Leather is one of the most durable materials. It’s used to make a wide range of items, including shoes, handbags, wallets, knife case, tote bags, and belts, among others. It’s also naturally resistant to dirt and stains. However, after some time, your leather products will ultimately become dirty. The extent of dirt depends on how you use the product as well as your maintenance levels. For instance, a leather item that is rarely used will require minimal maintenance as compared to shoes that you wear frequently. If you want your leather items to last longer, then you need to undertake regular maintenance, using recommended products. Here are some recommended maintenance tips for your leather items including using leather conditioner.
Cleaning Leather Items
The cleaning method applied depends on the type of finish. You can either clean leather items using commercially available products or using and water. Regardless of the method you choose, ensure you test the cleaner in an unobtrusive area. Before cleaning, remove all the dirt, mud and other debris that may be present on the item. Next, use a soft, damp cloth to apply the cleaner. Ensure you cover complete sections of the leather surface using circular motions. Also, make sure you remove any excess moisture present on the surface. Finish off by drying the item using a clean piece of cloth.
Never dry leather in direct sunlight. Instead, allow it to dry naturally under shade. You can also steam your leather items to remove germs. However, as you use this approach, you need to remember that steam cleaning rarely penetrates beyond the surface. Therefore, it will not be an effective method of removing the stain and other forms of dirt in the deeper layers. It’s not advisable to use vinegar to remove stains from leather. As much as it may work then, it will gradually erode the structure and integrity of your leather products.
Using Leather Care Products
Before applying any leather care products to your shoes, belt, wallets or handbags, jackets always ensure you are using the right product. Leather is available in different forms, from, nubuck to finished leather. Therefore, the products you use will depend on the leather finish. For instance, the products you use on nubuck may not be applicable for suede. Use these products interchangeable can lead to degradation of the item’s quality. As noted above, always test the product somewhere else before applying on the actual item. Use a microfiber cloth to apply. Never apply leather care products directly to the surface. Once you have finished applying the leather care product, wipe it following the direction of the grain while ensuring you remove the surplus using a clean cloth. Give your leather items enough time to dry away from direct sunlight. If you apply a conditioner after the cleaning, then it’s highly advisable to apply tiny amounts. According to industry experts, application of too much conditioner can lead to extensive damage after some time, thus shortening the lifespan of your leather items.
Aniline Leather Care
Aniline is one of the best types of leather you can find on the market today. It’s predominantly full-grain leather, which has been colored all the way through using transparent dye. Its surface is intact, featuring natural markings of hide. With aniline leather, there is no two way about it or anything in between. You will also notice that items made of aniline leather tend to be more expensive as compared to nubuck or suede leather. Aniline leather items feel supple, soft and smooth. It’s available in different shades, ranging from white pink, light brown to beige. The cons of this type of leather are that readily absorbs liquids, marks easily and the applied dye can fade after some time. Therefore, utmost care and maintenance of this type of leather are highly recommended.
To clean aniline leather, you just need to use water. Ensure that the water you are using is pure and free from any minerals. If possible, use distilled water. Minerals present in tap water can leave white markings on the surface of the leather while making it look dull. Therefore, always use rainwater or distilled water to clean aniline leather. As much as the leather may appear hard after cleaning, conditioning will restore its soft and supple feel. Aniline leather also absorbs oils quite fast. It’s advisable to blot the oil spills immediately. Once you have blotted the surface, cover it using talcum powder. You can also use normal flour if talcum powder is not readily available. Allow the powder to remain on the spot for 12 hours and then clean it off using a moist piece of cloth. If this procedure hasn’t worked, then you should mix a leather cleaner with distilled water. Ensure you work on the entire area instead of the spot alone to prevent a patch. Also, avoid rubbing too much of the same spot, since you may damage the surface. Instead, opt for wider movements. Once the leather is dry and the spill is still visible, condition your item using a leather conditioner. A leather conditioner should be enough to even out the color. As always, never use heat or expose your leather items to direct sunlight during the drying process. If oil stains are untreated for a long period, then you should consult professional leather cleaner. Attempting to do it at home may not be enough to remove the stains.
Using Leather Conditioner
Leather conditioner refers to a leather care product, which is designed to be easily absorbed by leather items. As it penetrates the leather, it nourishes the fibers while restoring their natural flexibility. Once leather loses its natural moisture and oils, it will eventually lose its flexibility. When that happens, you will start noticing cracks on the surface. When properly used, conditions will prevent such occurrences while ensuring your leather items remain in great shape. There are three types of conditioners – conditioning creams, wax conditioners and conditioning oils.
Conditioning creams are products that moisturize and nourish the leather without causing substantial color change. Also, a reliable conditioning cream should the fiber supple while providing additional protection to the leather surface. On the other hand, conditioning oils are mainly used to soften leather. Lanolin and neatsfoot oil are the two main oils used for this process. Avoid using oils that are not recommended, since they may make the surface sticky. They also cause rancidity. As for wax conditioners, they don’t nourish the fibers or penetrate into the deeper layers. Instead, they provide adequate surface protection against water as well as other liquids.
So, why should you use leather conditioners? Whenever you are wearing leather shoes or walking around with a leather handbag, there is a high chance that your items will be exposed to dirt, dust, and grease. These substances can easily get trapped inside the leather’s pores. If they are not removed on time, they can slowly damage your leather items. However, when you apply a conditioner, your leather products will always remain soft – the way they are supposed to be. Also, a conditioner can lubricate the fibers while minimizing friction. Apart from that, application of a leather conditioner will shield the surface from stains while enhancing its patina.
Leather conditioning should be done at least twice per year. However, if your leather is often exposed to the sun, then it’s advisable to apply a conditioner three to four times in a year. When applying the conditioner, use a soft and lint-free cloth. Avoid applying the conditioner directly to the surface. When applying the conditioner, use circular motions and spread it over a complete section. Buff the surface using a soft, white and dry cloth. Allow the item to dry before use. Apply a thin layer of leather conditioner. As always, conduct a patch test of any leather conditioner you intend to use before the actual application.
Other Care and Maintenance Tips
- Leather care when wet: If your leather items have been rained on or exposed to water, they should not be allowed to dry out. Instead, you should apply a conditioner when they are still wet. As the conditioner seeps through the pores, it replaces the lost oils while lubricating the leather. On the other hand, if you allow the leather to dry first, the conditioner may not be able to penetrate the pores properly, which could lead to cracking.
- Removing stains from leather: When leather is stained, the level of penetration depends on the finish and type of leather. You can remove the spots by using a clean, damp cloth. Once you have finished cleaning, allow it to dry naturally.
- Removing bad odors: Leather is naturally porous Therefore, it can easily absorb smells and bad odors. If it’s a small item such as a wallet, you can wrap it in the newspaper, which will absorb the smell. On the other hand, if it’s a larger item such as handbag or shoes, then you should consider professional cleaning.
- Leather care when sticky: You should remove sticky deposits from leather as soon as possible. Dab the surface using a clean cloth. Never wipe sticky deposits, since it will only spread them further. You can also use a commercial leather cleaner to remove the deposits.
Final Care Tips
With proper care and maintenance, leather items can serve you for many years. Ensure you store your leather items properly to prevent build-up of moisture, mold and bad smells. Also, make sure that you undertake routine cleaning and maintenance. Most importantly, don’t forget to apply a conditioner at least twice or thrice annually.