How-To

How to Make Leather Goods Last

by Dani Howell January 05, 2019
ReadHow to Make Leather Goods Last Image courtesy of Ezra Arthur

Leather is durable and dependable. That’s what makes it great for wallets, backpacks, shoes, and belts. With a classic aesthetic that’s designed to last, leather products are timeless pieces that can hold up to years and years of use and wear. You just have to properly care for the material to ensure that it has a long life. If you take a few easy maintenance steps, your trusty boots and wallet will continue to be functional and develop that worn-in, personalized look that quality leather is known for.

One important note: Before you use a new product on your favorite leather accessory, always remember to spot check it on an unobtrusive spot just in case any discoloration occurs.

Clean

Regularly clean off the everyday dust and dirt that accumulates on your leather goods. When left unattended, these can cause irritation and minor wear and tear. So, once a week, you’ll want to take a dry, soft towel (a microfiber cloth is usually a good choice) and wipe down the leather. Assuming there’s not much dirt, this should be sufficient. However, if there’s still some grime left over, add some water to the cloth, making sure it’s only slightly damp, and clean the leather again.

If you notice a stain appear, clean it as soon as possible. Blot the mark with a damp cloth and a bit of mild dish soap. This should dissipate most of the stain without harming the leather.

Condition

A few times a year, you’ll also want to condition your leather goods. The frequency will depend on how often you use the product and the climate you live in. When in doubt, look at the item and see if it’s showing signs of fading or drying out. If it is, then it’s time to condition so it can stay hydrated and healthy.

Add a natural conditioner to a soft cloth and lightly rub it into the leather. Give it a few minutes to absorb and then wipe off any extra product with another clean cloth. Unlike spot cleaning, you’ll want to condition the entire piece in one go. Conditioning can affect the color of the product, and you want to keep a consistent look.

Polish

That’s really all you need to maintain your leather. However, if desired, you can polish it, too. This decision is for aesthetics but does add a nice shine, which is especially beneficial for fancier pieces, like dress shoes. First, wipe off any dirt build up from the surface. Then, take a soft cloth, put the polishing cream on it, and massage the cream into the leather using small circular motions. After giving the polish a few minutes to absorb, take a horsehair brush and, using short, quick strokes, remove any leftover polish.

In addition to taking these steps to make your leather lasts, there are some things you want to avoid.

Never apply heat to your leather to dry it—even if your shoes or bag get soaked in the rain. Just blot away all the excess liquid you can and let the rest air dry.

Never store your leather in any kind of plastic bag. If you need to transport your leather goods somewhere, use a container that lets them breathe.

Finally, keep your leather out of direct sunlight. Sunlight dries out the leather and makes it fade more quickly than it would on its own.

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