The treatment of hardened leather

As we restore old leather, we often deal with the problem of hardened or shrunken leather. There are two reasons why leather hardens. First reason is the aging and drying. The leather gets stiffer through lack of maintenance and use. It has not been re-oiled or used in a very long time causing a lack of movement of the leather fibres. Another reason can be the shrinkage of the leather by heat. In the past, most vehicle leather contained processed vegetable tanned leather which hardens and shrinks at a temperature of about 70 ° C (= 158°F). However, nowadays they have been replaced by processed chrome-tanned hides which are resistant to about 90 ° C (= 194°F). The less a leather is re-oiled through care, the lower is the temperature at which it begins to shrink.

Shrinkage of leather is an irreversible deformation of the leather fibre. There is no magic product or trick that increases the surface again. The hardening can be reduced a little bit, but a surface extension is impossible. Especially for difficult to remove dashboards it’s an expensive damage. But even shrunken leather should still be treated with COLOURLOCK Leather Softener to protect the leather from degradation and to make it more resistant.

Procedure

First clean the leather with COLOURLOCK Mild Leather Cleaner. Important: Moisten the leather as little as possible when cleaning! Antique leather can be damaged by too much moisture. Therefore, only clean with foam and remove residue with a slightly damp cloth. Let dry away from heat and sun before next working step.

Repair work of cracks and rips with COLOURLOCK Fluid Leather have to be done before the treatment with Leather Softener. Leather Softener is oil based and reduces the adhesion of repair materials.

Sand leather of rough surfaces carefully smooth

Protect hardened leather with Leather Softener from cracking

Before continuing with colour repairs, degrease the surface with Leather Cleaning Spirit

Moisten the leather as well as possible with Leather Softener. The Leather Softener is a pure synthetic oil and does not spoil the leather.

To apply Leather Softener a sponge or a soft cloth can be used. For best results, the softener must be applied on the inner layer (the layer facing the cushions on the inside). On this rough surface, the leather is the most receptive to the treatment. But don`t remove the covers only for this treatment! Old leather can tear or break easily in upholstery work and if upholstery work has to be done anyway, the backside can be accessed. In such cases spray on the Leather Softener to prevent overdosing (for example, spray bottle). 2 to 3 treatments are sufficient for the entire treatment procedure! Otherwise the leather gets too oily.

Let the leather rest for 24 hours after first treatment to give time to absorb the Leather Softener and repeat. For an entire vehicle interior one litre is sufficient and for individual upholstery parts 250 ml.

Then try to loosen the leather fibres by kneading the leather with your hands. This is repeated until the leather gets notable softener. But be careful! Very old and shrunken leather can easily break and won’t get soft any more.

Such leather never becomes as soft as it was in earlier times. But not too old and shrunken leather will improve noticeably. Professionals use a leather-softening tool to soften the leather (see video).

After last treatment remove remaining Leather Softener with a soft cloth and wait a week before next working step. In case of any repair work (filling, gluing, colouring), thoroughly degrease such areas with COLOURLOCK Leather Cleaning Spirit.

To nourish and protect the leather, use COLOURLOCK Leather Protector and if the leather is glossy or exposed to the weather protect additionally with COLOURLOCK Elephant Leather Preserver. The future maintenance should be carried out regularly but sparingly. A care treatment is recommended depending on the use of the leather once or twice a year. Further treatments with Leather Softenerare not necessary.

Black leather heats easier in the sun. A shrunken BMW E30 Rear seat cover. This leather must be replaced.

Black leather heats easier in the sun. A shrunken BMW E30 Rear seat cover. This leather must be replaced.

Black leather heats easier in the sun. A shrunken BMW E30 Rear seat cover. This leather must be replaced.

