Mystery Leather Damage?

leather damage

Everyone who has had an inside pet has experienced what an animal can do to your home in one way or another, but sometimes it just isn’t their fault.

I get calls throughout the Spring and Summer about a mysterious color loss in areas on leather furniture. The good people with the complaint are usually very upset about the “defect” in the leather color on their furniture. I have fielded calls where this color loss has happened within one week from the delivery. They have spent hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars on furniture that now looks horrible; and now it’s time for the retailer to replace it.

What has happened?

Although many things can cause color loss on leather, I can usually tell who or what is at fault by looking at some photographs. Sometimes it is a manufacturer’s issue that compromises the durability. An inferior hide can lose color with normal usage, but this usually takes months. This is easily determined because the color loss happens gradually and is most noticeable on seams and wrinkles in high traffic areas. If it is not a manufacturing issue, then the loss of color is usually from something that has happened in the home.

There are many types of leather hides, but I will mainly focus on “pigmented” hides for this discussion. Pigmented hides are popular for their durability in color. They are coated with a flexible urethane color with a grain pattern that has been embossed into the hide. They are usually placed on furniture in areas where the body makes contact and matched with vinyl on the sides and backs. They can be any color such as black, burgundy, white, etc.  The pigmented topcoat resists spills from common drinks very well and can be easily cleaned with soap and water, but some chemicals will react with them. Flea and tick topical treatments for pets will literally strip the color right off the surface. There is no warning about this on the label of any product I have seen.


If you have treated your pet with any common flea treatment, you must keep them off the leather for at least 2 hours or until the treatment has dried. The chemistry in many commercially available pet flea medications is not friendly to leather; creating bleaching or discoloration damage on contact. The most common description is a smearing of the color and total color loss in the central area of damage. No leather is safe from these product due to the solvent that is used in them. If you notice the damage immediately, the areas will be quite sticky… but it is too late. Do not try to wipe it off because you will do more damage. Just let it sit until the surface is dry to the touch.

Fortunately, the damage can be repaired by a skilled leather repair service, but this could be expensive depending on how extensive it is. I have see small areas on the footrest of recliners that a dog has laid against while he was on the floor, to several areas all over an sofa where the pet has laid and rubbed their neck and back. Either way, it is disheartening when it happens. An ounce of prevention can save hundreds of dollars. So beware. Keep your animals in another room after application.



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