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Tips for Caring for Your Leather

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Regardless of how much you spent on your leather product, conditioning and protection from dust, dirt, snow, rain and even sun always makes sense.

Keeping your leather product in wonderful condition will eliminate the need to buy replacements as often, so you'll be saving money just by investing a small amount of time and effort.  Leather can be virtually indestructible if treated properly. With a little bit of care and attention, your new leather will last well into vintage age and your leather will continue to have a long happy life.

The most important things to remember about leather is not to get it soiled, soaked, or let it dry out. Despite the fact that all of these things can be rectified to some extent, it is helpful to not let leather get into such a condition in the first place. Proper storage, cleaning, and conditioning will keep leather looking as good as new no matter how old it is.

Although leather is very durable, it is not indestructible. Improper care or cleaning can crack and dry leather skin, removes finishes and colors, or makes it too stiff to wear. Keeping leather away from chemicals, heat, and humidity are key. If leather is like skin, think of its care as anti-aging; if you wouldn't put it on your own skin, it probably isn't very good for the leather either.

There are various types and grades of leathers, each serving a different purpose. Some require a bit more maintenance than others, but all follow a set guideline of care to ensure a longer life.

There are four stages in leather care that include cleaning, conditioning, polishing, and protection. When examine the store shelves for a product that fits your needs, be watchful for what kind of product you're purchasing. It can be confusing to try and figure out which product is for which stage, but look for words that explain how the product is to be used. It is also important to remember to work on your leather in a well-ventilated area. Some leather care products are very strong and can cause irritations.

 

Cleaning 

To clean a leather item, first choose a cleaner that will help preserve the natural lubricating oils instead of stripping them. For example, saddle soap is a commonly used product for equestrian tack. It is meant to be used as a cleaner and a protector from moisture, but it strips the leather of the oils in the process of attempting to do two jobs at once. The cleaner of your choice should not leave any greasy residue behind. Residue makes leather susceptible to bacteria and can break down the stitching of your item. Before applying anything to your leather item, be certain to test it out for effect and possible color distortion on an area that isn't visible to the eye. Once you've ascertained whether the leather care product is acceptable to use, apply it to your item. With a slightly dampened cloth, remove the cleaning product. For areas with stitches, there are brushes available on the market. Another cleaning product to consider having in your leather care collection is a nubuck cleaning cloth. They have an astonishing ability to clean and restore leather to its original look. 

 

Conditioning 

Leather conditioners are meant for occasional use. They contain fats and/or oils that help lubricate leather and replenish the suppleness. Look for a product that will penetrate the strong fibers in leather, but beware of any that include petroleum or mineral oils. While petroleum by-products won't damage your leather immediately, they do over a period of time. Again, just as with cleaning, keep on the look out for thick, greasy conditioning treatments for the best care of your leather. 

 

Polishing 

Polishing is done for special occasions when you want a more glossy finish on your leather. There are a couple things to be wary of when purchasing a polishing agent. Some products contain coloring factors that will brush off on things you come in contact with. Some products also have a tendency to clog the pores in leather or dry leather out. Just as with cleaning, be sure to test out the product on a small area and when ready, buff to a shine.
Protection 

Moisture barriers are extremely vital in preventing rain or other liquid hazards from damaging leather. Stiffness and spouting will happen if leather isn't protected beforehand. There is a drawback in protecting leather with a moisture barrier product. They tend to fill in the pores with a greasiness that makes cleaning, conditioning, and polishing difficult, but it's a necessary process to ensure leather isn't destroyed. Periodically apply a moisture barrier and allow it time to penetrate and dry before using your leather item.

HOW TO CLEAN

- The general principle is simple: remove dirt build-up by wiping down with a cleaner made specifically for the leather in question. 
- Most labels like Bally and Coach have their in-house leather care range, or they will endorse a particular brand, as in the case of Mulberry, so always ask the boutique assistant for care tips and recommended products.
- Remember the hardware. Some bags have precious metal-plated buckles or chains. Always ask the boutique assistant for care recommendations.
- Every other day, give your bag a brisk sweep with a soft dry cloth—this won't take more than a few minutes, but will go miles towards preserving the appearance of your leather.    

 

HOW TO CONDITION

- Think of conditioning as moisturizer for your leather, which will dry out over time. To prevent flaking and wrinkling, dab a dollop of conditioner on a soft cloth and rub gently all over.
- Try mink or neatsfoot oil, which simulate and supplement the natural oils of leather.  Leave on for 10 minutes, then wipe off the excess. Dry thoroughly in an airy room.
- Condition every month or so to keep your leather looking its shiny best.

 

HOW TO WEATHERPROOF

- Leather is permeable and can never be entirely waterproof, so avoid toting your favorite Givenchy Nightingale in bad weather. Nonetheless, there are beeswax creams which function as a barrier against water.
- Word of caution: beeswax may alter the hue of dyed leather, so test first on an inconspicuous corner. 
- A more breathable but less effective alternative: a spray protectant, which is virtually invisible on your bags. 

 

HOW TO STORE

- Stash your bag in its original dustbag and fill it with stuffing—use butter paper, never newspaper, which will smear— to maintain its shape. 
- Keep the dustbagged product in its original box, along with packets of silica gel so your bag doesn't get damp.
- Air once every two weeks to halt the growth of mold.  
- Rotation is key. Everyday use of your bag will wear it out, so switch things up every month.

 

SOME FINAL TIPS

- Let water spills dry naturally. High-heat measures like using a hairdryer will only cause the skin to crinkle beyond salvage.
- Prevent color transfer by consciously resisting the urge to rest your bag against your jeans. Bring it back to the boutique immediately if your bag gets stained. 

 

Remember to follow the instructions on the leather care products label that you buy. Prepare your articles, not just spray or put on anything that is not recommended for your leather product. Proper cleaning and conditioning is essential for years of lasting beauty for your leather.

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