Why leather is the safest option

Hygiene and cleanliness have never been higher on the agenda. The recent focus on how germs, in their broadest sense, can be spread from hard surfaces and person to person will inevitably impact how materials are used in public transport, and indeed all vehicles.

It is timely to note that leather remains among the safest, most hygienic and sustainable materials in use today. The smooth finished surface of leather enables it to be easily and rapidly cleaned. This is a distinct advantage over other fabrics/textiles which can have a tendency to trap dirt. Leather is natural, sustainable, comfortable and robust.

We have striven to make not only the most luxurious but the safest, most high-performing leather on the market for over 180 years. Now, in the current coronavirus-driven climate, conversations with our customers are naturally leaning towards the future of antiviral protection.

As a responsible and ethical manufacturer we are mindful of the claims of anti-viral properties with regards to leather and are approaching this subject from three key perspectives: Firstly, how can our leather be cleaned most effectively? Secondly, what after-treatments for our leather may exist? Thirdly, what might we introduce into the tanning or processing chemistry to give our finished leather improved anti-viral properties in the future?

We have always advised that the safest way to clean your precious leather is with lukewarm soapy water. It remains the least damaging approach even now, for the environment as well as for the leather. That said, we recognise that increased public health concerns mean our customers want to know what other products they can safely use.

Our customers need to know what cleaning solutions currently exist that will kill a virus without damaging the surface or performance of their leather. What products can be used and how, and what products should be avoided. Our testing lab is conducting an extensive study to provide this information to our customers.

Our communications team have been very active ensuring that advice is reaching our customers and that they can pass information on to their end users about the most effective products to use.

Our experienced product development team are investigating the introduction of antiviral treatments in our tanning and finishing processes. We will be very selective around the chemistry used from an environmental standpoint and extensive testing will be required before making any claims of a truly antiviral leather.

We anticipate increased scrutiny from design and procurement teams on the materials they specify for their vehicles. In an age which sees a wide range of options available, from textiles to synthetic materials, we remain confident that the natural hygiene, comfort, cleanability, durability, and flame-retardant qualities of leather will ensure that leather remains the natural choice for safety and sustainability.

Scottish Leather Group supplies many industry leaders including Emirates, British Airways, Irish Rail, Ryanair and Etihad with flame retardant products. Leather has inherent advantages in flame resistance over untreated fabrics, though some treatments are still required to meet the stringent requirements of the aviation, rail and other mass transit markets. Leather’s natural qualities help us minimise the chemicals required to achieve those rigorous specifications and we are committed to the goal of offering even more environmentally friendly flame-retardant leather options in the near future.

Post-coronavirus we expect some pressure on price in the industries that we service, so our commitment to innovation will become increasingly important. We intend to continue leading developments in anti-viral and fire safety, hygiene, cleanability and durability properties in the most sustainable way. There is still plenty of innovation in the leather manufacturing industry and we want to be leading those innovations for another 180 years.

Simon Cook

Simon Cook
Technical Director, Scottish Leather Group