How to Care for Leather

Caring for Leather Tips

Ah, leather. Always hip, forever cool and eternally sexy. Okay, it is made of animal hide, but nothing says “you rock” the way leather does. The look of leather does not come cheap, so you will need to know how to keep your leather clothing and goods looking as alluring as the day you bought them with some proper care and attention.

Avoid Water Stains

It is important to keep your leather from getting wet. Water stains are difficult to remove or camouflage. In the case of jackets and purses, a weather proofing spray is a good idea. These products must be reapplied occasionally. Follow the instructions on the water proofing spray you purchase. As the store keeper where you buy your leather what brand they recommend.

Cleaning Leather

So, if you cannot wash leather, how do you clean it? There are several methods you can use. For newer, especially delicate, or highly valued leather items, it is recommended that you use a dry cleaner that has a leather cleaning service. They send the garment off site where the cleaning is done. Even when a professional cleans leather, some variations in the color can result from the process. Matched pairs, like a jacket and pants, should be sent off to the cleaners together, even when only one item is dirty.

Leather can also be cleaned at home. All you need is a damp cloth and a cleaner made especially for leather. You can find this at the store where you buy your leather goods. The cleaner will remove dust and dirt from the surface of the leather. Be sure to carefully read and follow the instructions on the cleaner you buy.

Deep Cleaning

If you come back from a rock concert and your leather is stinky and soaked with sweat, surface cleaning is not going to do the trick. You will first need to do a normal surface cleaning, and then hand-wash it with lukewarm soapy water. Use a gentle cleanser like you would use on your face. Take a terry wash cloth and ruby deeply soiled areas in a circular motion to work up lather. If you can, rinse the lather away by wiping with a clean, damp cloth. Deeply soiled areas may need to be rinsed under the tap. Pat the wet areas dry with a clean towel. Dry the leather flat at room temperature. Be sure to keep it out of the sunlight so it does not crack or fade.  If you still notice a strong odor after cleaning, you may need to send the garment out to a professional.

Storing Leather

During the summer months, you are much less likely to be wearing leather clothing. Be sure to store it properly during these months. Keep the leather away from excessive temperatures and humidity or dryness. Too much humidity can allow mold to grow. Too much dryness can cause cracks in the leather.

Be sure the leather is cleaned before you store it for a long period of time. Because leather is heavy, be sure it is hung on strong, durable hangers with padding. Wood hangers usually work best. While the leather is hanging, creases can form where is lays flat. For this reason, you should also stuff the arms and legs with acid free paper to keep the leather’s shape and prevent creases from forming.

Conditioning Leather

Besides washing, leather will occasionally need conditioning. Over time the oils used to tan the leather wear away. You should use a leather conditioning product every six or nine months to keep the leather soft and supple. The best time to do this is probably when you take it out of storage for the season.

Leather conditioners are specifically formulated to ensure the leather can breathe, so be sure to ask your leather store for the right product. Follow the manufacturer’s instruction on the conditioner. In most cases, the conditioner should never be applied directly to the leather. It should be applied with a moist, lint-free cloth.

Conditioner should be applied in several thin coats, rather than one thick one. The conditioner must also be given time to penetrate the leather, so wait 30 minutes between coats.


Suede is another matter, being a type of leather with a raised nap. You cannot put water on this kind of leather without leaving a stain. For this reason, you should only clean stains and scuff marks by using a dry stiff brush and rubbing in a circular motion.

Special liquid cleaners are made for suede, but only use liquid products for stains that cannot be removed with a brush. You may also need a special leather degreaser if the suede becomes stained from skin oils during normal wear. Always groom the suede with a stiff brush after cleaning.


Leather shoes need a little extra care because they are often used all year. Waterproofing is especially important for shoes since they are exposed to the wet elements more than any other kind of leather goods. Leather shoes should also be brushed before storing them, even when it is just over night. By keeping them clean and free of scuffs, your leather boots and shoes will last much longer.

To help your leather shoes keep their original shape, always use a shoe horn to put them on instead of sticking your finger in the back of the heel. Never tie laces or fasten buckles on leather shoes until your foot is in the shoe. Do not slide your foot in and wiggle back and forth until the shoe is on. This stretches the leather and reduces its useful life.

By following these tips, you will keep your leather looking sexier, longer. This will ensure your investment in style has not been wasted.

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