The Five Golden Rules of Caring For Leather

Categories Fashion

Jackets, shoes, wallets, belts . . . if it’s leather, follow these commandments like gospel.

Clean carefully

Pesky little particles of dirt and dust are the prime culprits for damaging leather, so get into the habit of going over your garments once a week with a damp cloth to ward off premature ageing. Don’t use any soap, though — the chemicals interfere with the leather’s structure by stripping away the moisture that preserves the material.

And condition regularly

When leather’s looking dry, feed it some moisture — this means conditioning once every two to six months with a product that prevents cracks and fights dryness . . . and adds a bit of shiny polish. Creams, foams, gels, oils, or whatever product you use, keep it natural rather than synthetic and apply gently with a brush designed to be used on leather. And test a small amount first — it’s notoriously difficult to match the right shade of brown, for example, so dip your toe in by conditioning a small area before treating the whole shoe or jacket.


Keep an eye on lanolin

This fatty secretion found in sheep’s wool is used in plenty of leather care products because it’s so effective at softening leather — and that’s why you need to be judicious with where you use it. That super-soft finish might be exactly what you’re looking for in a well-worn jacket or bag, but not necessarily on your formal pair of Oxfords of the belt you wear with your formalwear. Keep an eye out for lanolin on the bottle.

Dry it slowly

Leather responds to sunlight like a pasty Irishman on Bondi Beach: poorly. Resist the urge to dry out leather garments in the sun when it gets wet — that makes the material dry too quickly then crack and warp — and instead let them dehydrate back to normal at room temperature, stuffing some newspaper or paper towel inside shoes to accelerate the process, for example. For footwear, a shoe tree made of unvarnished cedar is also a shrewd investment to draw out moisture and maintain a shoe’s shape.

Let it breathe

Ventilation allows excess moisture to evaporate and stops the leather from deteriorating quicker than it needs to, so store jackets and shoes in an airy part of your wardrobe and transport any leather accessories in a breathable fabric bag rather than a sweaty plastic one. Also, pro tip, leather can stretch bigger . . . but it cannot shrink back. That means those crinkles in your overstuffed wallet aren’t going anywhere, so take care not to stuff it full of old receipts and cards in the first place.