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Leather Care, Repair and Restoration

Offering insights, ideas, facts and awareness regarding leather care, repair and restoration. The blog is for "do-it-yourself" consumers and leather technician professionals who want to learn about the world of maintaining leather furniture, automobile le

Updated: 2018-03-19T12:11:24.744-07:00


Leather Care - Does and Don'ts


Leather Upholstery Care TipsThis article was written by Barb Carney, owner of Leather Care and Color in Chicago.  Barb brings good insight into dispelling the myths so often spouted across the internet.  This is valuable information for anyone who wants to prolong the life of their leather furniture or automotive leather.Clean w/ hairspray? Condition w/ coconut oil? Moisturize w/ Vaseline? Stop the madness!Bad advice can lead you to permanently harm upholstery leather. Wrong info is everywhere - even Martha Stewart Magazine or Unilever’s Cleanipedia website. But THIS is straight from leather care professionals.Good care is simple:Three easy steps will prolong the life of your leather.  1. Dust, 2. Clean, 3 Moisturize·      Dust: Vacuum or dry dust as needed.  Do this the same frequency you dust other items in your home, like wood furniture.·      Clean: TEST first: Apply a drop of water to an out-of-sight area. Wait about 1 minute.Absorbent (unprotected): Droplet soaks right in or leaves a dark mark after a minute. Typically, cannot be cleaned. Contact a leather professional for best advice. This leather is classified as unfinished.Protected: Droplet stays beaded up, and no dark mark appears. Can be cleaned if issues are on the surface.  This leather is classified as finished.   Clean only w/ leather cleaners labeled for leather upholstery (NOT shoes, saddles, etc).  Issues that run deeper than the surface can be:-       Dye or ink stain – Not usually removeable. New color coating or new leather will be needed.-       Body oil stain – Deeply absorbed. Removal is a repair process with recoloring needed.-       Vomit, urine – Requires special treatment.  Contact a leather professional for advice. New leather and padding may necessary.·      Moisturize / condition 3 to 4 x / year. Can add years, even a decade or more, to leather life!-       Only use products labeled for leather upholstery. -       Leather fibrils can be dry /brittle and still feel flexible. Don’t wait for deterioration to appear!-       Other products usually have wrong pH(acidity), and/or harsh chemicals. -       Some chemistries start harmless, but break down into harmful chemicals later. -       See also: How to Care for Leather Upholstery. Contact a leather repair pro for advice early.Myths exposed:Bad choices most commonly believed to be harmless / helpful (explanations below):-       Saddle soap -       Traditional dressings (mink oil, neatsfoot oil, lanolin, etc)-       Other oils / waxes/ fats / lubricants-       ALL household cleaners / cleaning wipes / “natural” cleaners / baking soda / vinegar, etc-       Alcohol, acetone-       Products for imitation leather (vinyl, leatherette, synthetic floors)These can seem harmless when damaging effect is gradual, delayed, mis-perceived. For example:-       Glass cleaners have alcohol in it which dissolves protective coating.  Also causes pH damage.-       Household cleaners may clean surface, but soaks into seams/cracks, accelerating aging / deterioration, ongoing forever.  These are overly alkaline and will cause pH damage.-        Oil adds shine, but attracts dust, seals in dryness, locks out needed moisture, which speeds aging. Saddle Soap – Traditionally used to soften stiff, thick leathers. It is not intended for upholstery. ·      Not a cleaner: the "soap" part emulsifies it in water, has little cleaning power. · &nbs[...]

Dogs and Leather Furniture


There is a YouTube video I posted that shows pictures of their dog chewed leather furniture.  These all come from people seeking help.  The most common headline is:  My dog ate my furniture!

Watch the video.  Its surprising how much damage a dog can do.

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Mitt-Spit Baseball Glove Care System


Mitt-Spit --- It's another great set of products has come out of the leather labs.If you have a cherished baseball glove, you should consider taking the best care of it with Mitt-Spit.  Our baseball glove cleaner, Glove oil (conditioner), and Break-in products are developed, like all of our products, with the Science of Leather as bedrock.  Its proven to be the best. We so happy that customers all over the US and Canada have found how effective the Mitt-Spit system is for their beloved baseball gloves.  Whether its a brand new glove that has ot be broken in, or a 60 year old glove, Mitt-Spit Solutions products are right for you.  If you use Mitt-Spit then you know how good it is.Walt H. of Mobile, AL uses Mitt-Spit.  He is semi-retired, spending his time now repairing and restoring baseball gloves.  Walt lives in the sports crazed capital of America, Mobile, AL where more professional baseball and football players come from per capita then any other place in the country.  People from the Mobile area are serious about baseball. In one specific instance, Walt has a decades old glove that was heavily soiled and hadn't been conditioned in about forever.  He used the Mitt-Spit system of cleaning and conditioning and reported back that it worked wonders.  He said it was just like what we show in our video demonstration on our Mitt-Spit web site - is a repeat customer who ordered another full bundle of the cleaner, conditioner (glove oil) and the break-in products.  It's nice to hear from people who have a passion for what they do and want to use the best products for their work.  Thanks Walt for being a great customer. If you've used Mitt-Spit products on your glove, we'd love the hear from you.   If you haven't tried Mitt-Spit yet, do your glove a favor.  Join the ranks of satisfied customers.  It's easy.  Place your order today!  Go to: www.Mitt-Spit.comWatch this informative video: allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" frameborder="0" height="266" src="" width="320">[...]

Advanced Leather Solutions San Francisco area service business is for sale


After almost 30 years of servicing our client's leather repair, restoration and normal maintenance needs from our facility in Hayward, CA, we have made a decision to rediret our energies exclusively toward the development and manufacturing of leather care and repair product under a new name - ADV Leather.

This means we are looking to divest the services portion of our business, Advanced Leather Solutions, Inc., to a qualified buyer who wants to take advantage of the hard earned reputation for quality workmanship we've established in the San Francisco bay area over the last 3 decades.

Advanced Leather Solutions is the leading "go-to" company in northern California for repair and restoration of leather.

The facility is centrally located to the bay area with a service demorgaphic of more than 8 million people in a wealthy, high-end market.  Advanced Leather Solutions has an existing cash flow from a loyal and varied client base.

