How to Stop My Vinyl Armrest From Cracking?

Vinyl is a durable material for furniture, especially office chairs. It’s easy to wipe clean and doesn’t rip as easily as softer fabrics. It looks professional, like leather, at just a fraction of the cost.

But since it’s plastic, vinyl is more susceptible to cracking.

How to Stop Vinyl Armrest From Cracking

Taking care of your vinyl chair by keeping it clean and moisturized prevents it from cracking. Vinyl conditioners keep the material soft and looking new.

When you buy a new vinyl chair, there’s a top coat on it that keeps the plasticizers on the material. Plasticizers make vinyl softer than it is naturally.

Since it’s made of plastic, it has a hard consistency. Adding plasticizer makes vinyl easy to shape as manufacturers cover the chair.

Once the chair is in your office, the coating keeps plasticizers on the vinyl. This keeps the material supple so you can sit and work comfortably.

Over time, the coating wears off. Heat and sunlight dries out the vinyl, which makes it likely to harden and crack. Applying vinyl conditioner keeps your chair in good shape.

Steps to Condition Vinyl Office Chair Armrests

Just like your skin, vinyl needs moisture to prevent stiffness and cracks. When you condition vinyl, it’s like applying lotion to your skin. You’re making the fibers moist and flexible.

Applying oil or conditioner to vinyl keeps it moist for a long time. You’re sealing the pores on the armrest so the moisture stays in and prevents the chair from drying out.

Supplies needed:

  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Soft cloth
  • Clear mineral oil

Step One

Clean your vinyl armrests in an area that isn’t too hot. Stay out of direct sunlight, and don’t work near a fan.

Sunlight, heat, and air will cause the mineral oil to evaporate too quickly to condition.

Step Two

Clean the vinyl armrests with a damp cloth. You can use the soft-bristle brush to dislodge any debris that is stuck on the armrest. 

You don’t want any dirt or grime on the vinyl when you soften it. Clean gently so you don’t rub off any additional coating.

Using a damp cloth also primes the vinyl to absorb the mineral oil.

Step Three

When the chair and armrests are clean and dry, use a new soft cloth to apply the mineral oil. Because it’s clear, it won’t stain the vinyl, only condition it.

Massage the mineral oil into the vinyl. You can use it all over your chair, not just on the armrests. Keep rubbing the oil in until you feel the vinyl soften.

You want the vinyl to feel flexible beneath the cloth. This means it’s conditioned and won’t dry out and crack anytime soon.

Step Four

When the vinyl feels soft, get a new cloth to wipe away any excess oil.

You don’t want to sit in mineral oil when you take your chair back to your desk!

Alternatives to Mineral Oil

Murphy’s Oil Soap is a popular alternative to mineral oil. It’s a multipurpose cleaner you dilute with water in a spray bottle for best results. Spray it on the vinyl, let it sit, then work it in with a cloth.

You can buy a commercial vinyl conditioner to use on your armrests. These products work on both leather and vinyl, so if you have both types of furniture, it’s worth the money.

Some commercial products are greasier than mineral oil, so you want to use them with caution. Always wipe away excess oil and allow the chair to dry before you sit in it again.

Using a conditioner that isn’t meant for vinyl or leather might leave a waxy residue on the chair. Read reviews on specific products to make sure they won’t further dry out the vinyl.

Tips on Using Mineral Oil on Vinyl Armrests

Mineral oil is something of a miracle oil, so you should always have it around. Use mineral oil to condition your chair and armrests any time you feel the vinyl getting hard. 

This might happen frequently, depending on how often you use your chair. But it’s only natural that vinyl stiffens over time.

Heat, light, and even the dye used on the vinyl causes it to harden.

After you condition your chair and armrests the first time, you’ll see that it’s not a hard job. Knowing this makes it easier for you to complete the task as often as necessary.

Remember, taking care of your vinyl chair and armrests will pay off in the long run. When you keep the material moist and flexible, it won’t tear or crack.

If you let it get to the point where it cracks, it’s possible to repair the vinyl without having to buy a new chair. 

Also read: How Many Years Should an Office Chair Last?

Why Vinyl Furniture Cracks

Vinyl is an inexpensive type of plastic. While it’s a durable material for furniture, it doesn’t have the same give as softer materials. 

Though it’s an ethylene-based plastic, vinyl has the look of leather, which makes it great for office chairs. You can get a professional look without paying a high price.

Buying a budget chair means you’re not going to have the effortless look of leather for long. If you don’t follow the steps above to keep your vinyl in good shape, your chair will look cheap.

Since vinyl is plastic, it has a special coating to keep it flexible over time. When the coating wears off, the vinyl dries out and is susceptible to cracking, splitting, and flaking apart.

The coating wearing away isn’t the only thing that can cause vinyl to crack. UV light degrades the vinyl. Cleaning your chair with abrasive chemical damage the material. 

And, as with any furniture, scraping or rubbing your chair against your desk or other items will cause tears and rips. 

Being careful with your chair prevents those accidents, but it’s hard since you use it so much. Your body weight and shifting in the seat can also wear out the vinyl.

Final Notes

It’s possible to repair vinyl armrests and other vinyl furniture once it’s cracked, but it’s best to take preventative measures.

Taking care of your furniture in the ways outlined above ensures that your furniture will last longer and look good in the process.

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