Recommended products

Old Leather Softener
Leather hardens through age and also lack of care. If the leather has not been used for a long time the fibres will dry out through lack of movement. Heat also causes leather to shrink. Originally most vehicle leather was the processed vegetable tanned variety which hardens and shrinks at a temperature of about 70 °C (= 158°F). Today processed chrome-tanned hides are used which can withstand temperatures of around 90 °C (= 194°F). The less a leather is re-oiled through care, the lower the temperature at which it will start to shrink.  THE TREATMENT OF HARDENED LEATHERFirst clean the leather with COLOURLOCK Mild Leather Cleaner. Important: Too much moisture can damage antique leather so it is advisable to use a foam, rather than liquid, cleaner and remove the residue with a slightly damp cloth. . Allow to dry naturally and away from heat and sunlight.Next repair cracks and rips with COLOURLOCK Fluid Leather before treating with Leather Softener. This is important as Leather Softener is oil-based, making it difficult for repair products to be absorbed. Apply Leather Softener with a sponge or a soft cloth. For best results, the softener must be applied on the reverse side (the layer facing the cushions on the inside). Because the surface is rougher, it is more receptive to treatment than the smooth side. Unless you are planning on carrying out further upholstery repairs, you are advised not to remove the covers for this treatment as old leather can tear or break easily.Let the leather rest for 24 hours to allow time for it to fully absorb the Leather Softener, then repeat. One litre is sufficient for an entire vehicle area. For individual upholstery parts use 250 ml.Next try and loosen the fibres by kneading the leather with your hands. Continue until the leather feels softer. But be careful as very old and shrunken leather can break easily. While the leather will never be as soft as it once was, you should still see a noticeable improvement. Professionals use a leather-softening tool to soften the leather (see video).After the final application of Leather Softener remove the residue with a soft cloth and let the leather rest for a week before carrying out further treatment and repairs. Before using repair products thoroughly degrease the area with COLOURLOCK Leather Cleaning Spirit.To nourish and protect the leather, use COLOURLOCK Leather Protector and, if the leather is glossy or exposed to the weather, COLOURLOCK Elephant Leather Preserver offers added protection. Depending on the level of use a care treatment should be applied once or twice a year. Further treatments with Leather Softenerare not necessary. Amount: 250 ml. This is usually sufficient for one or two seats and several handbags/smaller suitcases ; 1 litre
Available Sizes

Content: 250 ml (US$8.40* / 100 ml)

US$21.00*
Details
Leather Cleaner with sponge
Ideal for cleaning leather car and furniture upholstery, bags, suitcases or garments.The Leather Cleaner is provided in a foam dispenser bottle. Foams clean the leather more efficiently than liquid agents, the consumption is considerably smaller, and the leather does not become wet, which could otherwise become hard after drying.Firstly, clean the leather thoroughly before refreshing the colour or applying care products. Use COLOURLOCK Mild Leather Cleaner against normal soiling. Cleaning before treatment prevents the dirt sticking to the leather's surface. Our COLOURLOCK Leather Cleaning Brush effectively removes ingrained dirt (use circular motions and work from seam to seam). After cleaning, it is always best to apply a care product to protect it against general wear and future staining.Amount: 200 ml Mild Leather Cleaner. This is usually sufficient for the cleaning of a whole car interior or set of furniture.Amount: 1 litreApplication areas: Car Leather, Furniture Leather, Shoes, Bags & Accessories, Leather ClothingFor: Pigmented leather, PU leather, Pull Up leather, Semi-aniline leather ApplicationAlways test any products first on a hidden area in case they affect the colour.Dispense some foam on a sponge or brush. Do not apply to the leather directly! Clean the leather from seam to seam using the foam; repeat several times, if necessary. Remove dirty foam residue with a slightly moistened piece of cloth, then allow to dry.On older leathers, stains might sink into the surface, or perceived dirt might actually be colour damage. Such stains cannot always be removed by cleaning, in which case, use COLOURLOCK Leather Fresh for refreshing the colour, or ask us for advice.These products are also suitable for "Cool Leather/SRT (SunReflective Technology) Leather"!
Cleaner mild or strong
Available Sizes