The markets serivced are Corporate or other large entitries, Furniture Retailers and Manufacturers, Moving companies, Interior Designers,  Insurance firms, and the General public.

A qualified buyer will be inheriting fully trained staff and have on going technical support from the seller.  The company, Advanced Leather Solutions, Inc. name will stay with the buyer.

To accomplish the repair and restoration needs of the market, the buyer will have access to all of the products manufactured by ADV Leather at very favorable pricing for a term to be negotiated.

Here's a brief video discussing the business.

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Qualified and serious buyers only please.   Send all inquires to  

Yelp 2017 AWARD recipient


Advanced Leahter Solutions, Inc has just been awarded....

It represents our continued commitment to excellence in customer service since 1988.

In all humility, we're not perfect, though we strive for perfection with every client.  We are grateful that our clients have such high a regard for what we do.  Thank you.

YouTube video list from


I've been away from blogging for a while and intend to get back into it.This is my first posts in a long time.  Let me know if you have specific areas of interest which you would like to see me comment on via this blog.I've been active posting YouTube videos and this post describes each of those videos and has a link to them.  Let me know what you think.  If there is a specific topic for a YouTube video you'd like to see me produce, let me know.Advanced Leather Solutions YouTube Video LibraryThis is the current list of videos available produced by Advanced Leather Solutions on YouTube.  Our YouTube video production is an ongoing effort.  They are either task specific (i.e. how to accomplish a specific leather repair task) or are informative about leather.  We have grouped them into categories to make it a bit easier for you to find a video you’d like to view.  If you want us to produce a specific video regarding leather care and maintenance, let us know.  We’d love to hear from you.About LeatherTitle: Leather Types ExplainedContent Description:Different types of upholstery leather found on furniture and automotive are explained between unfinished, aniline dyed leather and finished, protected or pigmented leather.  Also explains the purpose of base and print coloring technique and protective clear coat.URL: Material that is NOT a candidate for Leather RestorationContent Description:  Kevin Gillan shows two examples of material that he recommends not to proceed with a restoration project as in both cases the new color coating will fail.  Kevin shows why.URL:  New Leather Furniture Care TipsContent Description:   Offers advice for the care and maintenance of new leather furniture.  Also discusses a strategy for keeping cats off leather furniture.URL:  Do You Have Finished or Unfinished Leather FurnitureContent Description:   Helps determine the type of leather you have --- finished or unfinished.URL:  San Francisco Cable Car Straps ProductionContent Description:   Shows how Advanced Leather Solutions manufactures the leather hanging straps used on the San Francisco Cable Cars for the standing passengers.URL:  Effect of body oils on fine leatherContent Description:   This brief video shows the eventual effect of body oils on a leather headrest.  This leather is only 5 years old.  The leather on the headrest had to be replaced.URL: RestorationTitle: Anatomy of Leather Furniture Restoration from Aniline to ProtectedContent Description:  Documents the restoration of leather furniture from faded, and stained aniline or unfinished to a fully finished state, explaining the step-by-step process.  The result retains the feel and look of the original unfinished leather yet now has a protective coating that is fade and stain resistant.URL:  DIY Leather Solutions Kit ContentsContent Description:  Produced by Advanced Leather Solutions of Hayward, CA, here you will see the contents of a typical, fully consumer based Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kit for restoring worn, faded and stained leather furniture.  Thousands of kits have been sold to date.  You too can be successful at restoring your own leather with this system.URL: Leather Jacket RestorationContent Description:  Leather jacket, originally black faded over time.  This jacket  is restored to original condition with the products and processes of Advanced Leather Solutions.  You'll see the procedure of priming the leather, coloring the leather and then top coating where we retained t[...]

DIY Leather Restoration Kits - Passes the Test of Time


Here is an e-mail from a DIYer who did her leather restoration project 5 years ago with our DIY Leather Solutions Kit system.

Hi Kevin,
I contacted you five years ago when I started the big project of saving my fairly new, but extremely faded leather furniture.  I was skeptical of any on-line do-it-yourself furniture restoration product.  However, I was even more unwilling to throw away expensive furniture!  I bought blinds to shut out the harsh sun and I took the gamble on your product - sending you a scrap of leather to match and receiving in return your bottles of primer, color, print, and finisher along with tools and instructions. 
My husband thought I was a little crazy to tackle something like that on my own, but tackle it I did.  It took me about 3 days to do the chair and ottoman because I wanted to try the smaller pieces first and I went very slowly, stopping to email you with questions or just progress reports every step of the way.  You always got right back to me with words of encouragement - "you're on the right track", or "now you're ready for the next step", or "keep me posted".  I refinished the couch the following week and was able to move a little more quickly.  When the project was done, my family and friends were absolutely amazed!  My husband said I had saved us about $5000 (he was ready to toss and replace); my sister said the furniture looked better than when it was new!  I sent you before and after pictures and was pretty darn proud of my efforts!
Now here it is, five years later.  The furniture still looked pretty good, even thought it was well used.  It had a few scratches acquired from moving it when we installed wood flooring and when we redid our ceilings, plus there were two cushions that looked a little worn.  We were sprucing the place up for a big party and I decided to give the furniture another makeover.  I had saved the leftover bottles and tools - there was enough of your product to entirely refinish the chair, ottoman and couch.  This time it took me only 2 days to complete the whole project and once again my furniture, now 9 years old, looks brand new!
I have to say, your product does exactly what it's advertised to do, your instructions are complete and easy to follow, the results look amazing and it's an incredible value.  Feel free to publish my testimonial on your website if you'd like!
Terry L.

