What does it mean if leather absorbs water?

Water absorption indicates the type of leather, its condition, and how it should be cleaned.

Water will be absorbed by:

  • nubuck,
  • suede,
  • aniline leather,
  • semi-aniline leather, and
  • faux leather made of polyester or microfiber.

Water will bead upon or be repelled by:

  • finished leather,
  • vinyl,
  • bonded and some types of faux leather.

Learn more about types of leather here.

All absorbent materials / areas should be cleaned only with a solvent like denatured or rubbing alcohol.

Non-absorbent materials should be cleaned more aggressively. Use our Flite® cleaner to remove water-soluble dirt and grime. Follow with a solvent like denatured or rubbing alcohol, even lacquer thinner, to remove oil, conditioner or wax. Note that damaged or worn areas may reveal the underlying suede or fabric backing which absorb water and should be cleaned only with a solvent.

Cleaning is unlikely to remove stains, but a pigmented finish can be used to hide stains on aniline, semi-aniline, pigmented leather, and vinyl.

Rub ‘n Restore® finishes are paints, not dyes. They will add a thin, protective finish. Leather that feels very warm and velvety, like aniline, will slightly cool as a result. For this reason, we discourage using our products on nubuck or suede, but we have had customers do it. The leather will continue to breathe. While it may still exhibit absorbent qualities, it will be more fade and stain-resistant.

Ash Dye on Nubuck before and after photos

While the product is not designed for nubuck and suede, I experimented on this sofa with the ash color and got great results. I used a mixture of one part Ash, one part Clear Prep, and one part distilled water. First I rubbed on a thin, light coat with sponge. It looked awful. Sponged on another 4-5 coats, and looks good. Doesn’t feel stiff or unnatural either.” – George Allred

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  1. We purchased some of your midnight blue restore color. After watching your videos I am a bit concerned. We purchased a leather furniture set probably 25 years ago. Sofa and love seat are still in perfect shape however the chair and hassock have had problems for years. Is there a way I can send you photos to see what you think.

    If I understand our damage I should clean with rubbing alcohol, apply the clear and then stain and finish with applying the clear again? How can I send a few pictures to you to look at.



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