Tuesday, June 14, 2011

DIY Leather Restoration Kits - Passes the Test of Time

Here is an e-mail from a DIYer who did her leather restoration project 5 years ago with our DIY Leather Solutions Kit system.

Hi Kevin,
I contacted you five years ago when I started the big project of saving my fairly new, but extremely faded leather furniture.  I was skeptical of any on-line do-it-yourself furniture restoration product.  However, I was even more unwilling to throw away expensive furniture!  I bought blinds to shut out the harsh sun and I took the gamble on your product - sending you a scrap of leather to match and receiving in return your bottles of primer, color, print, and finisher along with tools and instructions. 
My husband thought I was a little crazy to tackle something like that on my own, but tackle it I did.  It took me about 3 days to do the chair and ottoman because I wanted to try the smaller pieces first and I went very slowly, stopping to email you with questions or just progress reports every step of the way.  You always got right back to me with words of encouragement - "you're on the right track", or "now you're ready for the next step", or "keep me posted".  I refinished the couch the following week and was able to move a little more quickly.  When the project was done, my family and friends were absolutely amazed!  My husband said I had saved us about $5000 (he was ready to toss and replace); my sister said the furniture looked better than when it was new!  I sent you before and after pictures and was pretty darn proud of my efforts!
Now here it is, five years later.  The furniture still looked pretty good, even thought it was well used.  It had a few scratches acquired from moving it when we installed wood flooring and when we redid our ceilings, plus there were two cushions that looked a little worn.  We were sprucing the place up for a big party and I decided to give the furniture another makeover.  I had saved the leftover bottles and tools - there was enough of your product to entirely refinish the chair, ottoman and couch.  This time it took me only 2 days to complete the whole project and once again my furniture, now 9 years old, looks brand new!
I have to say, your product does exactly what it's advertised to do, your instructions are complete and easy to follow, the results look amazing and it's an incredible value.  Feel free to publish my testimonial on your website if you'd like!
Terry L.

Copyright 2011, Kevin Gillan

Saturday, June 11, 2011

How to Resolve Mold and Mildew on Leather

Source of Mold and Mildew
Spores of fungi and bacteria are present in the air. High humidity, warm temperatures, and poor ventilation provide the ambient conditions that allow mold growth. Generally, stagnant air above 80% relative humidity may support mold. If above 95%, the humidity will certainly encourage fungi and bacteria to grow. Soiling, organic residues and stains will enhance the growth of mildew on leather and fabrics.

Removing Mildew from Leather and Fabric Surfaces

First, remove loose mold from outer coverings of upholstered articles with a soft bristle brush. Do this outdoors, if possible, to prevent scattering mildew spores in the house. Wash brush before re-using.

Run a vacuum cleaner attachment over the surface of the leather and fabric panels to draw out more of the mold. Remember that the mold spores are being drawn into the bag of the vacuum cleaner. If the vacuum has a disposable bag, remove and dispose of it immediately. If not, empty the bag carefully (preferably outdoors) to avoid scattering mold spores in the house.

Do everything conveniently possible to dry the leather - use an electric heater and a fan to carry away moist air. Sun and air the article to help stop mold growth.

If you have finished leather (leather with a topically applied pigment coating), and mildew remains, sponge lightly with thick suds of soap and wipe with a clean damp cloth. In doing this, avoid getting the leather wet with excessive amounts of moisture. DO NOT USE THIS STRATEGY UNLESS YOU ARE SURE THE LEATHER HAS A FINISH ON IT (see our leather care page on our ADVLeather.com site to help you identify your leather type). In all cases, do a test in a non-obvious area of your leather to ensure that the suds will not darken, stain or discolor the leather. If you have cushions with zipper access, and you suspect the fungi or bacteria have migrated into the internals of the cushion, remove the cushion cores and treat accordingly, or replace with new.

If necessary, a final step to remove mildew on upholstered leather furniture is to gently wipe it with a cloth moistened with diluted alcohol (1 cup denatured or isopropyl alcohol to 4 cup water). Dry the article thoroughly. Once again, apply this strategy only if you are sure it’s finished leather, and only after you have tested in a non-obvious location on your furniture. Be aware that this alcohol solution may adversely effect the top-coat and surface finish of your leather so only do this as a last ditch effort and only after thoroughly testing on a hidden part of your leather.