Copyright 2011, Kevin Gillan

How to Resolve Mold and Mildew on Leather


Source of Mold and MildewSpores of fungi and bacteria are present in the air. High humidity, warm temperatures, and poor ventilation provide the ambient conditions that allow mold growth. Generally, stagnant air above 80% relative humidity may support mold. If above 95%, the humidity will certainly encourage fungi and bacteria to grow. Soiling, organic residues and stains will enhance the growth of mildew on leather and fabrics.Removing Mildew from Leather and Fabric SurfacesFirst, remove loose mold from outer coverings of upholstered articles with a soft bristle brush. Do this outdoors, if possible, to prevent scattering mildew spores in the house. Wash brush before re-using.Run a vacuum cleaner attachment over the surface of the leather and fabric panels to draw out more of the mold. Remember that the mold spores are being drawn into the bag of the vacuum cleaner. If the vacuum has a disposable bag, remove and dispose of it immediately. If not, empty the bag carefully (preferably outdoors) to avoid scattering mold spores in the house.Do everything conveniently possible to dry the leather - use an electric heater and a fan to carry away moist air. Sun and air the article to help stop mold growth.If you have finished leather (leather with a topically applied pigment coating), and mildew remains, sponge lightly with thick suds of soap and wipe with a clean damp cloth. In doing this, avoid getting the leather wet with excessive amounts of moisture. DO NOT USE THIS STRATEGY UNLESS YOU ARE SURE THE LEATHER HAS A FINISH ON IT (see our leather care page on our site to help you identify your leather type). In all cases, do a test in a non-obvious area of your leather to ensure that the suds will not darken, stain or discolor the leather. If you have cushions with zipper access, and you suspect the fungi or bacteria have migrated into the internals of the cushion, remove the cushion cores and treat accordingly, or replace with new.If necessary, a final step to remove mildew on upholstered leather furniture is to gently wipe it with a cloth moistened with diluted alcohol (1 cup denatured or isopropyl alcohol to 4 cup water). Dry the article thoroughly. Once again, apply this strategy only if you are sure it’s finished leather, and only after you have tested in a non-obvious location on your furniture. Be aware that this alcohol solution may adversely effect the top-coat and surface finish of your leather so only do this as a last ditch effort and only after thoroughly testing on a hidden part of your leather.If mold has grown into the inner part of your furniture frame, open the underside dust cover, then dry and air out the internals as best as possible. You may need to send it to a reliable disinfecting and fumigating service. Such services are often listed under "Exterminating and Fumigating" or "Pest Control" services in the yellow pages of the telephone directory. If they have an “ozone chamber,” have them put your furniture into the chamber for at least 48 hours.Here are some tips on preventing mildew.Keep The Leather Clean - Soiling can supply enough food for mildew to start growing when moisture and temperature are right. Greasy films, such as those that form on kitchen walls, also contain many nutrients for mildew-causing molds. Get Rid of Dampness - Dampness is often caused by condensation of moisture from humid air onto cooler surfaces. Excessive moisture may indicate that repairs or additional insulation are needed. Replace cracked or defective mortar. Some basements are continually wet from water leaking through crevices in the wall. Make sure outside drainage is adequate. Control Moisture - For waterproofing concrete and other masonry walls above ground, apply two coats of cement paint, tinted with mineral coloring if desired. Waterproofed coatings to seal [...]

Beware of Credit Card Scams


We've had our share of attempted credit card scams over the years.  The most recent hit our shop just yesterday.

A prospect contact us by e-mail wanting to buy Barcelona cushions.  We offered a quote and he accepted.  Now the scam:  

Buy an expensive product that requires overseas shipping. Buyer claims to be located in the USA, while the ship-to address is in Europe. Buyer asks seller (us) to contact his designated shipping company by e-mail to get a quote. The quote comes in ridiculously high.  Buyer requires the seller to use the buyer's designated shipping company because he "trusts them."  The total amount including shipping is almost $7,000 of which more than $2,500 is shipping.   Buyer wants to pay the total amount, including shipping costs, up front with a credit card.  Buyer calls with credit card number.  With buyer on the phone, we run the card and it goes through as authorized. The shipping company then sends an e-mail to me claiming their credit card processing system is down and to send a money gram or bank wire transfer to a bank in Ghana for the shipping fee. Bingo.... Fraud!!!  We void the transaction and call our credit card processing company.  They determine it is a valid card, valid billing address, but the name on the card is not correct.  

Because we voided the transaction before it was "batched" (Meaning the money was actually put into our account.) we weren't charged the processing fee.  Further research determined the shipping company is bogus.  Buyer IS the fraudulent shipping co. 

I just received another e-mail asking why I haven't sent the wire transfer. I am stringing them along at the moment.   

Amazing lengths these knuckleheads will go through.

Copyright  2011, Kevin Gillan

White Leather Furniture - Yellow Staining


Recently two different clients forwarded pictures of their white leather furniture.  In both cases the symptom was the same.  A yellowing discoloration of the leather.  Here are two pictures.


In both cases the client put a skin cream on their legs and then sat in the leather seating.  The skin cream has coloring agents that will act as synthetic tanning agents.

As the tanning agent is a dye, it transfered from the occupant's skin into the leather, discoloring as shown.  There are no warning labels on the skin cream container.  Yet it will permanently discolor the color coat.  It would not be an issue on a dark leather as you wouldn't see the discoloration.  However on a light colored leather it is clearly a problem. 

It is not a cleaning issue as the leather has literally been recolored, just as was intended for the person's skin by the lotion with this tanning additive.  Trying to clean it is like trying to clean a tattoo from your skin.  

The correct solution is to match the color and color over the offended area.

Copyright 2011, Kevin Gillan 


Linkedin Group for Leather Technicians


At Advanced Leather Solutions our motto is "No Secrets."  As an "Open Source" company we are happy to share our knowledge. To that end, check out the Global Leather Repair Technicians discussion group on Linkedin. It is the brain-child of Lee Bryan, Technical Sales Advisor for Stahl Europe B.V. Lee works out of Barcelona, Spain where he ran his own leather repair and restoration business for years before he joined Stahl.  Here is the link for the group:

Whether deeply experienced or just a rookie, I recommend that you join.  It only takes a minute to sign up, yet it brings truly a world of  knowledge. Read through the discussions and jump in with your own tricks-of-the-trade, know-how and experience. Begin a new discussion with a topic of your own.  Let the entire global leather technician community learn from you, as you learn from them.  If you're new to the business or a seasoned tech, use this forum as a means of asking questions and seeking advice, learning from the invaluable experience of other pros. With broad participation, we can all thrive.     

