This guide will take you through step by step how to clean, re-colour and condition your classic car leather interior using the ProtexWorld leather care range. While we are using my own Rover to demonstrate the products, it is applicable to any leather interior or indeed leather furniture.
Having owned my 1959 Rover for 20 years, I decided the time had come to give its leather seats some attention. To the best of my knowledge the interior was untouched in the 40 years prior to my ownership, and the red interior had turned orange due to fading from sunlight. What’s more the leather seats were dry with some light cracking and grazing.
My first decision was whether to paint the leather and go for the ‘as new’ look or keep it looking original. Having seen some interiors where paint has been used to restore leather work, I felt the final effect has a tendency to look overly restored and too glossy. I also questioned how the leather could breathe properly and how future conditioning products could be applied effectively once the leather had been sealed by a layer of paint.
Taking the above into account, I was keen to find another solution, and so decided to try a coloured leather balm.
After experimenting with a number of cleaning products, I found that Protex Leather Cleaner worked well and does not use harsh chemicals found in many other cleaners.
The key was to use the cleaner with hot water and a soft brush, as using a stiff brush could cause damage by pulling on any loose leather. Using hot water opened up the pores of the leather – just like washing your own skin.
I worked a small area at a time, rinsing and wiping clean with a soft, white microfibre cloth to detect unwanted colour transfer. If or when this happened, I moved onto the next area. On completion, the Rover’s leather was clean, PH neutral and free from all previous care products.
I did consider using saddle soap or an animal-based conditioning oil. While these are suitable for coarse equine leather, they are unsuitable for the smooth leather found in classic car interiors, and once applied could have resulted in an overly-oiled surface that would be difficult to remove.
Once the base was clean, I had to decide whether to add colour to the faded and sun-damaged leather. I decided to stick with the Protex Range and use their red Protex Colour Restorer cream with the added benefit of masking some of the light cracking and grazing.
I found that the best way to apply the cream was to again work a small area at a time and apply many thin coats, rather than one thick one. I applied three coats, allowing a few hours between each, to allow it to really penetrate the leather.
Condition & Protect
The final stage of the process was to use a good quality leather conditioner to condition and protect the leather.
Quality is the key here as many cheaper products are simply emulsifiers that make the leather look shiny, but do little to condition and protect it. Again I used Protex Leather Conditioner, I found that a little went a long way and managed to apply three thin coats of conditioner to the car’s leather.
After all this work, maintaining the leather should simply be a case of reapplying the product annually. I hope this has shown that it is possible to clean and restore your leather interior, while keeping that all important original look.
The photo below shows the completed work.