If mold has grown into the inner part of your furniture frame, open the underside dust cover, then dry and air out the internals as best as possible. You may need to send it to a reliable disinfecting and fumigating service. Such services are often listed under "Exterminating and Fumigating" or "Pest Control" services in the yellow pages of the telephone directory. If they have an “ozone chamber,” have them put your furniture into the chamber for at least 48 hours.

Here are some tips on preventing mildew.
Keep The Leather Clean - Soiling can supply enough food for mildew to start growing when moisture and temperature are right. Greasy films, such as those that form on kitchen walls, also contain many nutrients for mildew-causing molds.

Get Rid of Dampness - Dampness is often caused by condensation of moisture from humid air onto cooler surfaces. Excessive moisture may indicate that repairs or additional insulation are needed. Replace cracked or defective mortar. Some basements are continually wet from water leaking through crevices in the wall. Make sure outside drainage is adequate.

Control Moisture - For waterproofing concrete and other masonry walls above ground, apply two coats of cement paint, tinted with mineral coloring if desired. Waterproofed coatings to seal absorbent brick and other outside surfaces may be needed. Spread a layer of moisture-barrier material over the soil in crawl spaces under houses. You can use heavy roofing paper or polyethylene plastic film. Good ventilation is important. If possible, do not enclose the crawl space. In extreme cases, a fan or blower may be needed to move the humid air from under the building. Cooking, laundering, and bathing may add 2 gallons or more of water a day to the house. If circulation is not adequate use some type of exhaust fan. If your clothes dryer is equipped with a vent, have it exhausted to the outside to remove moist air.

Dry the Air - Cool air holds less moisture than warm air. Properly installed air-conditioning systems remove moisture from the air by taking up warm air, cooling it (which removes the moisture) and circulating the cool dry air back into the room. In rooms that are not air-conditioned-especially the basement--mechanical dehumidifiers are useful. A humidistat can be attached to the unit to control the humidity. Mechanical dehumidifiers, however, can add heat to a room. If you are using air-conditioners or dehumidifiers, keep windows and doors closed.

Heat - Get rid of dampness by heating the house for a short time. Then open doors and windows to let out the moisture-laden air. An exhaust fan may be used to force it out.

Circulate the Air - When the air outside is drier than that inside, ventilation allows the dry air to enter, take up excess moisture, and then be carried outside. When natural breezes are not sufficient, you can use electric fans placed in a window, set in a wall, or ducted to the attic to move air from the house. Poorly ventilated rooms get damp and musty during continued wet weather, and furniture in such a room is prone to mildew. Try to improve the air circulation. If necessary, lay the furniture on its back, cut open, or remove the dust cover under your furniture and run a fan into the open space to help dry the internals of your furniture. It may help to dry the inside by running a de-humidifier, pointing the air-flow into the internals of your furniture.

Get Rid of Musty Odors - Get rid of musty odors as soon as possible to prevent further mold growth. Usually musty odors disappear if the area is well heated and dried. If the odors remain, the following treatment may be necessary. On cement floors and on tiled walls and floors, get rid of mustiness by scrubbing with a diluted solution of sodium hypochlorite or other chlorine bleach available in most grocery stores. Use one-half to 1 cup of liquid household bleach to a gallon of water. Rinse with clear water and wipe as dry as possible. Keep windows open until walls and floors are thoroughly dry. DO NOT APPLY THIS SOLUTION TO THE LEATHER.

Copyright - 2011, Kevin Gillan

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Beware of Credit Card Scams

We've had our share of attempted credit card scams over the years.  The most recent hit our shop just yesterday.

A prospect contact us by e-mail wanting to buy Barcelona cushions.  We offered a quote and he accepted.  Now the scam:  

Buy an expensive product that requires overseas shipping. Buyer claims to be located in the USA, while the ship-to address is in Europe. Buyer asks seller (us) to contact his designated shipping company by e-mail to get a quote. The quote comes in ridiculously high.  Buyer requires the seller to use the buyer's designated shipping company because he "trusts them."  The total amount including shipping is almost $7,000 of which more than $2,500 is shipping.   Buyer wants to pay the total amount, including shipping costs, up front with a credit card.  Buyer calls with credit card number.  With buyer on the phone, we run the card and it goes through as authorized. The shipping company then sends an e-mail to me claiming their credit card processing system is down and to send a money gram or bank wire transfer to a bank in Ghana for the shipping fee. Bingo.... Fraud!!!  We void the transaction and call our credit card processing company.  They determine it is a valid card, valid billing address, but the name on the card is not correct.  