Leather Conditioning Tips


Upholstery grade leather has about 25% moisture content as it leaves the tannery.  This moisture content is typically natural oils like neetsfoot that is infused into the fiber structure imparting suppleness.  These oils are volatile, meaning they evaporate away overtime at a rate dependent on the humidity.  If you are in a very dry climate and the leather is exposed to direct sun or other heat source then the evaporation rate is considerably accelerated compared to a damp climate or where the leather is not exposed to a direct heat source like the warming sun. As moisture evaporates from leather two things happen: 1. the leather shrinks due to lose of mass, and 2. the leather looses is internal lubrication.  In either case the affect is stiffening.  At some point, where the moisture content drops below 5% or so, the leather feels and behaves like a piece of cardboard.  This is its demise.Leather conditioners contain replenishing oils.  The goal of conditioning leather then is instill lost oils to keep the moisture content elevated.  Consequently, this simple maintenance procedure prolongs the leather’s life.  It’s a pretty simple concept.  However, there is more to the story.  Here are some important considerations:pH Issue.  pH measures acidity or alkalinity.  The range is from 1 to 14 with pure water being neutral at 7.0.  Leather is acidic.  It measures 4.5 to 5.0 on a pH scale.  Furthermore, the pH scale is logarithmic, meaning that each whole number is 10 times more or less acidic or alkaline than the next number in the scale.  When you mix two elements that have differing pH, a chemical reaction occurs.  In the case of leather, this chemical reaction accelerates the breakdown of leather fibers.  Therefore, any conditioner applied to leather should be pH balanced to leather so as not to damage the leather.Coated (Pigmented) Leather.  Most leather has a surface color coating.  This coating is also covered with a clear coat providing protection and wear resistance.  So, if something spills on the leather, it is easily wiped up without penetrating and staining the leather.  These coatings are generally chemical engineered to have a certain degree of porosity, allowing the leather to breath.   However, the ability for a conditioning agent to penetrate through this protective barrier is a challenge.  This is particularly true with automobile grade leather.  For automobile leather, the most effective procedure is to warm the leather up a bit (leave the car in the sun for a few hours) before you apply a conditioner.  Warming the leather reduces viscosity allowing a higher absorption potential. Then, aggressively massaging the conditioner into the leather will help.Over conditioning.  If a little is good, then a lot must be better, right?  A common mistake is to apply too much conditioner.  Think of a sponge fully laden with water.  Adding more water is not possible.  This is also true with leather.  If the moisture content is at its maximum, then adding more conditioner does nothing except to sit on the leather surface, drying over time and turning sticky and gooey.Old, Desiccated  Leather.  If old leather has lost most of its moisture then it can be a huge mistake to attempt to revive it by adding conditioner (moisture).  Think of a piece of cardboard that gets wet.  It turns the cardboard fibers to mush.  The same is true for leather.  If your leather is old and dried out, the best strategy is to leave it alone and consult a professional.  There are specific chemistries that can be used to prolong the life of old leathe[...]

Why doesn't the color match perfectly?


Color matching is an art form.  However, there is a bit of science to consider as well.  Here are exerts of an e-mail sent to me from a leather technician experiencing the frustration of color matching."I can't understand why the color is really far off, yet it also changes drastically, depending on the type of lighting. For example, the pictures I sent you only show what the color looks like in the Sun, yet when in person (No Camera) it actually appears to be the exact opposite. Meaning the untouched cushion is actually deeper (more red and/or Organic Brown tones), and the one that I re-finished, is lighter and less Reddish tones. " changes according to the light I view it under.  I can get it pretty close outside in the sun, however, when I bring it in under all types of House lighting, it changes drastically and does not look close to matching." So what's going on?   One word...  Metamerism.Read my blog entry from about two years ago. solution is to match in the dominant lighting source of the room where the furniture is located and forget about all other locations (like outside in the sun) as they don't matter.  If there are differing lighting sources inside, then pick the dominant source.Keep in mind, the eye of a professional leather technician is highly tuned.  Unless the pieces are literally touching  each other, most people will not notice a slight difference.  What they'll see is how the refinished piece looks compared to what it looked like before.  I always caution a client that if I do a partial refinish and not all the furniture there will be a "newness factor."  The original color will have oxidized to some degree. Furthermore, there will have been some fading, particularly if there are any red tones in the original.  The red will be leached out to some degree as reds always fade the fastest.  Therefore, the newly refinished leather will appear different than the pieces that were not refinished.This is a key learning experience in color matching, particularly with mottled colors.  If you have a color variation affect, you will always have this dilemma to one degree or another.  The lesson learned is the lighting source is the most important element in perceived color. And, to complicate things further, the viewing angle also changes your eye's interpretation of the color.  The color shifts when viewed on a horizontal plan versus a vertical plan, like the back rest to the seat top of leather furniture.  This is called geometric metamerism.Always prepare for this phenomena. Copyright  2011, Kevin Gillan [...]

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Advanced Leather Solutions Update


It’s been a while since I’ve posted to this blog.  As always there is a lot going on at Advanced Leather Solutions, so finding the time to share with you has been difficult.  Here’s a snap shot of what’s been going on for the past few months.Our new production facility is now fully operational.  Located in Anderson, CA, we have the benefit of much more affordable space than the high rent district we’ve occupied in the San Francisco Bay area.  We reduced the shop size in Hayward to help off-set the cost of expansion.  The Anderson shop is new, airy, with great light for color matching and our ongoing professional leather restoration process.  But most importantly, it’s close to Jason’s (our senior technician) home in Redding.  This has dramatically reduced his commuting time from hours to a few minutes.  In February we conducted our first training program in our Anderson shop.  Antonio Aleman who runs Dr Vinyl of Puerto Rico attended.  With years of working on automobile grade leather and vinyl, Antonio came to us to learn about the world of furniture grade leather.   He’s now armed and ready for the leather wars in Puerto Rico.In March we will be launching a new micro web-site singularly focused on leather paint.  We have great products that simply don’t get the exposure they should from our overly crowded original site  The new site is still under development and when launched can be found at  Expect to see us up and running by the end of March.  We welcome your comments.Our DIY Leather Solutions ( program continues to supply leather repair and restoration solutions with remarkable results.   It’s indeed heartwarming for us to receive the consistent stream of positive feedback from our DIY client base.   We certainly have a proven, mature system. Thousands of people have been able to restore their old, tired looking leather back to like new.In our market of Northern California, we offer choices.  We can do the work for the client or they can take on the project. Clients truly like that choice.  For the frugal minded, it makes all the difference.   It’s truly a win-win.   Other leather technicians have seen the merit.  Leather professionals around the US and elsewhere have picked up the system and incorporated it into their solutions arsenal.  We offer our kits to professionals at a considerable discount.  They make the sale, profit a bit from it and we help them through support of the client.   Again, it’s win-win.People are now connecting the dots in other ways.  They are going to CraigsList,  consignment stores, Goodwill and other such outlets, finding furniture that has good bones but the leather looking a little shabby, faded, etc.  Then with our help and our DIY system, they are turning furniture destined for the land fill into gems.  It certainly demonstrates the “renewable” nature of our work.We are steadily building an increased presence with our YouTube channel.  Video documentation is a very powerful tool.  We are strong believers in visual references for our clients.  Whether it’s solving severe cat claw damage or simply restoring the color to a favorite old leather belt, with video you have the visual reference showing how to perform a specific function.  Check it out at: the last week of February, I was invited as a speaker for the clients and guests of th[...]

