Leather has been a feature of car seats and car upholstery for over 100 years. Originally, skins and hides were subject to vegetable tannng, without any surface colouration, then oiled and greased to prevent water penetration.

Later colour was applied to make leather surfaces more resistant to humidity and general soiling. Vegetable tanning was eventually replaced by chrome tanning, which is a much faster process and therefore more industrially viable. Today, most car manufacturers use chrome-tanned leather apart from Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche, who prefer synthetic tanned leather.

Car manufacturers carry out various tests on leather, including tear strength of leather, vapour permeability, squeaks and rattles, flammability, soiling and smell. The smell test is probably the only one not requiring a machine. Due to the rigorous testing processes, car leathers are very uniform in appearance, almost always single-coloured, smooth leather. These standard leathers are used with different combinations. For example, Alcantara (synthetic material) is used on Porsche steering wheels and side panels. A combination of Nubuck and semi aniline leather is used in the Bugatti Veyron. Semi aniline leathers are softer to the touch compared to the normal pigmented leathers, as they have significantly less surface colouration. But  they are also extremely hard to maintain, as water will penetrate through the surface. The exclusive Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 coupé was also made with semi-aniline leather interior. We recommend waterproofing these types of leathers to avoid permanent marks and retain their natural qualitiesr.

                                            Ostrich Leather Bugati Superprofile www.colourlock.com

                              Real luxury: Bugatti type 46 Superprofile aka La Royal Petite in real ostrich leather

Interesting fact: Bentley mainly use bull hides from Northern European farms because they do not have barbed wire fencing, thus reducing the risk of natural marks and scars on the cattle.

Car leather maintenance

The following instructions would only apply to leather that is not porous i.e water does not penetrate through the surface. Car Leather is one of the easiest forms of leather to clean and care for. Depending on the degree of soiling, we recommend cleaning car leather seats with one of our Mild or Strong Leather Cleaners supplied in a foam dispenser bottle and the Colourlock Leather Cleaning Brush. Foam dispenser ensures minimal use of the product and, most importantly, ensures the leather does not get too wet which causes it to get dry and crack with time.

New car leather seats and upholstery do not need any type of protection, feed or care products within the first 3 years. They have a heavy layer of colour on them and any care product applied will not penetrate the surface. It does however need protection from surface colour damage, caused by friction. Entry and exit points of driver seats are the most common areas for this type of damage but there might be other areas which get affected, depending on the use of the car and the type of seats, or example, bucket seats. Colourlock Leather Shield is an ideal product to prevent these type of damages. It also prevents against dye transfer onto leather, commonly found on lighter coloured leather interiors. 

Older leather, (cars older than 3 years) - The vapour permeability of leather is inherently high. However, the use of fats and greases during the manufacturing process improve water resistance of the leather. As the leather gets older and is used more, the pores become open (visible only under a microscope) and the leather becomes more receptive to care products. Colourlock Leather Protector has UV filters that protect from sun damage and antioxidants that keep the leather soft and prevent it from drying and ageing. It gives a matt finish. 

 Colourlock Elephant Leather Preserve is another care product we provide. It is a purely synthetic, acid free leather wax and an ideal treatment for antique leathers,glossy leathers in Classic Cars. It refreshes and waterproofs the leather and prevents mildew growth. Ideal treatment for old, dry and cracked Leather. 

We hope that you find this information useful and would love to hear your comments and feedback.If there are any particular leather issues you want us to blog about in the future, please let us know.

Upcoming Blogs on Car leather: How to clean and maintain Alcantara car seats. How to restore extremely old, dry and hard leather seats. How to repair car leather seats, plastic and Vinyls using Colourlock Leather repair kit and leather dye