My buddy Tommy had me replace his seats as the seat sides were cracked and the leather was basically pealing off in little chunks.  We are getting ready to load the new ones in and he claims “This sucks, you’d think that they would have used better leather”  Then I proceeded to explain that he had no one to blame but himself.  You MUST care for your leather, or it will not hold up over time.

So you are looking around the car care isle and wondering which product of the dozen or so would be best to use and it gets confusing.  They all make certain claims about rejuvenation and conditioning, but if your seats look like Tommy’s they aren’t going to be saved.   You’ll need to start over with different seats or get yours re-upholstered.

As far as all those leather care products,  the best product on the market in my opinion, is Leatherique.  You won’t find this on the shelf as it is a little pricey and doesn’t fit the whole shelf set-up of a conventional car care store.  Visit their website for details at

I’m by no means a leather expert so I’ve asked George Pavlisko, CEO of Leatherique to help us better understand what’s going on with our leather and how to properly treat it.

George on leather . . .

Leather is very tactile, just like our own skin, if your skin is dry, you can feel it with itchiness, discomfort, and see it with redness, flaking, etc.  Our leather has no way to let us know it is getting stressed.  As good stewards of a natural, recycled product, it is up to us to keep it in a healthy state.  If you think of your leather as skin, and treat it as well as you would your own skin, you’ll have the best results for the longevity of leather.  Jeans, cords, chinos can be like 600 grit sand paper on the surface of your leather.  I have a joke that I tell at seminars that a bare bottom is the best way to protect your leather.

An old finish can oxidize from the sun and commercial products with wax and silicone clogging the pores. Any interior prior to about ’92 has a surface sprayed lacquer which tended to oxidize and harden over time.  After about ’92 most interiors are a water based finish. We began the technology for water based products and set the industry standard for others to follow as everyone used lacquer until the EPA began regulating tanneries and leather manufacturers.

It is not unusual for good leather to last for generations.  When the Titanic was found, human remains had long disintegrated over years, but leather satchels and wallets were able to be retrieved and still held preserved paper money and artifacts.  Leather is more durable than people realize when cared for properly.  It is an excellent investment as it can easily be restored when it becomes worn, the color can be changed. It is always luxurious, adjusts to body temperature easily, it’s comfortable, and a true mark of quality. 

What are the challenges that leather faces as a seat covering over time?

Normal dryness from temperature and use, Ultraviolet rays, harsh chemicals from commercial products, normal wear and tear as you slide in and out, neglect, and over treating with commercial products that can actually harm the leather. 

What doesn’t “mix” with leather that causes it to wear, crack, and dry out?

 Neglect, products designed for rubber/vinyl, silicone based products, wax based products.  Saddle soap is formulated to clean perspiration and trail dirt from a horse and rider, it is too harsh for finished leathers and can break down surface color.  Products with alkaline ph, products with heavy petroleum oils.

If you have a new set of seats, how often should you clean and care for them?

At least every 6 months.  Folks who begin treating their leather properly when it is new are the most happy after several years. They don’t experience the spider web cracking, severe cracking, dryness, flaking, and damage caused by neglect or over treating with useless commercial products.

How long can an individual expect their seats to last if properly cared for vs. seats that are never touched? 

The life of the car.  Proper maintenance is the key here.  We have many friends who own car dealerships, and use our products on their cars.  However, they never encourage a customer to maintain their interior as they know that once an interior starts looking shabby, the owner will want to trade it in for a new model. The owner spends most of their time inside the car viewing the interior.  A well maintained interior shows pride of ownership and sense of accomplishment. 

Many of the BMW sport seats suffer in the bolster area especially from the driver getting in and out of the car over time.  Any way to prevent or prolong this? 

You can prevent it by being very careful getting in and out, keep the leather healthy and supple, and if the color wears off, keep the color intact with new dye.

Is it a by-product of the leather being dry and vulnerable? 

No, not dry as new hides should not be dry, it is from normal use.  As the leather flexes and the fibers pull and the padding underneath breaks down over time, there is less support for that area, and it will develop stress cracks and wear off the surface.

I’ve tried so many other products but stick to Leatherique as it is far and away the best.  What makes your product so different than the others as it seems that there are leather products and then there’s Leatherique?

Most of the commercial products are fast gratification waxes, silicones, or petroleum distillates with a lot of fragrance and water that temporarily make the surface of the leather shiny and smelly.  Average people associate that with doing something good for leather.  Our Rejuvenator is only nutrients of cosmetic grade that nourish the actual fibers of the leather, just as the animal’s blood stream nourished the protein based fibers when the animal was alive.

I’m not expecting to get any secret formula out of you, but I’m curious what the others use as a base vs. Leatherique as they are clearly different.  Yours is more of an oil while others remind me of hair conditioner.

There are no real oil molecules at all in our product.  Fats and proteins are a different type of molecule, and if you remember from your chemistry the molecule bonds with the protein receptors in the fibers of the leather, while heavy oil molecules just sit and are not absorbable into the leather.  The commercial products can rot stitching and cause it to pull apart, while the Rejuvenator molecules will dissipate if absorbed by cotton thread in stitching or seat belts as there are no receptors to absorb the protein and collagen molecules. 

My thanks to George at Leatherique for the great information and insight into proper leather care.   Taking care of your leather isn’t that hard.  If you make an effort twice a year to retain the look of your seats, it surely will pay off.

Chris Keefer

Independent Motorcars

5836 Autoport Mall

San Diego CA 92121