Testimonials Continue to Pour In For Our DIY Leather Restoration System


Here are two e-mail the I received this week from our DIY leather restoration clients.  It is consistent with the experience we hear about over and over again.  Here's the first.... It's been a few months now since I dyed my sofa & chair...                                                                         Have to admit "I was scared to death" Well it came out GREAT !   Everyone was amazed ------  because it was a water base I was afraid it would wash off after awhile...... however I just wiped up some spots from the front where my dog , who has allergies & rubs herself,  No problem........  I have a friend who owns a white 3 piece sectional that she loves, but it sure does need help. I'm sure you'll be hearing from her in the near future.Just thought I'd drop you a line and say ---THANK YOU                                                   BETTY C.Here's the second....I just want to send a quick note to thank you for this great experience. My sectional looks awesome and everyone comments on it now. Please see attached before and after... Please thank Jason for helping me with the print, once I got home and started doing it, I was very confident and did not stop until done. :) Thanks again and I will be referring you to all my friends and family.Theresa P.Copyright  2010, Kevin Gillan[...]

Shoddy Products Taint the Leather Restoration Industry


It can be frustrating and confusing for consumers who try a leather furniture restoration process on a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) basis.  The market place is loaded with products that simply fail, giving the entire industry a black-eye.  The truth is a "one-size-fits-all" solution may occasionally work but can not be effective for everybody.  At a professional level, no two leather furniture restoration projects are treated identically.  The products  and processes applied vary based on the type of leather and specific issues present in each particular  piece. Variables like body oil accumulation, cat claw damage, fading, print coat failure, etc. make each project unique.  This applies to DIY  projects as well. A successful DIY project requires a customized solution.  The combination of the right products and  "know-how" is essential.  The person assembling a kit must have direct hands-on knowledge so he/she can analyze pictures of a project and prepare a customized DIY kit.  The "know-how" is shared via a combination of DVD or internet based video and well written instructions.   This is the essence of the Advanced Leather Solutions DIY kit.To amplify the point here is the text of an e-mail I recently received. "We have two dark blue leather couches from Sealy. We purchased them 9 years ago.  I purchased a leather restoration kit from a place online that I no longer remember. The first color mix they sent me I thought worked well for the one couch so I ordered another kit from them for the second couch. The mix was a different color and also didn’t adhere as well and left a couple cushions almost ‘plasticky’ is best I can describe. I followed the directions the same for both couches, so not sure what the deal was. I contacted the company, they sent me a new kit with better looking dye and more of that alcohol based ‘cleaner’ to try to get as much of the other kit off as possible. I redid the second couch, even though 2 cushions still have a stiffer feel. That process held for a about 2 years. Kind of. "I ordered another kit from another site  (who have their label on the underside of the cushions along wit a bunch of tags with ‘S’ on them), and ordered enough to do both couches together. That seemed to work better than my first experience. But I see there is a lot of fading and worn spots from where you sit now. They need to be done again. "Is this normal to have to redo the restoration every 18 months? I have a lot of brown faded in the cracks and where heads have rested on the backs etc. Do your products guarantee to adhere better? I did the cleaning and very light sanding and several light coats (I used a sponge brush instead of the spray can adaptor). On the 3 cushions from the second couch I have deeper cracks in the leather from the bad attempt. The leather is normally very soft and supple. "Thank you for any assistance you can offer. We really like the comfort of the couches and they are still in very good condition minus the maintenance with the pigment adhering. We would like to keep them for years to come but would like them to look nice too."The key questions....Is this normal to have to redo the restoration every 18 months?  --- No, it's NOT normal.Do your products guarantee to adhere better? ---- This is the same system we use professionally for 23 years.  If it failed that quickly we'd have been out of business a long time ago.  the problem you now have is leather that is coated with who-knows-what.  If that[...]

When Leather and Vinyl are paired together - Bad Things Happen


Look at this picture...What you see is a leather seat top that is sewn to a vinyl side panel.  The vinyl side panel has broken down. Once vinyl gets to this state of deterioration it cannot be effectively repaired.  Note that on the leather side of the seam, everything is normal. This is a clear example of how quality top grain leather will outlast vinyl.  All of the stress of weight baring is on the leather panel.  The side panel is simply flexing as a person sits on the seat cushion, yet the deterioration of the vinyl is plainly obvious.  This is a fairly common manufacturing process to intended reduce cost for the manufacturer.  It is most commonly found on motion furniture (recliners).Here's a close up of the same picture.Note that the erosion of the vinyl is complete along the entire length of the seam.Why does this happen?The answer lies in the attributes of both materials.  Leather is organic.  It is infused with oils at the tannery to impart suppleness.  Leather breathes.  As such it looses its moisture (oils) through evaporation.  Vinyl is a synthetic byproduct of the petrochemical industry.  Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is typically a solid.  Think of the plastic garden pipe used in home irrigation system. PVC pellets are heated and mixed with an oil then this mixture flows over a cloth and when dry is now vinyl as found on furniture.  The oil in vinyl is not molecularly bound to the vinyl molecule.  Its free floating. As leather looses its moisture through evaporation, to equalize that moisture loss, it wicks the oils from the vinyl side of the seam.  Thus oils vacate the vinyl, as they are sucked into the leather.  This loss of oil gradually reduces the vinyl to its original solid state and it slowly flakes away as shown in the picture.  The thinner the vinyl, the quicker this will happen. Once the vinyl coating of the cloth substrate disappears, it cannot be replaced through a repair.  The only solution is to remove the offended panel and replace with new.  To do that requires disassembly of the furniture which balloons the cost beyond reasonable.This vinyl failure is one of the perils of a leather-vinyl combination.  Most people are not aware that components of there furniture are vinyl.  Generally the piece is sold as  "leather furniture" when in fact it's part leather and part vinyl.  When I see this condition I recommend that the client not invest further in the piece.  It's time to get new furniture.If you have leather and vinyl on the same piece of furniture, then to prevent this from becoming your problem, keep the leather moisturized.  Properly and frequently apply leather conditioner (SG - 25 moisturizer) to ensure that the leather has no need to wick the oils from the vinyl.Copyright 2010 Kevin Gillan[...]

