Leather Care: What’s the Best Leather Conditioner?

WHY SHOULD YOU CLEAN LEATHER?

Dirty Leather

Leather is an extremely durable material that is naturally resistant to dirt; however, over time it will get dirty. How dirty depends on what the leather item is and how it has been used. Leather shoes are likely to get dirtier than a leather bag or leather furniture. Leather exposed to very wet, dry or dirty conditions will need more cleaning than an item which is rarely used. Part of the pleasure of owning a leather product is its feel and appearance, so in order to derive the maximum enjoyment from your leather you need to ensure that you keep it clean.


HOW TO CLEAN LEATHER


Leather can be cleaned by using a commercially available cleaner appropriate to the type of leather or by using a moisturising soap. Always test in an unobtrusive area first before applying any cleaner or conditioner. Apply the cleaner with a soft, damp cloth, covering a complete section of the leather with a circular motion. Remove any surplus moisture with a second damp cloth before drying with a clean cloth. Allow the leather to dry naturally, but never in direct sunlight. Leather can be steam cleaned to remove germs and dirt but because steam cleaning does not penetrate the leather it will not be effective in removing stains.


HOW TO USE LEATHER CARE PRODUCTS


Always ensure that the type of leather care product you are using is appropriate to the type of leather that you are treating. Always test the product on an unobtrusive area of the leather first. Apply the product to a microfibre cloth, never directly onto the leather. Wipe in the product in the direction of the grain and remove any surplus with a clean cloth. Allow the leather to dry naturally, away from sunlight. Any conditioner applied following the cleaning should be done so in very small quantities: too much conditioner can be more detrimental than none at all.


WHAT IS ANILINE LEATHER CARE?


Aniline leather is top grain leather and its colour runs all the way through. Aniline leather is warm and soft but sensitive to marking. It is naturally porous so that liquids on its surface will be absorbed and the leather will be darkened as a consequence. Leather cream should be applied every three months to prevent staining.

WHAT IS LEATHER CONDITIONER?


Leather conditioner is a product designed to be easily absorbed by leather so that the fibres can be nourished and their natural flexibility restored. If leather loses its natural oils and moisture it loses its flexibility and starts to crack. Properly used, leather conditioners will help prevent this occurring. There are three principal forms of conditioner:

Conditioning Creams – These products nourish and moisturise and cause minimal colour change. A good conditioning cream will keep the fibre supple and provide some protection to the surface of the leather.

Conditioning Oils - Neatsfoot oil and lanolin have been used to soften leather for centuries. An inappropriate oil will make the leather sticky and may even cause it to become rancid.

Wax Conditioners - Wax will not penetrate deeply and nourish the fibres but it does provide an excellent surface protection from water and other liquids.


WHY USE LEATHER CONDITIONER?


Dirt, grease and dust get trapped in the pores of leather, leather conditioner can help keep leather soft and protected by lubricating the fibres and reducing friction. The conditioner will also help to protect the surface from stains and over time will deepen the colour and enhance the patina.


WHEN TO USE LEATHER CONDITIONER?


This will depend on the kind of treatment that your leather has had. Normal leather conditioning needs to be done twice a year but leather that is often in the sun should be conditioned at least three or four times a year.


WHAT TO APPLY LEATHER CONDITIONER WITH?


Put the conditioner onto a soft, lint free cloth, never directly onto the leather. Apply with a circular motion over a complete section of the leather. Buff with a soft, dry, white cloth and air dry before use.


HOW MUCH LEATHER CONDITIONER TO USE?


Too much conditioner will prevent the leather from breathing and the fibres will go mushy and rot. Apply too little rather than too much. A thin layer of conditioner will be sufficient. The leather should then be left to dry in a clean, cool place.


WHICH LEATHER CONDITIONER IS BEST?


The following products all achieve four and a half stars out of five on Amazon customer reviews:

Leather Nova Conditioner and Cleaner

Leather Honey Leather Cleaner

Lexol Leather Care Kit

Chemical Guys Leather Conditioner and Cleaner

Meguiar’s Gold Class Rich Leather Conditioner and Cleaner

Please note: It is advised that you always patch test a new leather care product on an inconspicuous area of the leather first, before applying it all over, as some products may alter the colour of the leather in a way you are not happy with.


LEATHER CARE WHEN WET

Wet Leather

Wet leather
needs to be treated while it is still damp: it should not be allowed to dry out. Applying leather conditioner to the damp leather enables the product to seep through the pores and into the spaces left by the evaporating water. This will help to lubricate the leather and replace the oils. If the leather is left to dry first, the leather conditioner will not be able to penetrate the pores and this could result in the leather cracking.


WHEN LEATHER GETS WET, DOES IT STAIN?


Leather will be stained by water, especially rain. The extent to which it stains will depend on the type of leather and its finish. Top grain aniline leather is very porous and consequently will be susceptible to water staining. Stains can be removed by rubbing the spot with a clean, damp sponge. Allow to dry naturally, never use a hair drier to speed up the process.


WHEN LEATHER GETS WET DOES IT SHRINK?


Wet leather shrinks because the water displaces the natural oils and leaves the leather fibres exposed to the air.


WHEN LEATHER PEELS


Leather peels because it has become dry as a consequence of the absence of its natural oils. The lower the grade of leather, the more likely it is to peel. Even with careful treatment, bonded leather will eventually peel, whilst full grain leather, with proper care, will last a lifetime.


WHEN LEATHER SMELLS BAD


Leather is a porous, natural material and consequently it can absorb smells such as perfume or smoke. There are a number of ways to deal with this problem. If the item is small enough, it can be packed in newspaper, which is porous and will absorb the smell. Cleaning with equal parts distilled white vinegar and water will also work but may leave an undesirable vinegar smell. (You should always test on a small inconspicuous area first before applying all over). Once again, if the item is small enough, the leather can be sprinkled with baking soda, placed in a sealed container and left for twenty-four hours. After its removal, it should be cleaned with a dry cloth. Professional products can also be used, or you can have the product professionally cleaned.


WHEN LEATHER TURNS WHITE


White marks occur on leather either because of water damage, damp or because of salt staining caused by perspiration or sea water. They can be removed by applying polish, in the case of shoes, or leather conditioner for other items.


WHEN LEATHER CRACKS


Leather is porous and consequently is prone to absorbing oil and dirt, as, over time, this breaks down, it can cause cracks to the surface. Regular cleaning and conditioning will remove the dirt and oil from the surface and keep the leather supple. Leather should be treated with respect and the cleaner you can keep it, the longer it will last.


WHEN LEATHER GETS STICKY


Sticky deposits on leather should be attended to as quickly as possible. Dab immediately with a clean cloth, don’t wipe, this will only make matters worse. Use a leather cleaner appropriate to the type of leather you are treating, always remembering to conduct a patch test first on an unobtrusive part of the leather. Apply the cleaner lightly and remove any surplus with a clean, dry cloth. Allow the leather to dry naturally and then condition.

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