 4 (grey scale which is a particular scale used in the leather industry from 1-5 where 5 is no colour marking) before cleaning. We then further the test by looking at the degree of soiling after cleaning (1000 cycles as described above) where the cleaning cloth is soaked in our Dr Leather cleaning solution, and the requirement must be ≥ 4-5 (grey scale).
Again there is a significant improvement. The chemistry we use is very advanced to achieve this, and simultaneously the coating does not affect feel, gloss levels or look to the leather. When applied correctly, after the seats have been well cleaned and the coating allowed to dry and cure overnight (in ambient temperatures) then it offers a good durability, generally seeing at least six months before a reapplication is required.
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