Saturday, 5 August 2017

“Connolly Leather Cleaning and Care”

Used on the upholstery on some of the most celebrated prestigious car companies. This type of top-grain premium un-finished leather was mostly used in prestige European automobiles; Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lotus, Lexus and Rolls Royce, US Cadillac and high-end German automobiles such as; Audi, BMW, Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche,. This is the market sector both Leatherequi and Connolly were originally formulated   Who at the time considered Connolly leather to be the only acceptable leather for their cars. Thay all later switched to a protected finished leather (Mico Pigment)

Connolly Leather Company (1878 – 2002)
The company was founded by the brothers Samuel Frederick, formerly a medical student, and John Connolly in Euston Road in 1878. Each had been left £1,000, which they had put into what is believed to have been the first "while-you-wait" shoe repair company, a fact which annoyed their conventional competitors, who retaliated by breaking their windows

The brothers branched into the selling and eventually into the making of harnesses; Samuel Frederick used to load a pony and trap full of samples to tour around the South Coast of England taking orders, and would then dash back to the workshop to complete them. This brought the Connolly's into contact with the leading coachbuilders, who began to buy hides from them for carriage hoods, wings, and dashes.

Soon the company was employing teams of experts who visited the coachbuilders, Hansom cabs, in particular, receiving their attention, wetted hides being shrunk on to the bodywork by means of a crude form of "dope". From exterior leather work, Connolly expanded into upholstery for horse-drawn vehicles and railway carriages.

When coach-builder's turned their attention to "horseless carriages", so too did the Connolly’s, but it was Frederick Ignatius, the eldest of Samuel Frederick's four sons, who joined the firm in 1912, who pushed them properly into the world of the motor car.

Most of the hides used by Connolly's came from Scandinavia, where the quality was better because the cattle spent most of their lives inside to escape bad weather. Nor were the Scandinavian hides threatened to the same extent with damage from barbed wire
This English tannery had been producing and supplying highly finished, vat dyed leather primarily to car manufacturers at two plants, Northampton and Ashford, Kent.  

The term is also used to describe the particular brand of the leather itself, when fitted in a car interior, as an expression of the quality and luxury status of the vehicle. Only the highest quality top grain (the top 0.05 inches of the hide) was selected for their use, this grade of leather is now only used in less than 5% of automobiles).

Automobile Interior Environment
The interior environment of an automobile can be extremely demanding on any material used. Temperatures range from hot dry summer days to freezing nights. Both high and low humidity, even air conditioning that cools, but also dries. Leather's greatest enemies are; sun, heat, body oils, perspiration (that contains urea as well as organic salts and acids) and body heat, which causes acids to become more aggressive and alters the viscosity of oils, allowing them to permeate the leathers finish, and ultra violet radiation (UV), which dries the hide, fades the colour by bleaching, and can cause the leather to fail by drying out the fibres causing the urethane and/or the hide to crack.

The use of oils, replacement of fat liquor, oil-based conditioning, proteins or the adjustment of pH levels is totally unnecessary; the surface is a urethane that contains pigmentation (colour) it neither needs or benefits from any of the above.

Hide Food - this product is NOT suitable for use with finished leather.  It was formulated for a specific type of finish that is no longer applied to modern automobile upholstery.

Colour Application
To apply colour a base coat of the chosen colour was sprayed on the hide in an automatic spray booth, from which it was then fed through a dryer. A special roller machine then massaged the leather to put back the suppleness before the final finish was applied in a huge fully-automated spray plant and oven. The most popular Rolls colour over the decades was Magnolia. Some hides, including those used by Jaguar, were given a Luxon antiquing treatment, which involved swabbing a contrasting dye over the proper finish to highlight the grain.

Connolly Autolux Range
This premium leather was the flagship of the Connolly range used for decades by Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Jaguar and much more. Supple and naturally finished but with no embossed grain, it is specially tanned to retain its shape and durability and has a vast range of colours. 

The leather finish used was a Nitrocellulose lacquer, which requires oils for it to remain flexible otherwise it will crack. This is where the ‘feeding’ paint/leather comes from It has also been used in the House of Commons and Windsor Castle and is favored by interior designers and boat manufacturers.