Ink on Leather? Beware of Home Remedies


A consumer has a new Ashley Furniture leather sofa that has suffered an pen mark (ink) on it.  The owner of the piece did an Internet search and read that hairspray would pull out ink from leather.  This picture shows the results.  The hairspray didn't pull out the ink, instead it stripped the outer color coating (print coat) in a few places around the ink.  Note the light spots.  That's the exposed base color coat after the print coat was dissolved by the hairspray.  What actually happened when the hairspray hit the leather?  Hairspray has alcohol as an ingredient along with a bunch of other nasty stuff including versions of lacquer.  Alcohol is a solvent that will strip color from leather.  The hairspray theory is based on the alcohol's ability to pull the color of the ink out of the leather.  However as you see, the hairspray did strip color, just the wrong color.  It dissolved the color of the leather.The unfortunate fact is alcohol can't discriminate between the coloring on the leather and the ink coloring.  This is exacerbated by this particular leather's weak chemical resistance, a hallmark of Ashley leather furniture.  The broad hairspray pattern hit the leather in a wide swath causing collateral damage. It's like the old military practice of carpet bombing.  Whereas what is needed is precision in attacking just the ink stripe, leaving the surrounding leather unharmed.There are several strategies to resolve an ink problem.  Keep in mine this key point --- the ink is not harming the leather.  It is strictly an aesthetic issue. Here is the text of an earlier post from my blog that specifically discusses ink on leather.In the interest of disseminating accurate and complete information about leather furniture restoration and repair, I wrote this post for people who have the common problem of ink on their leather furniture. There's lots of misinformation on the web about ink on leather. So, here are the facts.Ink on leather? It's a common problem and completely solvable. The only question is if it requires professional attention or, can you resolve the issue yourself.First, the basics:1. Ink is primarily a dye. As such the ink has recolored the leather. It is not harmful to the leather. So the problem is strictly aesthetic.2. If you can get to it quickly, then using a damp cloth, attempt to transfer as much ink off the leather as you can before it sets in the leather. Gently wipe or blot. In a short period of time, the ink travels into the leather. Don’t rub or you’ll push the ink into the leather, and possible rub out the leather’s grain pattern. Keep in mind that once ink penetrates into the leather it essentially has recolored the leather. No amount of aggressive rubbing will change that fact. You might also try a soft artist eraser, gently tracing the ink line. The objective is to pull the ink out before it has a chance to set.3. Once it is set, removing ink from the leather is NOT a cleaning issue. In almost all cases any cleaner used that is strong enough to pull out the ink, won’t know the difference between the color of the ink and the color of the leather. Aggressive cleaning may pull out the ink, but will also pull out the leather color as well. And, aggressive cleaning chemicals will do more harm (pH damage) to the leather than the ink. 4. The use of ink sticks or other products advertised to remove ink is risky business. The active ingredient is a solvent intended to neutralize the ink. Its success depends on how sensitive your[...]

Leather Restoration Extended to Conservation and Preservation


We are often called upon to save existing leather, despite the reality that the leather is technically at the end of its useful life.  The typical life cycle of quality leather runs about 30 years.  However, we’ll be asked to restore leather that is 50 to 100 years old or even older where the leather is severely desiccated, with deep epidermal damage.  These projects move beyond typical restoration and into the realm of conservation and preservation. They are the assignments where the true skills of our craftsmen come into play.  Sometimes we have to invent processes to accomplish the client’s goal.  Saving the leather interior built into a 1953 Jaguar XK-120 is an excellent example. By any reasonable measure the leather was beyond restoration yet the client wanted to retain the original leather for valuation purposes.Because this was a unique project, we documented the process via video.  We also knew it would be a long term project and the client lived 1,500 miles away, so video documentation was a method we used to keep the client informed of our progress.  You can access the full video from your web-site directly by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post.The following is a copy of a letter the client sent to Auto Restorer magazine, a periodical dedicated to the classic car crowd.Dear Auto Restorer,I’ve been a subscriber for several years and would like to alert your readers to what I believe is a relatively unique service that will be of interest to anyone wanting to preserve an original car versus restoration.  I’m the fortunate steward of an unrestored 1953 Jaguar XK-120.  My 58,000 mile car’s original paint still looks nice, albeit with a few blemishes here and there, and mechanically is trustworthy as well.  The leather seats however were deteriorating to the point that in order to save them at all, I pulled them out and for the last couple years substituted a pair of reproductions of period competition seats.  For several years I looked for someone who could repair and preserve the original leather versus going the route of an upholstery kit.  These were beyond a minor Dr. Vinyl type repair as there was serious scuffing in places and several cracks that had grown into full splits.I periodically searched services every year or so and last fall found Advanced Leather Solutions in the San Francisco Bay area of California.  My seats were in their shop a few months as the process for removing oils to get the leather where they can bond repair panels under the surface requires many applications over time.  Along the way, they sent video updates so I could see everything that took place.  Anyone seeing the before and after would be amazed.  The scuffing, open cracks and splits are gone yet they maintained the patina that only time can bring.  As you’re probably aware, preservation instead of restoration is a growing trend in our hobby and in my opinion this company is a great resource for anyone who wants to repair and preserve original leather.  For those interested, a video of the processes performed on my seats can be downloaded from their web site at,Mike BuchananCape Girardeau, MOIt is projects like this that sets Advanced Leather Solutions apart from the ordinary leather repair and restoration company.  While our bread and butter work is the mundane repairs and restoration, our true skills are tested with the out-of-the-ordinary [...]

