As a leather repair and restoration expert, I receive e-mails with photos from people all over the country and beyond. Sometimes they are seeking solutions for pretty dumb actions that have caused serious damage to their leather furniture. With 23 years experience inspecting leather furniture either on-site or in my leather restoration studio, I have also witnessed first-hand abuses and hear comments proving that idiocy is an occasional human phenomenon. Here is a list of my top ten dumbest in no specific order as any one can grab the top spot. Names are removed to protect their reputation.
1. I used my leather ottoman as an ironing board. The leather is totally shrunken and distorted. Can you help me?
2. I saw an article on the internet that said to use bleach to clean leather. It didn’t work so great. The leather is clean I guess, but it’s disintegrating on me. What can I do?
3. I steam cleaned my leather sofa with the upholstery attachment to my steam cleaner. The leather turned dark and seemed to have shrunk. Please help!!
4. I was practicing my golf swing and punched a hole in the back of my beautiful leather sofa. It was a 6 iron. Is this something you can fix?
5. I had a party and moved my love seat into my back yard. I had it too close to the barbecue. The whole back of my love seat got fried. What can I do?
6. My 3-year-old son got ink on my new leather cushion. After I disciplined him severely I tried to remove the ink with rubbing alcohol like it said to do on some web-site. The ink is still there but the leather color is gone. (The client brought the cushion in my shop. In this case, there was a hide scar on the leather and as is often the case, the scar tissue absorbed higher concentration of color making it darker than the surrounding leather, appearing to the client as an ink stripe. We restored the color to the alcohol afflicted area. The innocent child is still in therapy.)
7. Upon arrival to the client’s home to inspect for claimed defects in the leather of a huge new sectional, I noted a few dozen post-it notes scattered here and there on the leather. The client applied them to show all the “defects.” Upon examination of the first problem area, I pointed out that it was not a defect, rather a natural characteristic in the leather. She seemed confused. So I explained that the cow may have rubbed against barbed wire, causing the wound, and that it is fully healed hide scar and not a defect. She said; “What do you mean a cow?” I waved my arm toward the sectional and replied, “Ma’am you have a whole herd of cows here.” At which point she dropped to the floor, sobbing, “What have I done? What have I done?” Turns out she’s vegan and had no idea leather came from a cow. Opppps.
8. Asked to do a repair for transit damage in a client’s home, I arrived on site with my senior technician. The client is a prominent physician and was present upon arrival. He and his designer went off to another part of his house to discuss decor. With the assignment completed, I called him in and as he examined the repaired area, with a look of amazement exclaimed, “It’s gone. How did you do that?” Lightheartedly I said, “We use lasers.” He called out to his designer to see the repair. When she arrived, he said to her, “Look, the damage is gone. They use lasers to fix it.” I had to explain to the sheepish doctor that I was joking.
9. After carefully restoring a beautiful chair and ottoman in our Hayward shop, the client arrived in a pick-up truck to bring the pieces back to his home. He inspected the furniture and was delighted with the results. To prepare it for transit, we covered it in plastic and shrink-wrap as is our standard practice. The client and I loaded it into the back of his pick up I asked if he had rope to secure it. He assured me that he did. At which point my office phone rang. I turned back into my office to take the call. The client promptly left. On his way across the San Mateo Bridge, at 70 or so miles an hour, the unsecured furniture pretended to be a kite and silently lifted out of the bed of the truck, tumbling through the air like a wounded duck. Gravity took over. It flipped and turned and smashed and crashed. Road kill. 45 minutes later he was back in our shop with a severely damage piece including a broken frame. Cost to repair the damage exceeded the value of the piece. It remains in my shop as a relic and testament to the frailty of the human brain.
10. A client owns an auto detailing shop. His customer has a BMW with leather interior. The auto-detailer assigned the interior cleaning task to one of his grease monkey techs. Thinking it would be a fast and easy way to clean leather he grabbed his trusty engine degreaser and vigorously applied it to all leather components. Of course it pulled the color coat off, exposing the raw leather. (As an aside, here is a list of other chemicals that our clients were told by supposed experts would be proper for the cleaning of their leather — mayonnaise, acetone, milk, honey, baby oil, detergents of all types, saddle soap. )
Bonus award: Client called to say that he’s cleaned his sofa with 409. Upon full completion of the project he realized that 409 is far too aggressive and has severely distorted the color coating. He was shocked and was preparing to sue 409’s manufacturer. His reasoning for the suit was that there was no warning on the label not to use it on leather. When I pointed out to him that there was also no warning about using it on your face, he didn’t get the connection. Asked why he didn’t stop after he completed a section and noticed the damage, he explained that he thought when it fully dried it would return to normal. Duh!
The moral here is to think before you act and if in doubt at all, contact a qualified leather restoration professional for advice.