Connolly Leather ceased trading in June 2002, but their leather renovation products (replacement leather hides, pigmentation, dyes and etc) can still be obtained from Leather Care Renovations, UK 
The leather comes from German Bavarian bulls, as they are larger, or sometimes from other bulls reared in Argentina or South Africa. Leather's major attribute is its ability to breathe, which it does even better than wool. This means not just its permeability to air but its permeability to water vapour, so allowing the absorption of perspiration and warmth.

Thus it feels warm in winter and cool in summer, yet doesn't become hot and sticky. On the other hand, whilst it absorbs water vapour it doesn't readily absorb liquid so rain will not harm it and a damp cloth can be used to keep it clean.

Connolly Hide Care

 [Since 1878 Connolly Leather has supplied fine leather to some of the most celebrated car companies. Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Jaguar, Maserati and Rolls Royce consider Connolly leather to be the only acceptable leather for their cars. Connolly Leather also graces the seats and interiors of many luxury liners, the British House of Commons and the House of Lords. Connolly Hide Care is a traditional lanoline based bees' wax treatment for fine leather goods, upholstery and clothing.] 

Made by Connolly Brothers, established since 1878, a leader manufacturer of leather tanners and curriers, this cleaner/conditioner made of lanolin (a natural substance used in soaps, cosmetics, and ointments) is the best leather protector on the market, recommended for cleaning and preserving Connolly Hide, upholstery, clothing and leather goods. This has been known to be the leather conditioner of choice by European automotive enthusiast.

I tried Connolly Hide Treatment on a Ferrari interior as they produced the leather used in this vehicle and worked on the seats several times over several months, with no noticeable improvement. I could not obtain a tactile feel try as I might.

I then tried Leatherequi, Lexol, Eagle, and others, hoping to soften the leather, making it feel more like newer Ferraris. It looked great but didn’t feel great. I couldn’t seem to make it better. Someone with similar experience told me that back in those years, Ferrari bought Connolly’s lowest grade of leather, and chalked it up to that.

When I found out the problem wasn’t the leather. It’s that Connolly used a solid pigment mixed with cellulose lacquer coating on the leather, essentially sealing the leather, making it almost impossible for leather treatments to penetrate past the surface. One of the problems with cellulose lacquer coating is that they tend to dry out and become inflexible

This is the niche market sector that oil-based products like Leatherique Rejuvenator Oil, Pristine Clean, and Connolly Hide Food were originally formulated for.

Connolly Hide Food was specifically developed by the Connolly Leather Company to help keep the nitrocellulose finishes they used then supple to stop them cracking, not the leather. However, once the finishes have worn off, this is the porous hide itself exposed and the lanoline, white spirit and wax it contains will only rot the leather further. As it was originally synthetic oil, not wax that was originally added to the hide, during tanning which has dried out, this needs to be reapplied.

Pre-test Spot Procedures

Diagnosis is the key, not guess work. Before using a cleaning product a detailer needs to know the material they are working on, what they are trying to remove and wither the product chosen is compatible with the material and will not damage it.

With all cleaning products, always test a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it won't discolor or stain the surface, and ensure that the pH of the product is suitable for the material. As can be seen, stain removal requires some knowledge of basic chemistry.

Surface checks
· Identifying characteristics 
· The water-drop absorbency test
· Absorbency rate

Read the product labels and manufacturers safety data sheets (MSDS) to obtain a basic idea of contents, pH levels etc. Depending on the pH of the product you use you should return the surface to neutral (pH 7.0) before you apply any dressing or protective products.

Always select a chemical/cleaner that are biodegradable, environmentally friendly and safe to use by observing any precautions recommended so that they won’t harm you, your vehicle or the environment. Read the product labels and manufacturers safety data sheets (MSDS) to obtain a basic idea of contents, pH levels etc.

Testing cleaners on an inconspicuous area is the best way to ensure there are no surprises as to its effect, but be cognizant that it may not react in exactly the same way as a heavily soiled area or that has been subjected to UV-B radiation (faded) When spraying any surface with a liquid, it is always advisable to spray a small area first (test area) then allow to dry to make sure the solution does not react with the surface.

Providing the cleaning product selected is suitable, apply several drops of the selected cleaning solution onto a 100% cotton micro fibre towel and rub gently. Do not over wet. Use small amounts of the product and blot frequently, do not rub or use too much pressure.