Insights Into Bicast


For years I've taken phone calls and e-mails from distraught consumers who made the mistake of purchasing bi-cast (bicast) material when they thought it was real leather.  It is sold as leather but it is clearly NOT the real deal.  Just as fiberboard isn't real wood, bicast isn't real leather. As a general rule, leather that has suffered damage can be successfully repaired.  In the case of bicast this is problematic as any repair can only be as strong as the surrounding material.  With bicast, the material is inherently weak.  As such, a repair to bicast will, in all likelihood, fail.At the end of this blog entry you'll find a link to photos that have been sent to me by consumers depicting their  classic problems with bicast material.  They show the wide variety of ways bicast fails.  In the world of furniture there has never been a more true application of the phrase "buyer beware."  Bicast is a problem waiting to happen.Here is the text of an excellent article written by Barbara Carney, a leather restoration expert in the Chicago area.  Bi-cast and Bonded Leather is NOT Leather! So, What Is It?."Bi-cast and bonded "leather" can be the right choice for you – Here’s the complete story so you can make an informed decision."The term “leather” is used to describe 2 completely different types of material used on furniture:1.      Real = An intact animal hide processed to look and feel good. Very strong.2.      Bi-cast / bonded = Plastic with a little leather and maybe some fabric glued to the back. Not so strong."Note: Imitation leather = Plastic with fabric glued to the back. Not so strong."What’s going on? Leather’s very desirable because it:· Looks good - many different possible textures, colors and finishes· Strong, durable – can last decades; can be repaired and recolored· Feels good to touch – soft and flexible· Breathes, so you don’t get clammy or too hot· Shows you have taste and could afford the nicer things"Real leather soils easily, so a protective paint-like colored coating is added to approx 85% of the real leather furniture sold in the U.S. It’s a thin, breathable plastic that stays flexible and still has an appealing leather feel and light smell. Consumers easily confuse this with the thicker, non-breathable plastic layer of the lower cost bi-cast and bonded leathers. By adding a little leather – about 17% - which you don’t see or touch, it’s legal in the U. S. to sell bi-cast and bonded products as leather – which most people will think means real leather. In Europe and New Zealand it’s illegal to call such products leather."Bi-cast is a clever product. Typically, it’s a thick layer of plastic made to look and feel like leather, laminated on top of a thin, weak layer of leather. This layer is a “split” - horizontally split from the bottom of the original hide in a big sheet. In bi-cast, you don’t see it or feel it. It adds none of the characteristics of real leather, except one: If you check the inside surface, it looks and smells like leather. Why bother? A savvy consumer may know how to check for real leather by looking at the inside for the characteristic rough suede and the smell, or a trained salesperson may show it to the consumer – “See – it’s leather!”"Bonded leather goes one step farther: Powdered leather fibers are [...]

Dyes vs. Pigments Re-visited


There is a common misuse of the word “dye” in the leather repair and restoration business.  While I’ve discussed this before here, it’s time to address the issue again.  There are two methods for coloring leather.  1. Dyes.  2. Dyes and then pigment coated.  It is very rare that leather would be pigment coated without having been dyed first.Starting with the basics – Animal skins are tanned.  This process converts the skin to leather.  The main purpose of tanning is to preserve the hide.  It stops the natural degeneration or rotting process.  At the end of the tanning procedure and before the color step, the hide is called a “crust.” The crust is highly absorbent. Think of a chemise. The crust is infused with a dye which we all know to be a coloring element.  The actual dye molecule is very small.  It penetrates into the fiber structure of the crust (leather) and establishes the color.  Typically it penetrates completely through the leather (struck through) so looking at a cross cut, you see the same color from front to back.  The dye is not molecularly bound to fiber structure, rather it as floating within the fiber bundles.  Because it is free floating, one of its attributes is migration.  It will transfer or move.  Water will accelerate migration.  Consider blue jeans.  They fade when washed.  The dye molecule migrates out of the medium (in this case denim) and is flushed down the drain.  I have had occasion to witness this phenomena with leather many times.  A damp white cotton cloth wiped across dyed leather will pull the color.Dyes have a unique beauty.  Because of their small molecular construct, dyes are translucent.  You look into the leather to see its color.  It accentuates the natural beauty of the leather. Because the porosity of leather is inconsistent, some areas of the hide will accept more dye than others.  This creates the natural mottling affect you see with dyed leather.  Its beauty can’t be beat.  We classify this leather as being “unfinished.”There is a dark side.  The dye molecule does not tolerate UV light very well.  That wave length or spectrum of light hits the dye molecule and breaks it up.  This process gradually leaches the dye from leather causing the leather to lose its color (fade).  Furthermore, dyed leather continues to have a high level of porosity.  Spill a liquid and it will soak into the leather, potentially staining the leather.  In reality the stained area has been re-colored.  So trying to clean it is like trying to clean a tattoo from your skin. Bottom line: dyed or unfinished leather is beautiful when new, but it is aesthetically vulnerable to staining and fading.  Only about 15% of all leather furniture is unfinished.  It is typically the most expensive leather as only the finest hides (least flawed with unsightly hide characteristics) can qualify to be unfinished. Most leather then goes through a secondary coloring process with the application of a pigmented coating.  The pigment molecule sits on the leather’s surface.  As a coloring element the pigment molecule is a big, robust molecule with excellent covering power, like snow on the ground.  The pigment molecule is carried in a binding chemistry that locks it in place.  That binder chemistry is uniquely engineered for leather.  It establi[...]

