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“Most of the leather upholstery in domestic cars of recent vintage is plastic coated.”

 - What’s this?
 - My car’s leather interior might be plastic coated?
 - How can I tell for sure?
 - And why haven’t I heard about this before?

If this is all NEWS to you, you’re not alone.

As you might imagine, the manufacturer of 303® Aerospace Protectant™ fields lots of questions about this subject.  “What do you mean by ‘finished’ and ‘unfinished’ leather?”, is a common question (referring to 303® Protectant’s label).  Another, “Can I use 303® Aerospace Protectant™ for both vinyl and my leather upholstery?” and, “Are 303® Products as good as other brand-name leather conditioners for my leather interior?” 

So, for this we first searched the web on the subjects of “coated” and “finished” automotive leather. Guess what? We discovered that your getting the straight scoop on this subject is somewhere between very difficult and impossible. So we decided to supply our customers and curious visitors with the facts, as is appropriate for a 303® Products Newsletter release and for a permanent place in TECH INFO.

All the quotations in this newsletter are from the article entitled "Caring for Leather Upholstery" in the trade publication, "Professional Carwashing & Detailing." Dr. Herndon Jenkins, an industry authority and Technical Director of the Lexol Division of Summit Industries, is the author.

“A Plastic Coating"

"Most of the leather upholstery in domestic cars of recent vintage is plastic coated.  The upper surface of such leather is ‘vinyl’.” 

“Leather upholstery in most European cars is 'naked' leather which has no protective finish.  The surface is that of the original hide. This leather 'breathes' and accepts conditioners applied to its surface.”

Dr. Jenkins explains how to tell the difference between “coated” and “naked" leather.  Referring to coated leather he states, “Such leather can be identified by the failure of a drop of water applied to its surface to be absorbed into the leather after a few minutes.”

Contrasting the ability of naked leather to absorb conditioners (and water) with coated leather, Dr. Jenkins states:  “While vinyl-coated leather is care free by virtue of its protective plastic surface, it is also inaccessible for purposes of maintenance.”  Meaning, of course, there is absolutely no point to using leather conditioners on plastic coated leather.

So, how should plastic coated leather be maintained?  According to Dr. Jenkins, “Such leather should be maintained exactly like vinyl upholstery.”

You are probably asking yourself, “If this is the case, what else do I need to know?”

Auto Leather SeatsCleverly anticipating your questions, we wanted to make sure this information is still current. So, we contacted Dr. Jenkins at his office in Atlanta. In our conversation Dr. Jenkins told us that in the years since the article was published coated leather has become more common than ever.  That now virtually 100% of leather upholstery in American and Asian-made cars is plastic coated.  Among European car makers naked leather upholstery is still much more common than with U.S. makes, but coated leather is becoming more prevalent there as well.

Trying to make sense of all this you might ask, “Where does that leave me on my car?” 

Well, you now know about vinyl coated leather.  And you know how to tell if your car’s leather is “coated” or “naked”, by testing with Dr. Jenkins' water-drop absorbency trick. 

What we can’t help you with is your one question, “Why didn’t I know about this before?” But we can take it from here on the subject of proper care for leather upholstery and interiors.

For “coated” or “finished” leather upholstery.  There is no better product for vinyl and other plastics than 303® Aerospace Protectant™. We quote from the article: You care for coated leather “exactly like vinyl upholstery."  

For “naked” or “unfinished” leather upholstery:  You can use Surf City Garages Leather Voodoo Blend Leather Rejuvendator.

A Little More…

This final tidbit is about leathers which are not used in auto upholstery, specifically the suede, deerskin and other absorbent leather used in fine garments. These are materials for which standard leather cleaners and conditioners are not appropriate. These leathers CANNOT be cleaned with water and must be sent to the dry cleaners.  An excellent choice to protect leathers such as these is 303® High Tech Fabric Guard.

High Tech Fabric Guard303® High Tech Fabric GuardTM is the world’s most manufacturer-recommended fabric protector and bonds with any natural or synthetic absorbent fiber.  Absorbent leather treated with 303® HT Fabric Guard resists soiling so it stays cleaner longer. In addition, 303® HT Fabric Guard protects such leathers against both water-based and oil-based stains.  303® HT Fabric Guard does this without affecting the appearance, texture or breathability of the material.