Your search for the best car leather conditioner will
prove to be a frustrating search for most of you. This is one of the
areas of auto detailing and leather car care that is filled with bad information at best, and outright lies at worst!
Car leather upholstery of today is much different than the car leather upholstery of yesterday. The good news is that conditioning the car leather is less a requirement of modern day automobile leather than ever before; the bad news is that many of you will not accept this.
Based on my decades of experience as a car detailing professional, the first problem I see is that the industry itself wants you to remain stuck in outdated thinking and understanding.
Despite that car leather used to make modern day cars has changed, the industry does not want to educate you as a car owner and consumer to the advances made in car leather upholstery.
Darren's Side Bar:
Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner and Conditioner Complete Leather Care Kit (16 oz) (2 Items)
Darren's Note: These two products will definitely work on cleaning and conditioning your car leather. They just aren't the products I would choose first. But like I said; if you want simple and easy, then you needn't look any further.
You can also see a popular blog that is clearly written by what I call non-professionals. People who simply regurgitate bad or outdated information all in the name of selling you more of what I call the "problem". outdated information repeated by people or companies with zero to little actual industry experience. At car leather conditioner reviews, Carbibles list all the top performing car leather conditioners based on what the industry itself has lead you to believe.
You can also see another very popular blog clearly written by non-professionals repeating bad information all in the name of selling you more of the same outdated products propped-up on outdated information. Truecar.com has a page that will lead you down this same old path of bad information to get you to buy more of the same 'ol outdated car leather conditioners. If you were to follow their guidelines, they actually teach you to clean car leather with a car leather conditioner.
Back to My Tutorial:
The leather used in the manufacturing of your car is still actual leather, but now it is what is most commonly called coated car leather. This means that the leather used to make your car leather upholstery, is tanned in what you might call traditional tanning and dying methods, but is then coated with a clear protective, water-based coating as the final step before this leather is then used to make your leather car upholstery.
While you may not only find this shocking and disappointing, the reality is that this is the good news. Now your car leather will not only hold up to normal wear and tear better, but will is also prove easier to clean and maintain your car leather upholstery.
To me and my world of expertise; this is a good thing!
The second problem has very little to do with your car leather upholstery or finding the best car leather conditioner, but everything to do with human nature.
Yup. I said it.
We are naturally a lazy species of animals. We want what we want without having to wait or put in much effort. We simply want what we want and we want it right now.
But what has anything of this to do with your car leather and car leather conditioner?
I am glad you asked. (even though you probably didn't ask)
There is simply so much hype, bad information, and misinformation surrounding the topic of the leather in your car:
This is a lot of variables that go into the subject of your car leather, cleaning it, conditioning it, what to use, what not to use, how to do it, how often to do it, etc., etc. etc.
Blah, blah, blah, and more blah!!
That question and the answer to that question really depends on who you ask. If you ask me I would say that in all fairness, you have certainly been mislead...intentionally.
If the manufacturers that were making these amazing car leather conditioners came clean and told you that you are not actually conditioning natural leather any longer, but "conditioning" a natural material (leather) that has now been coated with a synthetic coating, then how much of these outdated car leather conditioners would these companies continue to sell?
Probably not as much as they are selling you now. because you as a car owner with car leather upholstery think you are actually going to find the best car leather conditioner, apply it to you car leather, and you will actually be conditioning your car leather.
But the reality is that you are applying a car leather conditioner to a synthetic coating.
Kinda sucks doesn't it!
The simple answer is no. At least not in most cases.
The more complex answer is that it depends on the car leather conditioner you choose. Like everywhere else in life, not all leather conditioners are created equal.
If you accept that your car leather upholstery has a clear protective coating, then what you are "conditioning" is this clear protective coating. The ability of any product to soak in, penetrate, or condition, will be severely limited.
Remember, we are no longer dealing with the type of uncoated leather you are likely used to with your leather shoes, handbags, some household furniture (even household furniture is typically coated leather also due to its resilience in wear and tear), leather belts, leather wallets, etc., etc.
SO in answer to that question:
"Is a car leather conditioner bad for your car leather?"
The simple answer is no. But to help you become a more educated and informed car owner and consumer, I want full disclosure for people in understanding your car leather with updated information.
Like many areas of car ownership, proper car leather care is neglected from the beginning by most, and these same people find themselves scrambling for ways to make up for lost time.
