Buying leather is like a smart investment- you pay extra for something that is good quality and will last a long time. If you don’t take care of your leather, however, it won’t last as long as it should. A good starting point for cleaning leather is to determine if your leather item is finished or unfinished. In general, finished leather items will have a shiny or smooth surface, like luggage, garments, handbags, wallets, sofas, and purses. Unfinished leather and suede usually have a natural matte finish, like saddlery, work boots, shoes, and sport gloves.
One of the best ways to care for your leather is to take preventative measures. For example, try to keep it out of direct sunlight for long periods of time. This will help avoid fading or discoloring. It’s also important to protect your leather from rain, dirt, sweat, and anything else that can cause stains. There are several products out there that will keep your leather safe and looking good. There are also many ways to clean your leather if it does get dirty or stained. Here are our top picks and why we like them:
Leather Lotion: What it does: Not only does this protect most leathers and vinyls from water and dirt, but it’s also great for cleaning, polishing, and conditioning. It can be used on both finished and unfinished leather, but it’s not recommended for suede. Think of it as a 4-in-1 formula that does it all: clean, polish, moisturize, and protect. How to use it: Before going hog-wild with leather lotion (or any other leather care product), always test the solution in a hidden area of the material first, just in case your particular brand of leather does not react well to the treatment. Once it has passed the test-run, rub the cream into the rest of the leather in even, circular motions with a damp cloth or sponge. Once you have rubbed it into all of the leather, wipe it off with a clean cloth. There’s no need to let it soak before wiping the lotion off because the leather will absorb it quickly.
Water Protector: “Wait! What about my favorite suede shoes?” Don’t worry, this great product is perfect for your favorite suede apparel. What it does: This spray is great for protecting suede and also other leathers, both finished and unfinished. The aerosol formula is ideal for repelling water, and it also conditions the leather. How to use it: Simply spray it on your leather shoes, boots, and other garments, and then let it air dry.
4-Way Care Leather Conditioner: By far this is the most complete cleaner and conditioner for use on smooth leathers, especially leather upholstery and leather car seats. What it does: It preserves the leather by waterproofing and replenishing tanning oils. It also strengthens it by coating each leather fibre with a blend of the finest leather oils and waxes. Furthermore, it protects and makes your leather look shiny and nice by coating it with waxes that also aid in resisting dirt. Lastly, it cleans fine leathers (even exotic ones) with a unique leather soap that floats out dirt and grime. How to use it: Spray it on, and let it do its magic! If you go a little spray-happy, don’t worry. Just wipe off the extra with a clean cloth.
Mink Oil: This leather preserver comes in both paste and liquid form. What it does: It’s excellent at water-proofing, softening, and preserving boots, shoes, and other leather items. It also helps prevent salt stains- a super feature if you live in a cold, icy climate. It’s only meant for finished leathers, however, so do not try it on suede or unfinished leather. How to use it: Rub either the paste or liquid on your leather with a clean cloth or sponge, then wipe off any extra with a clean cloth. (It really is that easy.)
Leather Sheen: If you’re looking to make your leather have more of a glossy finish, then leather sheen is a great choice. It can be used on basically all leathers except suede, and it works exceptionally well on smooth leather articles. What it does: this durable finish will not only soften, shine, and condition your leather, but it will also protect it. Think of it as a highly glossy, flexible, water resistant finish. How to use it: Leather sheen comes in both a spray and liquid form, so take your pick. If you prefer the spray, make sure you allow enough time for air drying afterwards. If you’d rather use the liquid, then simply rub on with a clean cloth or sponge, and wipe off any excess with another clean cloth.
Neatsfoot Oil Compound: This combination of natural and synthetic oils is super for leather articles that are subject to rugged use and outdoor exposure, like sports equipment, riding gear, and hunting accessories. What it does: Use this to soften, preserve and waterproof smooth leathers, like saddles, boots, moccasins, etc. How to use it: Rub it on, let it soak for about a minute, then wipe off any excess oil. If the leather is particularly dry, it will soak up everything, which means there won't be any need to wipe it down afterwards. Neatsfoot Oil can be used on both finished and unfinished leather, including suede.
Saddle Soap: Every now and then, leather needs a deep cleaning. Here’s where saddle soap comes in. Just like the name implies, it is traditionally used on saddles, but in reality, it can be used on any leather except suede. What it does: This cleans and lubricates leather fibres, which prevents brittleness, and also maintains the suppleness and strength of your leather. How to use it: Saddle Soap traditionally comes in a paste, but you can also get it in a more conventional spray. If you choose the paste, the cleaning process is pretty much the standard one- wipe on, let it soak, then wipe off. As always, use a clean cloth. If you prefer the spray, just spray on, let it soak, and wipe off. Take it one step further by buffing, and you’ll get a rich, satin finish.
Suede Cleaning Bar and Brush: Need a quick touch up? Use these for a fast, dry method for cleaning most suede. What it does: This can be used in a concentrated area (like a stain), or on a leather article as a whole. It’s a great way to clean your shoes, purses, boots, or any other suede article, and leave them looking like new. How to use it: First rub the bar over the area you want to clean, then brush it off. Yup- it’s that quick and easy.
Spot Remover: We can be as careful as ever, but sometimes stains, spills, and spots do happen. No need to worry- there’s a solution to this too, and it’s called Spot Remover. What it does: Just like the name suggests, this is great for removing grease, oil, tar, gum, and any other unwanted stain from your leather. How to use it: Apply the remover to the unwanted stain, let it soak for a few minutes, then wipe it clean with a dry cloth. This is safe to use on both finished and unfinished leather, including suede.
Overall, taking care of leather isn’t hard if you have the right products to help you. Protecting your leather in the first place will make your life a lot easier. If you do, however, spill beer on your favorite boots at some awesome music festival, just keep singing and dancing. With one of the many products mentioned above, you’ll have them looking just like new again soon.