Relying on the factory’s built in protection may not be enough if you’re planning to keep your car’s interior in like-new shape for years to come. Jim Dvorak, a car care specialist at Mothers, offers advice in this interview with Justin Pritchard.

Doesn’t the factory treat leather seats with protectants so that owners don’t have to? Should something be applied to keep them looking new? Is there a golden rule for leather care?

Some factory leathers do have a coating to protect the finish to an extent – though they should also be maintained. A thorough vacuuming of the surfaces, and especially the seams, will help to remove grit which may damage the finish. A routine cleaning and conditioning should still be carried out, too. Some premium leathers benefit from dedicated conditioners with natural oils, while others can get by with a combination cleaner and conditioner.

What’s the best sort of cleaner for leather to keep it looking great and lasting? What should be avoided?

A mild cleaner is always best if it can do the job, regardless of the surface you’re addressing. Don’t overdo the cleaning of leather or you may over-wet or abrade the finish. Just a light cleaning is good, enough to remove the soil. A leather cleaner sprayed on a lightly-dampened cotton terry or microfiber cloth with a quick wipe will do in many circumstances. A leather conditioner should follow. One-step products are available as well, if a light cleaning and conditioning in one step is desired.

Aside from cleaning and protecting, are there any other general tips to keep leather looking great?

Be careful of what you wear or wear on your belt, how you enter and exit the vehicle, and what you set on the seats.

Mothers Leather CleanerMothers Leather ConditionerArmorAll Interior Products
Mothers Leather Cleaner, Mothers Leather Conditioner, ArmorAll Interior Products. Click image to enlarge

Is it true that some vinyl / plastic protectants can actually damage materials over time? If so, what’s important to look out for?

There are many myths about vinyl protectants – and some of them find their origins many years ago when some products were made of ingredients that did cause problems. The rumors were continued by people who used products as a last ditch effort to revive their sun-beaten dashboard, only to find it became cracked and not realizing the pressure of applying the product accelerated the aging process. In other words, they used the product too late. Quality brands today use modern ingredients which are safe, so these myths from years ago are no longer valid.

Although your vehicle’s interior plastics and vinyl aren’t exposed to the same environmental harshness as its paint, they can still become damaged and worn because of neglect. Regular maintenance is important – though the same chemical may not be suitable for both hard and soft plastics. A penetrating protectant is best for soft or non-glossy plastics, while a plastic polish is ideal for hard or shiny plastic. And remember that plastic products should be applied to a towel first, to prevent unintended spots from winding up on the vehicle’s glass.

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