How to take care of your leather

Good quality leather pieces “can retain their properties for over 50 years, provided that adequate leather care is given” says Geraldine Goh. She’s the co-founder of handcrafted, high-quality leather bags and shoes specialists Arete Goods, so she should know. While we may not all have designer-wardrobes stacked from top to bottom with expensive leather pieces, it’s important to know how to best care for the shoes and bags we do have, especially as it helps them to retain their value.

When talking with, Ms Goh distinguished between two types of leather, each requiring a different method of cleaning and maintenance.

In short, full grain leather is that premium leather which has no defects such as holes, scars or moles from the animal and so does not need to be sanded.

Nubuck is made from sanded outer calf skin and is normally more expensive than suede as it is stronger and, in theory, lasts longer.

Suede is made from the inner layer of skin and is sanded from the inside, producing a clean and smooth product. However, it’s not often as durable as nubuck.

Goh groups Suede and Nubuck leather in terms of cleaning and recommends using a suede brush to remove dirt and clean them if they look dirty or ‘flattened’.

If you’re on the move or travelling, a clean toothbrush can also be used to the same effect. For a deeper clean, use a suede or nubuck cleaner. You should always follow cleaning instructions specified by your product, but, in general, you’ll need to work the leather with a brush then spray on the product before allowing it to dry. 

For full grain leather, we suggest wiping down the edges of bags and the soles of shoes after each use with a dry soft cloth. This will help them remain pristine as it prevents dirt from sinking into the leather and will also make future cleaning processes easier and faster.

Frequently used leather should be conditioned once a month to avoid it becoming dry. However, if your leather is worn irregularly, be sure you don’t over-condition it.

Before you begin conditioning your leather, make sure you perform a patch test. Sample a small amount of the cleaning product in a hard-to-see corner or underside of your bag or shoe to see how the leather reacts. Some leathers react differently to different cleaning products, so watch for any discolouration then, once you are sure there is no discolouration or damage, apply the conditioner in small quantities and rub across the shoes or bag in an even, circular motion. Apply in an even layer before wiping off excess product. Allow the leather to air and dry.

Before storing leather make sure that it is completely dry, has been aired out for at least a day and stuff it with tissue paper to help it retain its shape before putting it away.

How do you care for you leather? Do you have any tips or tricks you’d like to pass onto our readers?

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Written by Liv Gardiner


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