By: Real Men Real style
The oldest leather artifact in the world is a 5,500-year old leather shoe.
The size 7 woman’s shoe was discovered in Armenia.
The leather outlived centuries of decay because it was stuffed with grass and buried under a mound of sheep dung.
There is an easier way to preserve your leather and maintain its original condition for decades. It involves the use of leather conditioners, cleaners and protectants.
Leather is leather is leather.
Why would you invest in different cleaning products for your leather shoes, bags, jackets, furniture and car seats?
Why not use a shoe polish to clean your briefcase?
For starters, there is a wide variety in the range of leather hides and finishes used for products that are covered by the blanket label, leather products.
Understanding the composition and application of the different types of conditioners, creams and polishes can prevent staining, discoloration and stiffening of the leather.
But first, let’s start with the different layers of leathers and the basic steps to keep the leather in top condition.
The Different Types & Layers Of Leather
The surface of leather is referred to as the ‘grain.’
- Full-grain refers to the untouched top layer of the leather hide. The hair on the surface is removed, but the surface remains intact, with no flaws, marks or scratches.
- Top-grain is a leather surface that has been sanded to smoothen the hide. The uppermost layer requires some form of treatment to remove imperfections.
- Smooth-grain is achieved by removing hair from the uppermost layer of a hide.
- Corrected-grain refers to a leather surface that has an artificial grain applied to it.
- Split leather refers to the fibrous part of the hide that remains after the top-grain has been separated from the hide.
The Three Products Required To Maintain Leather Bags, Shoes & Furniture
1. Leather Cleaners
Cleaners remove the grease collected through dust, the remnants of the previous layer of polish and other oils mixed in the grime. Layers of polish built up over time prevent the leather from breathing, eventually causing the leather to break into cracks.
The best leather cleaners contain surfectants that attract dirt and grime from the surface of the leather.
Use solutions with neutral pH and cleaners that do not contain alcohol or abrasives that can damage or discolor leather.
Saddle soap can be used to remove dirt from exterior of leather. However, A lexol leather cleaner would be a better choice. A saddle soap will most likely be too strong for the leather on your bag and could cause discolouring.
A regular soap will be very drying and a saddle soap (which was originally designed to soften leather) has a high oil and fat content.
Your first line of defense against salt and snow is a quick wipedown with a damp cloth whenever exposure occurs, and keeping the leather healthy with conditioning as needed.
Thorough cleaning needs to be done very infrequently. It’s more important to brush and wipe down on occasion.
How To Clean Leather
- Remove dirt build-up by wiping with a clean soft cloth.
- Apply a dime-sized portion of leather cleaner to the cloth.
- Wipe the surface in a gentle circular motion, allowing the leather to absorb the cleaner.
- Remove excess solution with a dry rag.
If your favorite leather bag gets a stain – remember to test a small area on the bag before applying a cleaning solution to the entire surface.
Wipe your bag with a soft dry cloth every few days. This simple action will preserve the appearance of leather for years.
Recommended Leather Cleaners
2. Leather Conditioners
Conditioning adds moisture to the leather.
Leather has a tendency to dry out and crack over time. A conditioner keeps the the surface soft and supple.
Mink oil, leather honey and neatsfoot stimulate the natural oils of the leather. These are common conditioners used to add moisture, color and add a layer of protection on leather.
How To Condition Leather
- Avoid flaking, wrinkling or cracking of leather by dabbing a dollop of conditioner on a soft cloth.
- Gently rub the conditioner all over the leather.
- Condition once a month to ensure the leather continues to look its shiny best.
Recommended Leather Conditioners
3. Leather Protectants
Sealants coat the top leather layer and protect the skin from water, snow or ice. They also stop the natural oils and moisture in the leather from escaping due to exposure to sunlight or other environmental factors.
While it is not essential to polish leather, it adds to the aesthetics and offers a mild layer of protection. Applying polish to leather is a matter of personal preference.
A regular shoe polish can rub off on your clothes. Test a small portion to ensure the color matches and test if the leather is able to absorb the polish quickly.
Recommended Leather Protectants
How To Protect Your Leather From Damage
- Don’t leave your leather bags in direct sunlight. It can cause the colour to fade and damage the leather.
- When cleaning always use a product designed for use on the material, a general leather cleaner will not be as effective on a suede or nubuck interior than a cleaner specifically designed for suede & nubuck.
- Resist using water on grease stains. The stains should simply wipe off leather surfaces.
- Avoid using any type of harsh cleaners or abrasive cleansers your leather purse as these will cause damage to the surface.
- Never use baby wipes or any other alkaline cleaner on your leather purse as it may damage the finish.
- Don’t stuff your leather bags with newspaper, which can smear. When not in use, store the bag in ints original dustbin and fill it with butter paper to maintain shape. An old pillowcase is a suitable substitute for a dust bag.
Give your leather bags and luggage a good cleaning twice a year. A regular clean, even if its a quick wipe down is essential to the longevity of your leather bags.
There’s a time and place for each of the leather conditioners, cleaners, protectants and polishes mentioned here. Use your discretion, read the instructions and follow them carefully for the best outcome on your leather products.