How to Care for Leather

Three Methods:Maintaining Your LeatherCleaning Your LeatherCaring for Special Considerations

Leather is a classic material. Durable, stylish, and tough, a good piece of leather should last you a lifetime. However, like most things, you need to show your leather some love. The better you maintain your leather the longer it will last and the better it will look. It’s a special kind of material that you can’t just throw in the wash, so it’s important to understand how to maintain it.

Method 1
Maintaining Your Leather

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    Keep leather items out of the sun. The sun will dry the leather out and cause it to become brittle. Once your leather has become brittle it will become to crack and deteriorate.
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    Keep the items in a cool, dry place when not in use. Mildew can deteriorate leather if it is allowed to grow on it. Don’t leave your items in a humid or wet basement – this could promote the growth of mildew.
    • Don’t keep your leather in plastic either. Removing all air supply from the leather is bad for the material.[1]
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    Keep leather away from abrasives that can scuff or cut it. [2] Once leather has been damaged, there is no way to repair it. Keep in mind that you can only prevent this to a degree, so don’t obsess over it. Try not to leave your leather on a gravel driveway, for example. However, throughout the lifespan of your leather something is bound to happen to it.
    • Many people enjoy the look of worn leather and think its brings the material to life.
    • You also should avoid letting your leather get stretched out. For example, if you stuff a leather wallet too full it won’t go back to its normal size afterwards. If you want sleek, new looking leather you should avoid stretching it. [3]
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    Add moisture to your leather. If you find that your leather is starting to dry out or crack it may be time to moisturize the material. Buy a leather dressing or a leather cream. If you can, contact the manufacturer of your leather to find out what they recommend. There are a number of oils and waxes that can help you reduce the cracks and dryness in your leather.[4]
    • Add leather dressing intermittently. Even if you haven’t used your leather item for many years, don’t just keep it stored in a glass display case. You need to dress the leather periodically.[5]

Method 2
Cleaning Your Leather

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    Keep the leather clean. Try to brush your leather down with a damp cloth at least once a week. [6] If you are diligent about doing a quick clean of your leather then you won’t have to worry about deep cleaning later on, which is much more difficult.
    • If dirt particles get into the leather they can cause serious abrasion from the inside. [7]
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    Use a damp cloth. Start by brushing off any dirt of grime from the leather with your hand, then switch to a damp cloth.
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    Do not use any soaps or cleansers. These types of chemicals can remove the natural oils in the leather used to preserve the material. Chemical soaps will cause the leather to dry out, crack, and begin to deteriorate. Stick with water.
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    Dry your leather slowly. [8] For example, if you have a leather motorcycle jacket and you are forced to drive in the rain you may have to live with it being wet for a little while. You shouldn’t put your leather by a fire, out in the sun, or near a heater to dry it off like you would with cotton or cloth. Dry your leather in room temperature by letting it sit.
    • Drying leather quickly will change its chemical structure, causing it to become brittle and crack.

Method 3
Caring for Special Considerations

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    Shine polished leather. Caring for polished leather is a little different than other types of leather. You'll need a dry rag, a can of shoe polish, and a shoe brush. Brush off debris using the brush, then add a nickel sized dollop of shoe polish to your rag. Rug the polish over the shoe and then use the brush again to give the shoe a little elbow grease.
    • Buff out the rest of the polish with the rag. It should shine by the time you're done with it.[9]
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    Keep suede leather dry. If you have an article of suede leather that gets very wet you should try to blot out as much water as possible using a paper towel. Like other types of leather, you should never apply heat.[10]
    • If you have a hat or a pair of shoes that got wet you should stuff them full of paper towels while they dry. An even better option would be some sort of mold about the size of you head or foot. This will keep the leather from shrinking and becoming misshapen as it dries.[11]
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    Rub suede to clean it. Rub the suede with a dry bath towel rather than using water to bring up the shaggy nap of the leather. You can also use a pencil eraser lightly to rub out small stains from the suede.
    • If you're wearing suede shoes try brushing them lightly with a wire brush or a fingernail file.[12]
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    Consider sending the suede to a professional cleaner. You can irreparably damage suede if you don't treat it delicately enough or use an unapproved cleaner. If your suede item is very valuable to you it might be worth it to invest in a professional cleaning.
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    Store suede in the dark. Make sure that the dark place you leave your suede in isn't moist, because removing mildew from suede is incredibly difficult. Transport your suede in a pillow case[13] instead of a plastic bag so it can receive sufficient airflow.


  • Different types of leather may require special methods of care. Suede, split leathers, and leather from goats or other animals require careful handling.
  • Mink oil, neatsfoot oil, and other leather oils replenish the oils that keep leather soft and durable. Always wipe off excess when oiling leather.
  • Finished or dyed leather is sometimes polished, such as boots and shoes. This helps to protect the leather from moisture and scuffing.
  • Some people may be allergic to leather products, or the chemicals used to dye or finish leather, so when wearing it, if you notice a rash, irritation, or redness developing, remove the article from contact with your skin.

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Categories: Personal Care and Style