Not only do people neglect the cleaning and maintenance of their car leather, but also want to take short cuts. The cruel irony is that a worse problem is actually created for themselves through repeated applications of car leather conditioner on dirty car leather. Over time, a grungy mix of dirt and conditioner accumulates that is both damaging and unsightly to your cars leather, vinyl, or other plastic trim pieces that people typically apply conditioners to.
Acura LX dash with excessive conditioning build-up from repeated uses without cleaning prior to new applications of leather and vinyl conditioners.
The same Acura LX dash that has been cleaned showing the before and after use of a new white rag; can you guess which side of the rag above contains all the excessive dirt and dressing build-up?
The (2) side by side images is a dramatic example of the kind of build-up that I am referring to when it comes to using leather conditioners, vinyl dressings, etc. Some things to note from the pictures above:
With all this new understanding, you may be sitting there scratching head head wonder what to do. So often in my professional world of auto detailing I am asked my many frustrated people simple what I would do, or what I would use, or a question similar in nature.
So I am not just going to tell you what I would do or use as a car leather conditioner, but I am also going to tell you the exact steps and methods I do to clean car leather, maintain it, and condition it.
Just like our discussion regarding car leather conditioners, car leather cleaners has the same hype and bad information built into the subject.
Cleaning your car leather does not actually require you to source a dedicated car leather cleaner. There are many out there and you can find examples of my recommendations further down this page, but the reality is that you can use basic, all-purpose cleaners that are not only perfectly safe, but effective at cleaning your car leather.
Simple Green 73434010 14010 Industrial Cleaner & Degreaser, Concentrated, Lemon, 1 gal Bottle
Darren's Tips: This as well as many other non-leather cleaners will say not to use on leather, but this is a very broad statement made by manufacturers as a cover their ass moment. Car leather is coated and it is perfectly safe.
Upholstery Cleaner Scrub Brush Set Cleaning Brush and Horsehair Detailing Brush for Car Interior, Seats, Boat, Couch, Sofa and Carpet
Kirkland Signature Ultra High Pile Premium Microfiber Towels, 36 Count (Pack of 1), Yellow - 713160
I get it. That statement seems a bit over-the-top. But what I am going to suggest to you will be so counter to what the industry has taught you.
It's not the only way to condition your car leather, but it is the way I condition my car leather. I have two choices as to what I call my car leather conditioner
CSI Nu Tyre Lotion Quart 62-208-Q
What I mean by this is just that; your car leather is car leather! It is not your baseball glove leather, it is not your shoe leather, it is also not your sport jacket leather.
While most of those leathers are not finished and tanned using the same methods as car leather, the finishing processes of today's car leather is much more resilient and durable to withstand the day to day use of your cars leather upholstery.
Car leather of today is finished using a water based clear coating that is resistant to liquid spills and dirt, and in case you have not connected the dots yourself, this also means that this same coated car leather also resists the use of traditional car leather conditioners the car industry would have you think you are required to use.
Since I have thrown a lot of new information at you and many of you will find this hard to process, I am going to bullet point it for you so as to bring all this info into practical application before I get into my actual auto leather conditioner recommendations:
If you simply cannot embrace any or all of what I have taught so far, then I am going to recommend the following products you can default to if you find greater peace of mind.
The following products will "work" for your car leather, they simply are not the products I default to as a professional or as a car owner myself.
I am a big fan of car care kits; you get multiple products at a reduced rate over buying individually. If you are looking to simplify your life and want an all-in-one kit for all your car leather cleaning and conditioning, then the following kit is ideal:
Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner and Conditioner Complete Leather Care Kit (16 oz) (2 Items)
Meguiar's G7214 Gold Class Leather Cleaner and Conditioner
If you have the "pleasure" of owning a car with black leather, you will be faced with additional challenges due to the leather being black.
After cleaning black leather, it is normal to have an inconsistent appearance once you are finished the cleaning process. In my world; this inconsistent appearance is unacceptable.
A quick and simple solution is to switch from a traditional car leather conditioner like the one's above, and use this aerosol spray dressing that is super easy and super effective.
Not only does it work well in conditioning the car leather, but creates a nice uniform appearance to any car leather, vinyl, plastic, etc.
And perfectly safe and effective for using on car leather that we have now learned is coated car leather...
Stoner Car Care Trim Shine Protectant - 12 oz, 91034
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