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It is not the end of the world if your cat decides to do a kneading dance on the back of your leather sofa, or if you spill nail polish remover on it or your house keys scratch your club chair.

There are leather cleaners and conditioners to get rid of smudges and marks, and some blemishes, such as pen marks, can be removed with an artist's gum eraser.

"Finished leather tends to be more washable," says Robert Loncarevic, owner of the Leather Solution in Chicago -- which handles repair work for furniture leaders such as Walter E. Smithe and Roche Bobois. Loncarevic recommends using Neutrogena or Ivory soap -- on finished leathers only.

For common problems such as pen marks; cat and dog scratches; cat urine; and nail polish remover stains and discoloration, Loncarevic recommends the Leather Solution Cleaner and Conditioner and the German-made Zymol (available at better auto shops). If newspaper ink should wipe off onto leather furniture, consult an expert. There are no home remedies.

To prevent discoloration and drying, Loncarevic suggests using window-tinting agents or window treatments to protect your leather furniture from ultraviolet rays. He also recommends placing leather furniture at least 1 1/2 feet away from radiators or other heat sources so the leather will not dry out.

"Navy-blue leather sofas will fade if they are in the sun," says Jim Happ, manager of Roche Bobois stores in Chicago and Winnetka, "black and brown (leather furniture) not so much. The black will lighten slightly. These can be easily redyed, but the best way to prevent this from happening is to make sure there is protection from ultraviolet rays."

And what to do about rips or tears? Don't cry, call an expert. That kind of damage can be corrected, says Loncarevic, although he doesn't give away his secret tricks.

Leather Solution Cleaner and Conditioner ($40 for 20-ounce bottle) can be ordered by calling (773) 685-2162.
-- Pamela Sherrod

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