Because we voided the transaction before it was "batched" (Meaning the money was actually put into our account.) we weren't charged the processing fee.  Further research determined the shipping company is bogus.  Buyer IS the fraudulent shipping co. 

I just received another e-mail asking why I haven't sent the wire transfer. I am stringing them along at the moment.   

Amazing lengths these knuckleheads will go through.

Copyright  2011, Kevin Gillan

Saturday, April 16, 2011

White Leather Furniture - Yellow Staining

Recently two different clients forwarded pictures of their white leather furniture.  In both cases the symptom was the same.  A yellowing discoloration of the leather.  Here are two pictures.


In both cases the client put a skin cream on their legs and then sat in the leather seating.  The skin cream has coloring agents that will act as synthetic tanning agents.

As the tanning agent is a dye, it transfered from the occupant's skin into the leather, discoloring as shown.  There are no warning labels on the skin cream container.  Yet it will permanently discolor the color coat.  It would not be an issue on a dark leather as you wouldn't see the discoloration.  However on a light colored leather it is clearly a problem. 

It is not a cleaning issue as the leather has literally been recolored, just as was intended for the person's skin by the lotion with this tanning additive.  Trying to clean it is like trying to clean a tattoo from your skin.  

The correct solution is to match the color and color over the offended area.

Copyright 2011, Kevin Gillan 


Friday, April 15, 2011

Linkedin Group for Leather Technicians

At Advanced Leather Solutions our motto is "No Secrets."  As an "Open Source" company we are happy to share our knowledge. To that end, check out the Global Leather Repair Technicians discussion group on Linkedin. It is the brain-child of Lee Bryan, Technical Sales Advisor for Stahl Europe B.V. Lee works out of Barcelona, Spain where he ran his own leather repair and restoration business for years before he joined Stahl.  Here is the link for the group:


Whether deeply experienced or just a rookie, I recommend that you join.  It only takes a minute to sign up, yet it brings truly a world of  knowledge. Read through the discussions and jump in with your own tricks-of-the-trade, know-how and experience. Begin a new discussion with a topic of your own.  Let the entire global leather technician community learn from you, as you learn from them.  If you're new to the business or a seasoned tech, use this forum as a means of asking questions and seeking advice, learning from the invaluable experience of other pros. With broad participation, we can all thrive.     

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Leather Conditioning Tips

Upholstery grade leather has about 25% moisture content as it leaves the tannery.  This moisture content is typically natural oils like neetsfoot that is infused into the fiber structure imparting suppleness.  These oils are volatile, meaning they evaporate away overtime at a rate dependent on the humidity.  If you are in a very dry climate and the leather is exposed to direct sun or other heat source then the evaporation rate is considerably accelerated compared to a damp climate or where the leather is not exposed to a direct heat source like the warming sun.

As moisture evaporates from leather two things happen: 1. the leather shrinks due to lose of mass, and 2. the leather looses is internal lubrication.  In either case the affect is stiffening.  At some point, where the moisture content drops below 5% or so, the leather feels and behaves like a piece of cardboard.  This is its demise.

Leather conditioners contain replenishing oils.  The goal of conditioning leather then is instill lost oils to keep the moisture content elevated.  Consequently, this simple maintenance procedure prolongs the leather’s life.  It’s a pretty simple concept.  However, there is more to the story.  Here are some important considerations:

pH Issue.  pH measures acidity or alkalinity.  The range is from 1 to 14 with pure water being neutral at 7.0.  Leather is acidic.  It measures 4.5 to 5.0 on a pH scale.  Furthermore, the pH scale is logarithmic, meaning that each whole number is 10 times more or less acidic or alkaline than the next number in the scale.  When you mix two elements that have differing pH, a chemical reaction occurs.  In the case of leather, this chemical reaction accelerates the breakdown of leather fibers.  Therefore, any conditioner applied to leather should be pH balanced to leather so as not to damage the leather.

