November 30, 2023

QI have leather dining chairs from Crate & Barrel. Somehow ink got on the seat of one chair. I spoke with the company’s customer service and was told they recommend cleaning only with a damp cloth. I tried that, then Dawn, baking soda and Murphy Oil Soap. The stains just spread, from a few small dots to blotches of more than 11 / 2 inches. We think sitting on the chair also caused the stains to grow. The color does not come off on clothing. The surface feels bumpy. The chairs are beige leather, so the spots look dreadful. Can you suggest a cleaner?

California, Md.

AA damp cloth might work to lift general grime from leather, but it’s no match for ink. Paul Kanter, a leather-care expert and owner of Ram Furniture Services in Manassas (800-333-2302;, says he recently learned of a simple home remedy that sometimes works: baby wipes. But they’re good only as a first step.

At this point, you probably need the services of a leather-care expert with an arsenal of specialty products. “It may require a tech to come out, mask the area, and redye the area and seal it,” Kanter says. A light sanding early in this process might smooth out the rough spots. If not, the tech might apply an epoxy, then dye and seal that.

Ram makes house calls throughout the Washington area, charging $95 for the first half-hour and $35 for each 15 minutes after that. Kanter estimated the total might come to $165 to $235. There is an additional travel charge to Southern Maryland, but you can eliminate that and pay a lower rate if you take the chair to the shop. In-shop repairs cost $95 an hour. Kanter estimated the work would take 1 to 1½ hours.

If the repair costs seem close to equal the cost of a new chair, realize this: By repairing one chair, you keep a whole set looking great.

I have Bruce hardwood flooring in my home, and I used Bruce Fresh Finish to brighten up the shine. But I think I went over it too many times. Now the floor looks like it has a film or is dirty. What can I use to remove the buildup?

Upper Marlboro

Bruce Flooring is part of Armstrong World Industries, which maintains a toll-free number (800-233-3823) for questions like yours. Tom Rank, one of the people who handles customer service calls, said problems like yours are usually caused by failing to leave enough time between coats. “One coat looks fantastic, so people then apply a second coat, and the two coats wind up bouncing off each other,” he said. The layers of Fresh Finish bond to each other but not so well to the actual floor finish, so the floor ends up looking cloudy. There needs to be at least an hour — more in humid weather — between coats.

What now? Bruce recommends stripping the layers of Fresh Finish with a product called IFT (Intensive Floor Treatment), made by Basic Coatings. At that company’s Web site,, you can read the application instructions and other technical details by looking under “wood floor care” and then “cleaning products.” This product won’t harm the original floor finish, Rank said.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to [email protected]. Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

The Checklist Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in June, such as refinishing the deck, at


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