How to Clean and Care for Your Leather Wear – 12 Easy Tips

Womens leather bracelets

What is there not to love about leather? From shoes to jackets, belts to bracelets, and wallets to leather messenger bags, consumers everywhere love leather. We love it so much, in fact, that on average, a person will be wearing four leather products at any given moment. Classic and elegant, leather products can upgrade any outfit – – provided they’re well cared for.

If there’s one thing we hate to see, it’s cracked, stained, or faded leather. To keep your leather bags, belts, shoes, and jewelry in tip-top shape, follow these 12 leather care tips:

  1. Choose high-quality leather products: This one is a bit of a no-brainer and applies to all leather products. Whether we’re talking leather messenger bags or leather belts, the same rule applies: higher quality leather lasts longer. In general, the less a leather product has been treated, the higher its quality with “full grain” being considered the highest quality.
  2. Handle with clean hands: Since leather is prone to absorbing oil and grease, take care to never handle your fine leather goods with dirty hands. This goes for hands that have just handled french fries as well as right after you’ve applied lotion. Clean, dry hands, please.
  3. Deep clean every six months but wipe weekly: Use leather cleaners and conditioners at least every six months. For leather wear that’s gets closer to dirt, plan to wipe it with warm, soapy water once a week. This is particularly important for leather messenger bags, totes, and purses, to keep any dirt from becoming ingrained.
  4. Go with the grain: To avoid damaging your leather, think of it as fur and always wipe with the grain.
  5. Avoid drying chemicals: Don’t use baby wipes or vinegar on leather bags or other attire as these products contain chemicals that can dry out the leather or alter the color. The same goes for perfume and cologne. If you want to add scent to your outfit, do it before you don your leather bracelet or grab your leather messenger bag.
  6. A damp cloth can be your first recourse: If an accident happens – – as they’re prone to do – – you can start by trying to wipe it away with a damp cloth. If that doesn’t do the trick, move onto item seven below.
  7. Use a cleaner specifically designed for your material: Instead of grabbing a hand wipe, find a leather cleaner that is specified for the type of leather product you have. Not all leathers are the same. For instance, cowhide is thicker than other leathers. And even within cowhide, the thickness ranges from one ounce to 12 ounce varieties.
  8. Spot test first: When trying a new cleaner, always, always spot test on a small area first. Ideally that small area will be somewhere hidden from view.
  9. Conditioner is not optional: Unlike with hair, conditioning leather products is a must. If you hope to keep your leather totes, shoes, or leather messenger bags supple and healthy, you must condition them at least every six months. Choose a leather conditioner that doesn’t include silicone and follow the manufacturer’s instructions – – after you spot test!
  10. Weather proofing is (not) optional: Depending on your leather product – – i.e. if it’s a belt or bracelet versus shoes or a bag – – weather proofing the material may be more or less optional. Regardless, it’s always a good idea as exposure to the elements will make your leather prone to drying and cracking.
  11. Don’t use water on grease stains: One of the many upsides to leather is grease should wipe off without needing to apply water.
  12. If you’ve got a really, really stubborn stain try shoe polish: Buffing the stain with a polish that matches the color of your product may help cover the eye sore. Alternatively, you could purchase Stain Cover insurance for your designer leather messenger bag or tote. Apparently there is such a thing for a monthly fee – – who knew?

Wherever your leather addiction takes you, following these cleaning and care tips will ensure all your leather wear stays as pristine as the day you bought it. So rock on, our leather-wearing friends, and keep your leather shining proud.

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