A Leather Care Intensive
A Leather Care Intensive
It's no surprise that we live in a disposable wold, a time where repair is often not even a thought that crosses people's minds when faced with a damaged good. Too often, the needs for repair can be prevented or prolonged with proper care and consideration. Like changing the oil and preforming preventative maintenance on your car, properly caring for your leather goods will keep them out of the shop and in working order.
Dirt, sand, and solvents can accelerate wear on leather, and cleaning your leather goods once or twice a year can do wonders for their life. Items that are worn or used more frequently, or are used in dirty environments should be cleaned more often, and the opposite applies for those that don't get much use.
Our preferred method starts with a horsehair brush, a clean rag, and saddle soap. First, unlace boots, empty wallets and bags - whatever you're cleaning, make sure you remove as much as you can from the item so that you can get to as much of the leather surface as possible. Use the brush to remove loose dirt and debris, especially from crevices like boot welts or inside pockets. From here, if the item isn't heavily soiled you can move to conditioning. For heavily soiled items you'll have to break out the saddle soap. Dampen a clean, soft rag and rub it in the saddle soap container to develop a bit of lather. Gently apply the soap in a circular fashion to the soiled item. The horsehair brush can be used with saddle soap in this manner as well for textured leathers or items with crevices that can't be reached with a rag.
Don't stop here - now that you've removed some of the oils from the leather with the saddle soap you'll need to replace them to ensure the leather doesn't dry out over time. Repeated cleaning with saddle soap can remove oils from leather in the same way it would your skin, causing it to dry out, crack, and eventually disintegrate.
It is absolutely imperative that you condition your leather regularly, especially if it is used heavily. Conditioning doesn't take long and gives you an opportunity to examine the item to identify any issues that may require addressing in the near future.
We like to use a couple of different conditioners: Lexol or New Yorks's own Armstrong's All Natural. It is important to keep in mind that conditioners can sometimes darken leathers, so if you're not sure about how a certain conditioner will affect your item, try it on an inconspicuous area like inside a pocket or on the tongue of a boot behind the eyelets. Use a different clean rag to apply the conditioner of your choice in circular motion, getting in the crevices and applying liberal amounts to visibly dry areas. I prefer to make at least two passes over the item with conditioner, and sometimes a third if its been a while. Allow a few hours for the conditioner to soak in and you're back in business.
Water resistance wont last forever, and will require reapplication regularly. We prefer to use mink oil to waterproof our personal items. Similar to conditioner, mink oil and other waterproofing products can darken leathers - especially light ones. Make sure to test these in an inconspicuous area first.
Apply with yet another clean dry cloth and apply in a circular motion, making sure to cover every surface and crevice. One or two coats should be sufficient. Once applied, allow a few hours for it to absorb into the item and then use a clean cloth to buff off the excess.
Ensuring your items age beautifully and last a lifetime is easy, but it requires a little TLC. If you're in it for the long haul like we are, 10 minutes and twice a year is nothing if it means you get to keep the items you love forever.