Coated (Pigmented) Leather.  Most leather has a surface color coating.  This coating is also covered with a clear coat providing protection and wear resistance.  So, if something spills on the leather, it is easily wiped up without penetrating and staining the leather.  These coatings are generally chemical engineered to have a certain degree of porosity, allowing the leather to breath.   However, the ability for a conditioning agent to penetrate through this protective barrier is a challenge.  This is particularly true with automobile grade leather.  For automobile leather, the most effective procedure is to warm the leather up a bit (leave the car in the sun for a few hours) before you apply a conditioner.  Warming the leather reduces viscosity allowing a higher absorption potential. Then, aggressively massaging the conditioner into the leather will help.

Over conditioning.  If a little is good, then a lot must be better, right?  A common mistake is to apply too much conditioner.  Think of a sponge fully laden with water.  Adding more water is not possible.  This is also true with leather.  If the moisture content is at its maximum, then adding more conditioner does nothing except to sit on the leather surface, drying over time and turning sticky and gooey.

Old, Desiccated  Leather.  If old leather has lost most of its moisture then it can be a huge mistake to attempt to revive it by adding conditioner (moisture).  Think of a piece of cardboard that gets wet.  It turns the cardboard fibers to mush.  The same is true for leather.  If your leather is old and dried out, the best strategy is to leave it alone and consult a professional.  There are specific chemistries that can be used to prolong the life of old leather.  The run-of-the-mill conditioner is not one of them.

When to Condition.  As in over conditioning, if the leather is new, then it has a full compliment of moisture.  There is no reason to condition as it hasn’t had time to loose its moisture.  As a general rule, begin conditioning leather after 6 months to a year.  And then re-apply every 3 to 6 months depending how dry the environment.  In certain cases a more frequent regimen is appropriate like in the summer months of a desert climate.

How to Apply.  Generally, a thin coating is sufficient. Apply the conditioner to a soft cloth, massaging into the cloth and then wipe over the target leather. If the leather is heavily coated, then massage the leather with the conditioner.

Leather That Should Not Be Conditioned.  Be very careful with suede or nubuck leather.  While they will loose moisture as well, conditioning them in a standard procedure runs to risk of staining the leather.  It can leave the leather looking blotchy, thus destroying the aesthetic appeal.  Additionally, delicate leather like calf or lamb skin should be treated cautiously. 

The most important consideration is to be sure that you are doing the right thing with whatever maintenance products you use on leather.  In the end it's always wise to consult with a professional.

Copyright  2011, Kevin Gillan

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why doesn't the color match perfectly?

Color matching is an art form.  However, there is a bit of science to consider as well.  Here are exerts of an e-mail sent to me from a leather technician experiencing the frustration of color matching.

"I can't understand why the color is really far off, yet it also changes drastically, depending on the type of lighting. For example, the pictures I sent you only show what the color looks like in the Sun, yet when in person (No Camera) it actually appears to be the exact opposite. Meaning the untouched cushion is actually deeper (more red and/or Organic Brown tones), and the one that I re-finished, is lighter and less Reddish tones.
"...it changes according to the light I view it under.  I can get it pretty close outside in the sun, however, when I bring it in under all types of House lighting, it changes drastically and does not look close to matching." 

So what's going on?   

One word...  Metamerism.

Read my blog entry from about two years ago.  http://advleather.blogspot.com/search?q=metamerism

The solution is to match in the dominant lighting source of the room where the furniture is located and forget about all other locations (like outside in the sun) as they don't matter.  If there are differing lighting sources inside, then pick the dominant source.

Keep in mind, the eye of a professional leather technician is highly tuned.  Unless the pieces are literally touching  each other, most people will not notice a slight difference.  What they'll see is how the refinished piece looks compared to what it looked like before.  

I always caution a client that if I do a partial refinish and not all the furniture there will be a "newness factor."  The original color will have oxidized to some degree. Furthermore, there will have been some fading, particularly if there are any red tones in the original.  The red will be leached out to some degree as reds always fade the fastest.  Therefore, the newly refinished leather will appear different than the pieces that were not refinished.

