How to Care for Leather
The leather tanneries and manufacturers usually do their best to provide you with a product that will not age, deteriorate, loose its shape or colour or worse, fall apart.
There are however a few simple steps that you can take to ensure that your product will last the distance and fulfil the purpose for which it was designed.
It is a good thing to remember that leather is the skin of an animal and very much like our own skin. We clean and lubricate our own skin, and should also do so with our leather products. The only difference is the method and materials used to achieve the desired outcome. There is a wide range of leather care products that are specifically designed for this purpose.
Belts don't require cleaning as a rule. However saddlery, shoes, garments and upholstery do need cleaning from time to time.
- Saddlery, equestrian items and solid leather bags
- Saddlery and equestrian items and solid leather bags first have any loose dirt removed and are then cleaned with specialised saddle soap. This soap functions as as cleaner and basic lubricant. It should only be used strictly in accordance with the product's instructions and the purpose it was designed for. If you intend to use saddle soap on anything other than saddlery do so extremely carefully. Suitable products are Joseph Liddy's Gleam or Saddle Soap Cake
- Shoes should have any loose dirt removed and if necessary wiped down with a damp cloth and brush. Suede shoes are best just cleaned with a special brass wire brush. Water will stain suede and as such is not advised.
- Upholstery and soft leather bags
- Upholstery and soft leather bags should first be vacuum cleaned to remove any debris from the crevices. You can purchase specialised cleaning products or just use some mild, lukewarm soapy water and gently clean the surface. Gently is the operative word in this process. Do not saturate the leather as this can discolour the leather and destroy the finish. A professional strength cleaning product is Conolly's Concentrated Leather Cleaner.
- Garments are best cleaned by a professional cleaning service. If you want to try your luck by yourself, you can try and clean any spots by following the steps outlined for the upholstery. Recently a couple of new products have come on to the market that claim to make your garments machine washable. I can't assure anyone of the success at the time of this writing. I will however check these products out and if I find them to be safe, I will list them as for sale items on this site.
Always try the product on a spot that is hidden and not immediately visible.
- Saddlery and vegetable tanned solid leather
- Saddlery and vegetable tanned solid leather products are best treated with a product that contains oils as well as waxes. Products like Joseph Liddy's Jayel, Sedwick Leathercare or Conolly's Leather Lotion have those characteristics. The leather dressing will penetrate the leather better and achieve a more even finish if the leather had been wiped down with a damp cloth.
- Shoes generally use boot polish to maintain the appearance but you can additionally use the same leather dressing products that you would use on your other products. There are special waterproofing dressing products that contain silicone available for work and hiking boots. Boot polish and specialised shoe products should under no circumstances be used on any other article as they tend to rub off on the clothing.
- Upholstery is best served by either specialised leather dressings recommended by the manufacturer. If no recommendations are available, a quality dressing such as Joseph Liddy's Zorbel or Conolly's Hide Care.
- Garments and handbags
- Garments and handbags are best treated with more gentle products like Grison's Delicate Gel or Joseph Liddy's Zorbel
Leather articles can in most cases have their colour changed, but this task should only be undertaken by a professional service as there are a lot of factors to consider.
The hints are supplied on “at your own risk” basis.
- Fresh blood
- Fresh blood stains can be treated by hand washing with mild detergent or leather cleaning products.
- Perspiration stains can be treated by hand washing with baby shampoo.
- Wax can be removed by an iron set to “cool” run over blotting paper. Repeat until wax has been removed. Make sure that you use a fresh spot of the blotting paper to avoid transference.
- Oil based stains are very hard to treat. The best method is to use a oil based leather dressing and applied over the whole garment in order to even the appearance. Alternatively dry cleaning may remove the stain.
Restoring Antique, Vintage or Deteriorated Leather
Leather is a product made from skin. Normal healthy living skin has the ability to repair itself and heal. Leather no longer has that ability and must not be allowed to dry out. Once leather has been allowed to dry out, crack or flake, there is nothing that can be done to heal the damage.
You follow the steps outlined above for the various types of leather and hold back further leather deterioration. The success will vary from case to case and it may take multiple application to have any result.
Too much oil in powdery dry leather will turn the leather into a mushy paste. If that is the condition of your item your only option may be to apply a leather sealer to preserve the article. In any case the item should be used for display purposes only and not be handled. Old leather is like old people, its fragile.