Fabric and leather lounge chairs add class to your backyard, patio, or deck. While some people swear by leather seats outdoors, others recoil at the thought. Since genuine leather furniture is quite pricey, anyone would research its durability before putting them outside.
Good quality leather seats are durable and can last for more than ten years out in the open. Typically, leather is easy to maintain and more repellent to dirt and stains than other fabrics, making it a great choice for high-traffic areas. However resilient as leather may be, prolonged exposure to outdoor elements and poor maintenance can deteriorate any material.
Below we talked about if the leather is a suitable outdoor furniture fabric, how long it will last outdoors, and factors that will ruin it. We will also look at some maintenance tips and suggest other material alternatives.
Can you use leather furniture outdoors?
You can use genuine leather furniture outdoors. However, it has to be a well-shaded, well-ventilated place, away from direct sunlight and constant contact with water. This is because outdoor conditions can cause real leather to crack, discolor and stain.
Leather is one of the more durable, low-maintenance materials for interior furnishings. For example, leather seats can last anywhere from five years to a lifetime. But how long they last depend on several factors.
Also, the quality of leather and how well you care for the material will affect its durability in the long run and how it withstands the elements. The higher grades of leather are tougher and also wear well over time.
What will ruin outdoor leather furniture the fastest?
Leather is a naturally tough material due to its curing process; therefore, it holds well to everyday use. It has some degree of water resistance, is easy to clean, and doesn’t accumulate dust or pet fur like other fabric types. However, the outdoor elements are a lot harsher. Here are some things that can ruin the leather furniture on your deck or patio.
Direct sunlight and heat
Excess exposure to direct sunlight will affect the color and make the fabric look old and worn. In addition, dark leather will fade more as they absorb more light. Once leather starts to fade, re-dying it becomes more difficult and expensive. To prevent this, do not put dark leather furniture outside.
Heat and sunlight also cause the moisture and natural oils in the leather to evaporate slowly, causing stiffening and cracking. Unfortunately, you can’t rehydrate dried-out leather.
Therefore preventive care is the best way to maintain your outdoor leather furniture. Clean and condition your leather with a commercial leather conditioner. Also, ensure your leather patio or deck furniture are under the shade.
Extreme changes in temperature
Exposing your leather furniture to extreme temperature changes will also damage your leather. For example, in extremely cold weather, moisture will seep into the air pockets in the leather and turn into tiny crystals, making the leather stiff and bristle.
When the weather changes and becomes hot, the ice crystals will melt. These temperature changes will cause the leather to stretch slightly when it’s warm and contracts aging when the weather is cold, causing the leather to crack and wrinkle.
This can also damage the seams, stitching, and places with creases or folds. Similar to excess heat, extremely cold weather can also dry out your leather furniture. The air pockets in the leather will fill with water crystals instead of moisturizing oils.
You can prevent this by conditioning your leather furniture regularly with a quality leather conditioner to protect the leather against temperature changes.
Leather has some water resistance properties; however, it’s not waterproof. This means that leather can withstand a few sprinkles of water and mild rain shower due to its porous nature. But it doesn’t handle drenching properly.
First, drenched leather has a texture change from supple to brittle, hard, and heavy. This happens when the water seeps into the fabric and binds with the natural oil molecules. When the water evaporates and carries the oil molecules, it leaves you with dry and brittle leather.
Another negative effect of water on leather is if wet leather doesn’t dry properly, mold and mildew can grow fast and develop a musty odor.
Stains and dust
Putting your leather furniture in the open will collect more stains and dirt compared to indoor leather furniture. Acidic stains such as bird droppings and food spillage will ruin your leather. Even if cleaned, it’s likely to leave undesirable marks.
Dust and dirt can also scratch the leather and ruin it. Repairing scratches on the leather can be quite expensive as it requires a professional.
Tips for caring for outdoor leather seats
If you insist on using your leather seats in the open, here are several effective tips to protect your leather seats.
- Keep the leather furniture away from direct sunlight. Ensure your deck, patio or backyard is well-shaded to prevent direct sunlight.
- Use a waterproof wax weekly to prevent water damage and keep your leather furniture indoors during cold and wet weather.
- Apply leather conditioners to protect your leather furniture and ensure it last longer. Quality leather conditioners create a tough barrier against dirt and grime during bad weather when applied correctly. It also moisturizes the leather, preventing drying and cracking.
- Clean spills and stains immediately with a damp cloth to preserve the material and prevent bad odor.
- Use soft cotton cloths when cleaning and conditioning to avoid scratching the leather.
- Keep the seats away from the fireplace; if you have one on your patio, it’s best to use another alternative.
- Cover the leather seats with a breathable fabric such as canvas. Like skin, it needs ventilation to prevent mildew, mold, and rot. Avoid plastic covers that won’t allow moisture to escape.
- Go for natural or neutral colors to avoid unnecessarily changing the hue of your leather.
Other alternatives for outdoor leather furniture
Leather furniture lasts much longer than typical fabric couches. However, many outdoor fabric alternatives exist if you’re concerned about putting your leather furniture outdoors. The best outdoor furniture fabrics include:
- Marine vinyl
Now you know how long your leather furniture will last outdoors. All in all, there are better options than leather for outdoor furniture as it doesn’t tolerate water damage, sunlight, heat, mold and mildew growth, stains, and dust properly. It’s best to stick with fabrics specifically designed for outdoor use.