Leather Care Principles

By heidi | 12 June 2018 | 0 Comments

Leather needs to breathe. Just like skin, leather needs some ventilation to prevent mildew and rot. Air can naturally pass through leather, leaving moisture to evaporate naturally. That can’t happen when your leather is all sealed up, though. So don’t ever store or transport it in a plastic grocery bag (whoops — guilty of that one!). Either use the storage/travel bag the item came with, or some type of breathable fabric — pillowcases are great for shoes, bags, and/or other accessories. 

Keep leather away from direct sunlight/heat. If a leather item gets waterlogged, it can be tempting to throw it in front of a heater or to use a hair dryer to speed the process. Don’t do that, ever. Just like skin and other fabrics, when leather gets wet and then heated right away, it can shrink and dry out too quickly. Rather, let it dry naturally, even if it takes a couple days.

Also, just generally keep leather out of direct sunlight when storing. The leather fades naturally over time, but sunlight speeds up that process. Drying and cracking can also ensue. Darker places with some humidity are preferred, although again, ensure air flow so that mildew can’t form.

Test first. When applying any polish or conditioner, always test a small area first. Any item is likely to change the color of the leather, even if only slightly. Before applying a treatment to an entire shoe, test it on a small portion, let it dry for 24 hours, and see what happens. It may seem tedious, but it can keep your shoe from looking different than what you want. If a certain brand/color goes well the first time, then feel free to use repeatedly without testing again.

Go with natural/neutral colors. Many polishes and creams will come in either black, brown, or neutral. The added dyes are thought to liven up any faded color in a leather product. While black is a pretty safe choice for black products, there are just too many shades of brown to match things up perfectly. To avoid unnecessarily changing the hue of your leather, stick with neutrals (usually either white or gray in the can/bottle).

Regularly clean with a damp cloth. As mentioned above, the most foolproof way to keep any leather product from prematurely aging, even if you do nothing else, is to give it a regular wipe-down with a damp cloth. Your jackets, shoes, bags — they all quickly accumulate dirt, dust, and all manner of other abrasive particles that lead to premature wear and tear. Preserve your leather by wiping them down weekly, or even after a single hard use in a winter storm, with a wet cloth or even paper towel.

Generally speaking, leather doesn’t need waterproofing. Most leather goods sold these days are treated to some degree or another with some sort of waterproofing agent. In most environments and conditions, your leather will hold up just fine to rain, snow, etc. If you’re someone who is hiking with leather boots, or you’re regularly out in deep snow or heavy rain with them, then you should waterproof — and even then, it’s more for the contents of the leather item (your feet, your laptop, your body) than the material itself. If you’re unsure about waterproofing, ask the manufacturer. They’ll tell you whatever treatment it already has, and if the product needs additional care based on your activities and uses.

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