What Is Best for Leather Color Application – Rub or Spray


When doing a full color restoration to leather furniture, automobile leather or garments there are two application options with Advanced Leather Solutions color system – rub and spray.  But, which is best?There are clear pluses and minuses to both.Spray System with High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) Air Equipment:Advantages        Even color application      More efficient use of material – less waste      No potential for streaking      More “factory like” result      Less labor intensive      More variety of mottling techniques if requiredDisadvantages      Over spray considerations      Must tape-off all not leather components      Must have expensive equipment (Compressor and Air Gun)           Not practical for in-home application due to over spray       Requires top-coat as sealer coatRub System with Wipe-on Color ApplicatorsAdvantages      Simple       Easy to master the application technique    Does not require experience      Single pass - does not require a top-coat      On-site application does not require taping-offDisadvantages      More material consumed       Takes longer – more strenuous       Potential for streaking       Not as fine a finish as sprayIn the end, both systems produce excellent results.   The choice of one over the other is often dictated by the nature of the assignment and availability of application tools.  For a consumer, the rub system is better suited as it’s so simple to master and doesn’t require specialized application equipment.  For the professional leather technician the rub system offers the ability to work on-site with no threat of over-spray issues.In a professional shop environment the choice is generally to spray as it more efficient use of labor time and materials and will produce a finer, more factory like result. In our shop we use a hybrid approach.  In either case leather has to be properly primed for quality adhesion.  Then, we spray a section of leather with one hand and wipe it while wet with the other.  This mechanical wiping motion promotes better adhesion as it drives the color down into the grain pattern.   We then spray each subsequent coat to create a smooth, even color distribution, followed by topcoat application applied via spray.  Here is a video link to YouTube that shows a color change in our Hayward, CA leather restoration studio. approaches have their place.  Our rub system has worked wonders with consumers, empowering them with the ability to restore their own furniture using the Advanced Leather Solutions’ Do-It-Yourself kit concept - a rub based solution. Check it out at this web-site:  Our professional leather technician clients have generally standardized on the spray approach.  However, some use both depending the circumstances.  For example, Leather Doctor in the Columbus, Ohio area uses both --- the rub approach when doing in-home restorat[...]

Advanced Leather Solutions Training Programs


Over the past few months I've received numerous requests for information on our training options.  This gives the full details.Advanced Leather Solutions Training - To become an effective leather technician requires knowledge and the right products.  The market offer choices:Buy a Franchise for a bucket full of money.Attend a one day “Training Program” in a class room with a few dozen other people and see a sales pitch.Join our program where we teach the basics first so you are armed with the ability to think through each leather repair and restoration project your client presents.  Our program is not just theory or a sales pitch.  It’s founded on the real world experiences of over 23 years and tens of thousands of repair and restoration projects under our belt.  Our training program offers multiple options tailored to the needs of the individual.   This is NOT a franchise offering yet has all of the essential ingredients of a business opportunity.  Our program has:         No Franchise Fee       No Territorial Limits       No Royalty Fee       No Contracts       No Monthly Technical Support Fee       No requirement to purchase products from us       No non-compete agreementsOur program is not a sales presentation with demonstrations at the front of the room.Our program is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach.Ours is an in depth immersion where you learn the “how” but more importantly the “why” as well.  The goal is to teach the underlying fundamentals so you can think for yourself, not simply do by rote. There are training 3 options: Full hands-on, Distance learning, CustomHands-On Training We offer a complete hands-on training program and an optional full Leather Repair and Restoration business starter kit.  The class is scheduled on as needed basis at either our Hayward, CA (San Francisco Bay Area) facility or in our Redding, CA (Northern CA) production factory.The following is a general overview and some additional information that includes:1. The course objective2. A sample lesson from the Training Guide3. A detailed course synopsis, including fee structure, and accommodations for our out-of-town guests.4. Course outlineTHE BASICS OF LEATHER REPAIRObjective Statement ---This course is intended for people who repair leather.  The candidates include independent leather service technicians, automobile detailers, leather furniture manufactures, leather supply houses, transit companies, warranty companies and retailers to name a few.  At the conclusion of this course, the attendee will have a basic grasp of how to access a problem, develop a strategy for repair and execute the appropriate steps to create the most effective solution possible.Course Includes ---1.  3 1/2 days of hands-on training with each attendee working from his/her personal kit.  The lead trainer has been repairing leather furniture for over 23 years, having successfully repaired thousands of damaged leather furniture pieces. The course takes that deep practical experience and brings it to each attendee.2.  180 page Leather Technician Field Guide that covers the[...]

The pH of Leather - Or, How to Ruin Leather by Following Bad Advice


In the September, 2010 issue of the popular magazine Martha Stewart Living there is an article that talks about how to clean various household items.   One of the categories discussed is leather.  In the article it is recommended to use household cleaners on leather.  This is a serious mistake that can easily discolor or worse permanently damage fine leather furniture.A minor lesson in basic chemistry will make this problem clear.  It has to do with a not well known leather attribute – the pH of leather.What is pH anyway?  pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity (basicity) of a substance.  It is measured on a scale that runs from 1 to 14 where the center point --- 7 --- is neutral as determined by pure water.  Any measure below 7 is acidic and any measure above 7 is alkaline.  This scale is logarithmic.  This means that a substance with a pH of 6 is 10 times more acidic than water (pH of 7) and continuing down the scale, a pH of 5 is 100 times more acidic than water.  The same differential applies going up the scale as well.When you bring two substances into contact with each other where their pH differ, a chemical reaction occurs as the pH of both substances come into balance by neutralizing each other creating a salt like substance in the process.  The severity of the chemical reaction is determined by the degree of differential.  Mix baking soda (a Base) with vinegar (an acid) and a somewhat explosive chemical reaction will occur.  There are several videos on YouTube that clearly demonstrate this reaction.How does this apply to leather?Leather is acidic.  Its pH is measured at between 4.5 and 5.0.  Household cleaners are alkaline.  Windex, 409, Mr. Clean are all common household cleaners with a pH of exceeding 9.0 and topping out at 11.45 (Windex).  Given the logarithmic nature of the scale, that represents a huge differential compared to leather.Like in the vinegar and baking soda demonstrations, a reaction within the fiber structure of leather occurs when you clean leather furniture with a household cleaner. Leather is a very absorbent material.  It may not be as immediate or as explosive but the reaction nonetheless will slowly but permanently damage the leather’s fiber structure, weakening it in the process.  As the household cleaner is absorbed into the leather fibers the reaction breaks down those fibers.  With enough exposure, the fiber bundles lose their integrity, turning to mush.  Bottom-line: household cleaners accelerate the demise of fine leather furniture.The other negative is the effect these harsh cleaners can have on the color coating of “finished” leather.  It acts like a stripping agent, pulling the protective clear coating and subsequently color coating as well.As a leather repair and restoration specialist with Advanced Leather Solutions, Inc., I receive the frantic phone calls and e-mails from people who have discovered on their own the damage household cleaners can do to the color coating or worse the actual integrity of their leather.  In most cases it’s correctable, but sometimes the damage is so severe that the cost of correction exceeds the value of the furniture.  You can learn more about the attributes of leather from our web-site In the Martha Stewart Living article, the author [...]