US$25.20*
Details
Fills cracks and holes
Fluid Leather
Fluid Leather is only recommended for damage where a filling is necessary. For scratches and general wear-and-tear on the colour surface we recommend smoothing the surface with the COLOURLOCK Leather Sanding Pad and refreshing the colour with COLOURLOCK Leather Fresh. The surface of COLOURLOCK Fluid Leather is smooth and shiny after drying. To hide the repair, apply COLOURLOCK Leather Fresh in the respective colour to the area. This covers the gloss of the COLOURLOCK Fluid Leather. Lightly dab the COLOURLOCK Leather Fresh several times with a sponge on the repair and dry with a hair dryer between layers until the desired covering is achieved. Degrease the repair area with COLOURLOCK Leather Cleaning Spirit in order to remove care product residue. Before starting any repairs with COLOURLOCK Fluid Leather, smooth rough areas and scratches with the COLOURLOCK Leather Sanding Pad  For hardened leathers, use COLOURLOCK Fluid Leather before any treatment with COLOURLOCK Old Leather Softener. This oily treatment would reduce the adhesion of the COLOURLOCK Fluid Leather. PROCEDURE Fill the damaged areas with COLOURLOCK Fluid Leather and spread evenly with a spatula. Leave to dry for 1-2 hours, depending on the amount used. Repeat the procedure until the repaired area is as full and smooth as possible. COLOURLOCK Fluid Leather cannot be sanded dry. This would damage the repair.We recommend using the COLOURLOCK GLD Pen to smooth the repair. The GLD Solvent slightly dissolves the surface of the COLOURLOCK Fluid Leather and provides a smoother finish.Open the lid of the COLOURLOCK GLD Pen and press down the felt tip several times until it is moistened. If the felt tip gets too moist, remove the excess quantity by cleaning it with a cloth. Smooth the repair area carefully with the moistened felt tip. When the repair area is wet with GLD, an additional treatment with the COLOURLOCK Leather Sanding Pad can be done to smooth the repair area. Always work with a small amount of GLD to prevent the repair area from becoming too dissolved. Using GLD, a repair can be adjusted to achieve the best possible result.Professionals can repair the graining on a work area using a Repair Grain. Usually, old leathers are smooth and do not need a new graining.The tip of the COLOURLOCK GLD Pen can be removed and reversed when worn. Especially when working on a new colour, it is necessary to change or turn the felt tip upside down.Finally, repairs with COLOURLOCK Fluid Leather must be recoloured with COLOURLOCK Leather Fresh to balance differences in colour and gloss. In order to cover the COLOURLOCK Fluid Leather sufficiently, the COLOURLOCK Leather Fresh should be dabbed onto the area several times and dried between the layers with a hair dryer. After 24 hours treat the leather with Leather Protector.  A HOLE WITH MISSING LEATHER Holes should be reinforced before repairing by gluing a thin piece of cloth underneath the hole with COLOURLOCK Leather Glue. Cut out a small piece of the original leather from a hidden area and adjust its shape according to the hole. Use the COLOURLOCK Leather Glue to glue it onto the piece of cloth and the edges of the hole. Close the visible rims with COLOURLOCK Fluid Leather. Leathers with big tears must first be examined in order to decide whether it would be better to replace the weak leather. Especially long tears in old and rough leathers, or in areas of high use, are often irreparable or not durable enough after a repair. We recommend the repair of tears only on stable leathers and only if the tear is no larger than a few centimetres.Procedure: Minor tears which are not under tension should be provisionally glued with COLOURLOCK Leather Glue from edge to edge. Then close the tear with COLOURLOCK Fluid Leather, as explained.Tears under high tension should be backed by thin cloth. In the case of very large tears and/or very rough leathers, it is advisable to sew the leather with a thin but strong thread. Place a seam every 3-4 centimetres with the starting knot on the leather's reverse. Cover the thread with COLOURLOCK Fluid Leather.If the leather is not too rough, drill a small hole to the right and the left of the tear (approximately 2-3 millimetres) and sew with a round needle. Lay the knot underneath and pull the tear together. Tears in areas of frequent use should always be replaced by new leather when they are too large; the same is true for weak or hardened leathers. In cases like these, it is more advisable to replace the leather.
Standard-F-Colours
Available Sizes

Content: 7 ml (US$35.14* / 10 ml)

US$24.60*
Details
Leather Protector
To maintain the surface, we recommend our Leather Protector. It contains antioxidants, which stops the leather's decay, and its UV filters protect the surfaces from colour fading and will make them supple once more.Amount: 150 ml. This is usually sufficient for the one-time treatment (minimum) of a complete car interior or a set of furniture.; 1litreApplication: Always test any products first on a hidden area in case they affect the colour!Use COLOURLOCK Leather Protector when the leather has dried completely from cleaning or colour refreshment, ideally on the following day. Apply with a soft cloth and let dry without polishing. One application is sufficient. Strained surfaces (heavy use or in sunlit areas) should be treated every three months. Clean before use to prevent dirt sticking to the surface.These products are also suitable for "Cool Leather/SRT (SunReflective Technology) Leather"!
Available Sizes

Content: 150 ml (US$14.00* / 100 ml)

US$21.00*
Details
Leather Sanding Pad
The Leather Sanding Pad is ideal for:  Smoothing rough areas before applying COLOURLOCK Leather Fresh or COLOURLOCK Liquid Leather. Cleaning greasy areas on nubuck and suede. Careful sanding during professional colouring in the workshop. Amount: 1 piece. One pad is sufficient for a complete set of furniture or car interior.; Pack of 5 Application Rub the leather gently with the pad in a circular motion. Avoid gouging and deep scratches. Both faces of the pad can be used. It can be washed out with water.  Before colouring nappa leather, the surfaces should be sanded carefully. Our Leather Sanding Pad is ideal for this step.

US$5.40*
Details
Elephant Leather Preserver 125 ml
Ideal for the care of leather which is exposed to the weather, or for conserving extremely dry or antique leather.Designed for treating genuine "Pull Up" furniture leather (oiled leather). Do not use on Bycast or polyurethane-coated (PU) leather.ApplicationAlways test any products first on a hidden area in case they affect the colour.Rub some preserver onto a clean, soft piece of cloth and apply to the leather. If required, use the cloth to give a final polish. The fat is difficult to use when it’s cold, so be sure to work at room temperature or warm it slightly with a hair dryer.COLOURLOCK Elephant Leather Preserver protects and waterproofs all types of nappa leather.

Content: 125 ml (US$16.80* / 100 ml)

US$21.00*