7 Main Reasons Why Leather Couches Peel

Leather couch in a living room

Many people opt for leather furniture under the impression that it’s going to last a lifetime, but that’s not always the case.

So, why do leather couches peel?

Peeling Of Leather Couches

A leather couch peels when it’s extremely dried out or exposed to too much sunlight. Other reasons are overcleaning with harsh chemicals, poor leather quality, pet scratches, and rough usage.

Whether you want to find out why your recliner is peeling, or you’re looking to protect a new one, we’ve got you covered! Let’s dig in!

7 Top Reasons Why Leather Couches Peel

Leather should be one of the sturdiest textile options there is, and yet, it’s not uncommon for people to find that their couches are flaking all over.

Let’s take a closer look at the common causes of peeling in leather couches.

1. You’re Not Moisturizing Your Couch Enough

People tend to forget that real leather is just skin and very susceptible to drying.

That’s why we can never stress enough the importance of keeping your leather furniture well moisturized.

Not only does it help the patina shine and look supple, but it also prevents peelings.

You can either opt for store-bought leather conditioners or use traditional hydrating oils.

Mink, neatsfoot, lemon, coconut, and olive oils are all valid options.

All you need to do is add a small amount to a lint-free cloth and spread it in circular motions over the couch.

You can even use your hands to get to all the little spots around the cushions and armrests.

Ideally, every part should be coated with a thin, even layer.

Once you’re done, wipe the excess away and let the conditioner soak in overnight.

You might need to repeat this process every month until the peeling problem disappears.

After that, you can settle for one session every six months or so.

2. The Indoor Humidity Is Too Low

When the humidity level is low, the air sucks up the moisture from the leather pores.

Over time, this will cause the surface to crack and peel.

Just keep in mind that excessive humidity isn’t good for your couch, either.

Besides leaving the surface feeling very sticky and uncomfortable, it could lead to molding in all the nooks and crannies of the recliner.

In most cases, going for a relative humidity level between 40% and 60% is a good idea for leather products.

However, you might want to double-check the manufacturer’s recommended conditions for the material.

To tackle this, you’ll first need to get a portable digital hygrometer to get a sense of the moisture content in the room.

If it reads lower than 40%, you can either get a small room humidifier or adjust your AC/HVAC settings to the correct parameters.

3. Sunlight Is Cracking Up The Leather

If the relative humidity level is alright and you’re conditioning the leather, harsh sunlight might be the culprit behind the peeling.

It heats the surface, sucks up moisture, and ruins the texture with UV.

Not only that, but the intense sun could also fade the leather pigment over time, leaving you with a dull-looking patina.

The easiest and most obvious fix here would be to close the drapes at noon when the sun is at its peak.

However, that’s not very practical for many households.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to keep the warmth and light out, you can just get a UV-protective film or a low-emissivity coating for your glass panels.

This way, you’ll soften the heat intensity and reduce the damage without blocking the view.

It goes without saying that leaving your leather couch outdoors during the day—even for a short period—could cause it to crack and peel.

4. The Leather Quality Is Poor

Couch with low quality leather

You don’t have to worry all that much about peeling with a well-maintained real leather couch. It’s the poor-quality ones that you need to watch out for.

The issue is that many people don’t even know which types of leather are considered poor.

That’s because, more often than not, what’s labeled as genuine leather will only be a bonded mush of discarded bits and pieces.

While it’s possible to slow down the peeling with DIY repair and seal kits, a bonded leather couch with several bare batches is usually too far gone to save.

The cost will be far more than what the recliner is actually worth.

Similarly, split and fake leather will also flay very quickly at the slightest inconvenience.

In fact, synthetic pleather furniture made from PVC or PU might not even last a couple of years with some people.

5. You’re Breaking The Sealant With Overcleaning

If you’re 100% sure that your couch is genuine leather, the peeling might just be bits of sealant that you rubbed away with overcleaning.

The sealant is a top coating or pigment finish that manufacturers use during the treatment process.

It could break down with organic solvents and flake to pieces.

The good news is that it isn’t all that hard to fix the top layer with a spray-on sealant from the manufacturer.

After that, you’ll have to cut back on the use of detergents and aggressive cleaning routines.

Don’t get us wrong, though. You still need to tackle the stains right away.

However, it’s usually enough to wipe with as little water or scrubbing as possible.

In most cases, just going over the fresh spill with a lint-free cloth will get the job done nicely.

Other than that, here’s a list of harsh cleaners to avoid around leather:

  • Ammonia,
  • Bleach,
  • Rubbing alcohol (present in some types of baby wipes and hairspray),
  • Acetone (nail polish remover),
  • Alkaline detergents, and
  • Concentrated soaps that leave residues behind.

6. Your Pets Are Scratching The Couch

If you have overly curious pets, they could be the reason why your furniture is deteriorating, either by scratching or biting the leather.

Although top-grain hide is pretty sturdy, a cat’s claw can still scratch through the surface sealant and into the leather itself.

Once there’s a small tear, the surrounding area might start to flake.

Of course, armchairs or couches of poor-quality synthetic pleather will be more susceptible to this.

Protective furniture covers could help with this issue, but they tend to take away from the sleek aesthetic of the leather couch.

7. You’re Being Too Rough With The Couch

It’s not just pets that can be a bit rough around leather.

Sometimes, we forget to give our valuable couches the treatment they deserve.

If none of the reasons above apply to your case, maybe the leather saw some intense friction recently.

A key chain, sharp cutlery, sandpaper, toys, and stiff brushes could ruin the top layer and make the leather more susceptible to scratching and peeling.

Depending on how sturdy the material is on your couch, you need to control the level of wear and tear.

Genuine leather will handle the most abuse, but it’s also quite pricey, so you might want to be a little gentle around it.

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