How to Take Care of Leather

Most of us own something made of leather, whether it’s a women’s leather bag, a pair of leather shoes, a leather wallet or even a leather jacket. These are treasured possessions but how many of us actually know how to take care of our leather accessories the right way?

If you take the right measures, you can maintain the quality and extend the life of your leather goods. Leather products age with time but they can be timely restored with all their splendour. Let’s quickly go through some important dos and don’ts of leather care:

Before we start, it’s imperative to know the different kinds of leather skins goods are made of:

1. Vegetable-tanned leather, which is the most common type. These might lose color and shrivel due to water. Stella McCartney is a brand who has used vegetable tanned leather extensively in their products.

2. Chrome-tanned skins, which have a metallic tint to them. These are more water-resistant and longer lasting. Shoes from Salvatore Ferragamo are known to sport this leather. Some metallic bags from Chanel also sport this leather.

3. Full-grain skin, which is not buffed, and carries a natural grainy texture of the hide. This is the leather of the highest quality. Prada bags are known for the use of this type of leather.

4. Top-grain skin, it is thinner than full-grain, as it is sanded and made smoother.

5. Patent leather, which has a super glossy effect due to oils and resins used on it. Extensively used on handbags, this Dolce and Gabbana Purple Leopard Print Patent Leather Miss Escape Tote is a perfect example.

leather-care-tips
Dolce and Gabbana Purple Leopard Print Patent Leather Miss Escape Tote

6. Exotic skins, which are made from non-cattle leather like those from reptiles. E.g. These skins are very popular with the Hermes range of bags. Like this Hermes Brown/Orange Niloticus Crocodile Palladium Hardware Birkin 30 Bag.

7. Suede is the leather obtained from the underside of the hide and can get stained or matted, easily. This is used as an interior material for almost all brands of handbags.

What damages leather?

Since leather is a natural product, it needs care to make sure the fibers remain strong. Dry air is bad for leather as it dries out the hide, making the fibers brittle and fragile. Unfortunately, water damages the leather too, as it removes the oils and waxes used to keep the hide soft and supple. Excessive humidity can rot the leather, as it can start accumulating mold and fungus.

How does one take care of leather products?

  1. Replenish the oils of the leather frequently. A good leather conditioner or oil can do the job well without fading away, as it keeps the leather fibers strong. This should be done once every 3-6 months, depending on the weather of your location.
  2. It is advisable to do a patch-test and let it rest for 24 hours before you use any products on the leather, as oils tend to change the color of the hide as well. Initially you will see a color change as you apply the product, but it is only after drying that the efficacy of the product is known.
  3. Lean towards conditioners/creams/oils that are natural or neutral in color. If you do not want to change the hue of your leather wallet or bag, then stick to products that are without color.
  4. Keep the leather away from sharp or metallic objects, as scratches or rips cannot be repaired.
  5. Clean dirt and dust almost as instantly as you see it. A little warm water and a little elbow grease should do the trick! Do not apply a lot of pressure, but lightly buff the stain to get rid of it.
  6. Do not allow your leather accessory to get wet. If it does so, then wipe it off with a dry cloth and allow it to dry naturally, which can even take a couple of days. Never try to dry it using heat, like from a radiator or a hair dryer.
  7. Direct sunlight can easily damage the leather too, fading or drying it out. Make sure to store it away from direct sunlight.
  8. Storage matters a lot too. Store your leather goods in places which are clean and dry, ideally in the dust bag that came with the product.
  9. Leather needs to breathe. Air out your leather accessories occasionally if you use it sparsely. This will also prevent rotting and mold.
  10. Extreme conditions are bad for leather. Excessive heat can cause the leather to bubble and peel, extreme cold on the other hand can make the leather fibers brittle and dry, causing them to crack.
  11. As Suede is on the underside of the hide, and has a different texture and look. Suede should be kept away from water as much as possible, and only a suede-specific brush should be used on it.

Some useful tips on specific leather accessories:

Leather women shoes may need some extra care than men shoes, as they might have thinner leather on the body of the design for intricacy and detail. Dress shoes should be cleaned and polished more regularly.

leather care tips
Photo credit – Nor Gal / Shutterstock.com

When it comes to leather women bags and wallets, one trick is to avoid overfilling them. Once leather gets misshapen, it’s hard to get it back to its former glory. Wipe them down regularly and condition them once every few months.

Leather jackets should be wiped after every few uses, and conditioned once at least every six months. If you spot some cracks appearing on the product, take them seriously. Use some conditioner to salvage it or hand it over to professionals to do the job.

Even if you do not want to spend more on getting leather conditioners or oils, a simple and foolproof way to care for your leather is by regularly cleaning it with a damp cloth. This secures it from damage and premature ageing.

Caring for leather is not that hard, all it needs is a little care occasionally to make it last for a long time!

Swati Talwar

Global Content and India Office Head

Seasoned lover of the written word. Travel junkie and Hogwarts alumni. Currently composing notes for the upcoming fashion week. You can also call me Licorne Magique (don't ask me why!).

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