Dyes Failing on Headrests and Arms
We see this type of thing every day. Usually the leather is about 2 ½ to 3 years old and the area in question is usually in front of a TV and it is where the men sit. Some men have more acid in their skin and will cause this to happen even faster and some men are not acidic so this problem does not show up for 8 – 10 years. If the leather is cleaned properly this would not happen.
Most of the products sold in those kits are almost useless and may slow down the problem a little but so would wiping it with a damp cloth. The best product from our research over the last 30 years is that Lexol works the best on finished leathers and some natural leathers as well.
Most other products actually damage the finish over time. What we believe is happening is that the leather is going acidic and begins to shrink which causes the surface dyes to have micro cracks allowing even more acids and oils in. The leather continues to shrink causing the original finish to fail. It is similar to painting a balloon and then letting the air out of it, no where for the paint to go.
In many of these cases we find that the oils have saturated the leather right through to the foam. On many of these, the leather is black and sticky on the inside and may be stuck to the foam. If you run your finger nail backwards (as not to scratch) across the center of the damage you will see it lighten as you push the oils aside and if you then rub the area it will re-darken, that is oil in the leather.
One of the major problems we have is that this acid will cause dye lot problems to show up faster so you may get a lot of the same dye failing later on or it could be that this person is very acidic and this is a one time event. We have seen men strip the finish of a chair in 6 months.
Normally women do not cause this problem as they tend to be neutral (Neutrogena, Ivory, Dove) but that has changed in the last 8 years. For the first time in history women are becoming acidic and are damaging the finishes as well. This is still fairly rare but we are definitely seeing a trend towards that.
Repairing this can be a problem as usually there are a lot of oils in the leather which will not allow adhesion of the repair dyes. The other problem is that the leather is now acidic and will start attacking the repair right away and will still continue to damage the original finish causing the dyes to fail under the repair.
If the leather was cleaned repeatedly over a few months and conditioned there is a chance that the repairs will hold. That is what we do with antique cars and leathers. There can be no guarantee it will hold. Unless this is under a year old it should not be a warrantee issue.
If there is a dye lot problem you will see the colour failing on non wear areas, either cracking or the colour crocking off onto a damp cloth. The best course of action is to replace that leather casing and inform the customer on how to maintain the leather.