Do not use the product if it adversely changes the surface colour or texture.
There are two cleaning-related factors that can cause your leather to wear prematurely.  The first is dirt, and the second is oil, combined they become very abrasive, as dirt/grit and subsequent friction cause the finish to wear. Use an aqueous (water- based) foam cleaner (Leather Master™ Foam Cleaner) a foaming action makes it especially safe for Aniline, heated seats and perforated finished leather surfaces. Foam encapsulates the dirt so that it can then be wiped away; allow the foam to dwell to ensure the chemicals have time to work.

For stubborn dirt use Leather Master™ Strong Cleaner or Optimum Power Clean ™, which can be diluted with distilled water to the required strength; do not apply any liquid cleaning product directly to the surface of finished leather, as it may ‘spot’ clean leaving a faded area Always apply cleaning products to folded 100% cotton micro fibre towel and then apply using light / medium pressure.

For ingrained soil the best results are obtained by cleaning the leather with a sponge or a medium soft bristled brush to agitate the cleaner, this ensures a thorough cleaning. Place a damp micro fibre towel in the microwave and heat for a few minutes - until they are really hot but not so hot that you can't touch them. Place on the seats and leave for a few minutes, this should lift/loosen any ingrained dirt. Leather Master Soft, a water-based product will help to restore surface flexibility

This was a very popular practice pioneered by Connolly Brothers many years ago, it basically involves applying new coats of dye to a previously cleaned and prepared leather surface, we used the Connolly system ourselves in the 1970s and we soon noticed not just one, but many faults with the system.

The Connolly system first involved scrubbing the leather with Ammonia based cleaner diluted with water. This stripped the leather of dirt and any remaining natural oils. When dry, the leather was rock hard and shrunk, plus our hands were in a similar state. Then you applied a cellulose based dye, this made the leather even harder, and the cellulose solvent attacked the nylon in the stitching. 

Finally, you had to “soften” the leather using Connolly “Hide Food”, a thick paste that was supposed to soften the leather. You had to leave it overnight to “work”, but it didn’t, we had to polish it off before handing it over to the customer, with the interior smelling of cellulose paint!
Connolly’s did bring out a water based dyes in the late 90’s, but the system was the same, it looked good for a few months then degenerated.

Why the Connolly system was not a “common sense” approach?
Firstly, you made it hard and dry with the cleaner. Then harder with a solvent based dye that weakened the already worn stitching. Finally, you had to try to soften the leather with a thick paste that cannot penetrate the dye. The result was that the leather soon cracked and returned to a shabby state. This system of cleaning was obviously badly flawed.

The company also sold leather-care products; restoring leather is sometimes known as "Connollising", thanks to the reputation of the company. Connolly Hide Care is a traditional lanoline based bees' wax leather care product. This type of top-grain premium un-finished leather was mostly used in prestige European automobiles; Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lotus, Lexus and Rolls Royce, US Cadillac and high-end German automobiles such as; Audi, BMW, Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche,. This is the market sector both Leatherequi and Connolly were originally formulated  

Avoid using these types of conditioners for urethane finished leathers, as it contains lanolin, waxy cream and white spirit that can react with the coating used on today’s leather. But it's a great product for the renovation or restoration of old English leathers or other uncoated natural leather.

Surface Protection
It is essential as it will protect the surface finish (Leather Master™ - Protection Cream) as a sacrificial layer; this way you are not actually cleaning the Leather's original surface, but cleaning from the surface of the protection. It also makes dirt easier to clean off

Leather Master™ - Protection Cream (a Scotchgard™ type product specifically formulated for the leather ) the polymers penetrate the surface of finished leather and cross-link to form a durable protective film that is breathable and keeps the leather supple. Being aqueous (water- based) it restores moisture to finished leather and provides a protective sacrificial barrier against all kinds of soiling, water, oil, alcohol-based stains and perspiration marks, so you are cleaning the protective layer.Both Leather Masters Protection and Vital although water-based contain trace amounts of oil, which leaves only a very thin surface film to counteract surface abrasion by providing surface lubrication (driver or passenger entry/exit).

1. Leather Technician's Handbook by J.H. Sharphouse
2. Practical Leather Technology by T.C. Thorstensen.
4. How to keep Luxurious Connolly Leather Young and Supple. Krysti Pavlisko 1998
5. How to Restore Auto Leather. D Briggs 2001

 Related Articles
1. Reference sources and bibliography used for leather articles” 
2. “Leather Articles Hyperlinks

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