Leather is a luxury item to most of us. People love the comfort, smell, and rich look of it, especially leather vehicle seats. Almost everyone who has forked out the cash to have leather upholstered seats wants to protect their investment. The question is whether it is better to cover them up or to enjoy and maintain them?
Some people believe that it is best to cover leather seats with cloth or canvas seat covers so as to protect their expensive leather seats. Cheap seat covers or blankets can be easily cleaned and cheaply replaced. If the covers get damaged in any way, it would not break the owner’s heart. Covers make having pristine, clean vehicle seats effortless.
Other leather seat owners do not cover them up. They prefer to maintain their leather seats religiously so that they can enjoy their leather seats long-term and display them as the status symbols that they are.
We’ll take a deeper look at this issue.
Threats to Leather Seats
There’s no question that leather is tough. But there are three main ways leather upholstered vehicle seats can be damaged. They are:
- Sun Damage – Vehicles spend a lot of time in the sun. The sun’s UV rays can dry out leather seats, causing them to crack and their color to fade.
- Spill Damage – Liquid left on leather damages it.
- Cuts/Rips Damage – Sharp objects can irreversibly damage leather seats.
Caring for Leather Seats, With and Without Seat Covers
Fading, spills, and cuts happen to vehicle seats, no matter whether it is done to the leather upholstery or to seat covers. How you would go about protecting your leather seats differs, though, depending on whether or not you cover them.
1. Sun Damage – To protect leather vehicle seats from sun damage, you can clean them twice a year with saddle soap and then lightly coat them with mink oil. Use mink oil that comes in a tin, not the kind in liquid form. Massage the oil in and leave it untouched for one or two days. Then buff the seats with a clean, soft old tee shirt. Using mink oil, you can skip giving your leather seats a dealership’s expensive Lexol treatment.
An easier solution would be to cover your leather seats with seat covers. The sun fades and cracks cheap seat covers, just like they do nice leather. They also form micro-tears. Their advantage is that they can be easily replaced with little cost or heartache.
2. Spill Damage – Drink spills on leather seats must be wiped up immediately to prevent stain damage. Fortunately, leather does not quickly absorb liquids. Keeping cleanup material in the vehicle would enable quick cleanup and prevent damage.
Alternatively, a good seat cover would prevent liquids from ever reaching the leather. Covers may be the easiest way to protect leather seats during the years that young kids ride along.
3. Cuts/Rips Damage – Cuts and rips to leather cannot be fixed. You just have to consider them as added characters. If you expect your less cultured brother Harry to wear his large hoop key ring on his belt and use his pocket knife in your vehicle, you might consider covering your leather seats during his visit. However, covers can be gouged and cut too.
Reasons Covering Leather Seats May Not be Good
Even though there are some good reasons to cover expensive leather upholstered vehicle seats with a blanket or cheap seat cover, covering your leather presents you with some unpleasant surprises. Here are some of them:
- Damage from Dye Bleed-Through – Unfortunately, fabric dye can transfer to leather if the dye is wet and remains in contact with the leather for a period of time
- Wear from the Cover’s Seams – A seat cover has seams on the side that is in contact with the leather upholstery. Getting into and out of the seats can cause those seams to dig into the leather upholstery.
- Slippery – Unlike cloth seats, leather is slippery. Seat covers may not stay in place as expected.
Leather seats are truly a luxury, and there are alternative ways to care for them. Perhaps the choice you make as to whether or not to cover them should boil down to your lifestyle and who will normally sit on your leather seats. Obviously, you should cover your leather seats if you expect that you or the passengers you transport would likely damage them or if you know you would not give them maintenance treatments.