Leather Care 101

Leather Care 101

It’s no secret that a pair of luxurious, leather shoes can make you feel like a brand new person. With the right tools and proper care habits, you’ll find that it’s easy to keep your leather shoes and accessories looking like new for decades to come.

Leather Care Products and Tools

First things first: to take proper care of leather, you’ll need the right tools. Basic leather care supplies you need for each step include:

  • Clean, soft cloths
  • A soft sponge
  • Small, soft bristle brush
  • Leather cleaning soap or spray
  • Leather oil or cream conditioner
  • Leather polish or wax
  • Leather protecting spray
  • Shoe trees and/or shoe boxes

How to Clean Leather

Spot Cleaning- Dirt and dust can cause leather to prematurely wear and tear. Spot cleaning can be done to remove stuck-on dirt or crud from leather without having to use soap. Use a little warm water and sponge or soft bristle brush to remove the dirt. Then, wipe away remaining dirt and water with a clean, dry cloth. Repeat if necessary.

Deep Cleaning- For leather that’s been heavily soiled, you’ll need to wipe off any excess muck and then apply a leather cleaner or leather soap with the soft bristled brush or sponge. Work the cleaner into the leather, following the directions from the back of the bottle. Then, wipe the soap off the leather with a clean, damp cloth and allow to air dry.

Why and How to Condition Leather

Conditioning your leather after cleaning on a periodic basis is important to preserve the finish, prevent cracking and extend the life of your footwear. Leather conditioner such as boot oil, mink oil or another all natural leather conditioner should be evenly applied using a soft cloth, sponge, or your fingers, and gently worked into the leather.

Don’t forget about the leather shoes you have in storage; they should still be conditioned once every three months. If you live in a dry climate, condition your leather more frequently to avoid cracking.

Leather Polish

Typically, polishing is done after you’ve cleaned and conditioned your leather. However, polish doesn’t increase leather’s lifespan, its purpose is purely aesthetic. Apply leather polish to clean, conditioned leather using a soft cloth or sponge. After applying it to the entire surface and allowing to sit for several minutes, take a clean, soft, dry cloth and begin buffing the shoe to achieve your preferred level of shine.

Leather Protection

Adding an extra layer of protection helps to further shield leather from dirt, mud, water, oil and whatever else may come into contact. Most leather protectors come in spray form and should be applied in a well-ventilated space. Spray leather in a sweeping back-and-forth motion, ensuring you cover the entire surface. Let the leather dry naturally for 24 hours before your first wear.

How to Break-In Leather Shoes

Breaking in leather shoes can be done various ways. One way to break in leather shoes is by wearing a pair or two of thick socks, and then wearing the shoes for a couple hours each day. After several days, the shoes should fit more comfortably.

Another method to breaking in leather shoes consist of spraying the inside heel with a small amount of water to soften the leather, and then immediately wearing the shoes for half an hour. This way when the leather dries, it will have a better fit.

How to Properly Store Leather Shoes

Shoe boxes can be used to safely store leather shoes and boots. Before storing your leather for the season, make sure to stuff acid-free paper or even shoe trees into your shoes so that they hold their shape in storage. Depending on the climate you live in, you may need to condition your leather while they’re in storage to prevent drying and cracking. Ensure leather shoes are kept stored in a cool, dry environment since dark, damp spaces can cause mold to grow in shoes.

Leather Care Principles

No matter what type, color, finish or fit of leather you own there are several guiding principles to follow:

  • Avoid direct sun and heat. Leather is extremely durable – it is animal hide, after all – but leather left in direct sunlight or heat can dry, fade, and crack. Additionally, wet leather that’s put in the sun to dry can dry out too quickly and shrink. So if you’re trying to dry out a wet piece of leather, let it air dry even though it will take a few days.

  • Always test first. Whenever trying a new color polish or new brand of leather conditioner, always test a small area first for discoloration. Be sure to let the tested area dry for 24 hours before assessing. If you found a brand or color of polish that works without changing the color of your leather, you can keep using it without having to test it again

  • Keep leather clean on a regular basis. All it takes to fight premature aging is a once-per-week wipe down with a clean, damp cloth or baby wipe. If you do nothing else to care for your leather, at least wipe it down on a regular basis.