This is a key learning experience in color matching, particularly with mottled colors.  If you have a color variation affect, you will always have this dilemma to one degree or another.  

The lesson learned is the lighting source is the most important element in perceived color. And, to complicate things further, the viewing angle also changes your eye's interpretation of the color.  The color shifts when viewed on a horizontal plan versus a vertical plan, like the back rest to the seat top of leather furniture.  This is called geometric metamerism.

Always prepare for this phenomena. 

Copyright  2011, Kevin Gillan 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Check out Thumbtack.com

Learn more about Advanced Leather Solutions products and services --- click 

For the professional leather technicians who read my blog, you should consider using Thumbtack.com as another web-based resource to promote your business.  It's easy to use.  Check it out.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Advanced Leather Solutions Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted to this blog.  As always there is a lot going on at Advanced Leather Solutions, so finding the time to share with you has been difficult.  Here’s a snap shot of what’s been going on for the past few months.

Our new production facility is now fully operational.  Located in Anderson, CA, we have the benefit of much more affordable space than the high rent district we’ve occupied in the San Francisco Bay area.  We reduced the shop size in Hayward to help off-set the cost of expansion.  The Anderson shop is new, airy, with great light for color matching and our ongoing professional leather restoration process.  But most importantly, it’s close to Jason’s (our senior technician) home in Redding.  This has dramatically reduced his commuting time from hours to a few minutes. 

In February we conducted our first training program in our Anderson shop.  Antonio Aleman who runs Dr Vinyl of Puerto Rico attended.  With years of working on automobile grade leather and vinyl, Antonio came to us to learn about the world of furniture grade leather.   He’s now armed and ready for the leather wars in Puerto Rico.

In March we will be launching a new micro web-site singularly focused on leather paint.  We have great products that simply don’t get the exposure they should from our overly crowded original site http://www.AdvLeather.com.  The new site is still under development and when launched can be found at http://www.Leather-Paint.com.  Expect to see us up and running by the end of March.  We welcome your comments.

Our DIY Leather Solutions (http://DIYLeatherSolutions.com) program continues to supply leather repair and restoration solutions with remarkable results.   It’s indeed heartwarming for us to receive the consistent stream of positive feedback from our DIY client base.   We certainly have a proven, mature system. Thousands of people have been able to restore their old, tired looking leather back to like new.
In our market of Northern California, we offer choices.  We can do the work for the client or they can take on the project. Clients truly like that choice.  For the frugal minded, it makes all the difference.   It’s truly a win-win.   

Other leather technicians have seen the merit.  Leather professionals around the US and elsewhere have picked up the system and incorporated it into their solutions arsenal.  We offer our kits to professionals at a considerable discount.  They make the sale, profit a bit from it and we help them through support of the client.   Again, it’s win-win.

People are now connecting the dots in other ways.  They are going to CraigsList,  consignment stores, Goodwill and other such outlets, finding furniture that has good bones but the leather looking a little shabby, faded, etc.  Then with our help and our DIY system, they are turning furniture destined for the land fill into gems.  It certainly demonstrates the “renewable” nature of our work.

We are steadily building an increased presence with our YouTube channel.  Video documentation is a very powerful tool.  We are strong believers in visual references for our clients.  Whether it’s solving severe cat claw damage or simply restoring the color to a favorite old leather belt, with video you have the visual reference showing how to perform a specific function.

In the last week of February, I was invited as a speaker for the clients and guests of the Design Within Reach (DWR) Berkeley, CA showroom.  The topic was Caring for Classics.  I presented some simple tips on how to prolong the life of leather furniture.  As always, when I do this sort of seminar there was an extensive question and answer period as people were asking specifics about their own furniture.  It continues to demonstrate that there is a hunger for useful information and a deep lack of knowledge at the end-user level about proper care strategies for leather. 

We continue to strive to be an unbiased information source for both professional leather technicians and consumers.  We pride ourselves in answering questions in a clear and concise manner.  We don’t believe in holding back.  In fact, we strongly adhere to the principle of “No Secrets” as was the theme of our last Professional Leather Technician’s Symposium. 

As always, we’re here to help.  Call me directly, 510-786-6059 or send me an e-mail and I will respond.

Copyright 2011 Kevin Gillan