Click to enlargeLeather Care

Leather items can get dirty, wrinkled and maybe even stained. You may be wondering about preventative measures and even be wondering what you should do to your new special leather item to preserve it.

If you want it to stay looking just like it did when you took it out of the box... put it back in the box. If you want to rub something on it... it's yours, do what makes you happy. If you put something on it, it cannot be returned.

The products shown above are used in the manufacture of some of my products. They can be used to refurbish my products if they become worn and scuffed during use. They are available from the "Suppiles" page.

The leather balm with atom wax is the top coat that is used on my belts. It can be used to renew them from time to time. The belts actually look better than new (To me) after they are broken in and then are repolished with this product. This can be used on other top grain leather products and helps cover up worn areas. I use it in neutral so it can be used on all colors.

The edge Kote is used on the edges of belts. This will probably not need to be redone. I find this product usefull on edge binding that has the top grain worn off from use. I just rub on a little with the tip of my finger on worn areas to recreate the top coating. It comes in Black and Brown.

The Neatsfoot oil compound will darken leather. It is used to make stiff leather flexible. I use it when making harness leather belts to prepare them for your use. Do not use this on my products. Read the rest of my care advise below.

The Tan Kote is used as a finish on leather. I find it useful for touching up scuffs on leathergoods that are not finished with a wax (Leather Balm). I put it on against the grain in a scuff to coat the torn part of the leather. I then apply it in the opposite direction before it dries to lay the scuffs back down. Essentially glueing them back where they belong. I do this with a small patch of cloth or my finger tip. Apply more than one coat if necessary. Apply sparingly. This can also be used on worn binding to replace the surface finish. This is a neutral color but will bring out whatever color is in the leather when drying.

The leather dye comes with a dauber applicator but I wear rubber gloves and apply it with a cloth pad or sheepskin. I have a lot of colors but mostly Lt. Brown Med. Brown Dk. Brown and Black. Black needs to be sealed with Tan Kote before using. The other colors usually only need Leather Balm. On belts it's best to use the Neatsfoot oil first. The colors look more even the next day. Don't apply finish until the dye is dry.

The dry cleaner is dry cleaning fluid. Use it when desperate.

New! Mildew Off
Chlorine free, use on canvas, vinyl, leather, cloth, concrete, tile, and painted surfaces.

More about leather care:

  Keep in mind what the tanners and finishers have already done to produce this leather that has been chosen as the best leather for it's purpose. If it needed something rubbed on it to preserve it, we would have done it for you, or chosen different leather. We are not selling a kit. (This applies to my finished goods. When making belts and kits, it is up to you to make them ready for use.)

I have come to believe that there may be something to the theory of evolution. For thousands of years, tanning and maintaining leather required a lot of rubbing oils into leather. It now seems to be instinctive in humans if indeed it has not produced a new gene.

We have used leather scraps to patch jeans. Surprisingly, they can be machine washed many times before they become stiff and start to shrink. Neatsfoot oil restores them for this purpose. That is an extreme example of what not to do to your leather goods, even though it worked for this purpose. Neatsfoot oil is normally used on leather pump gaskets to keep leather from being damaged while immersed in water. In the past it was sometimes used on work shoes also, but most modern shoes have cemented on soles. The adhesives can break down and be damaged by oil.

We do not expect that you will wear your handbag on your feet instead of boots so it is unlikety that it will get repeated wet and dry cycles and become salt stained. With normal use the leather does not need something on it to preserve it.

Whatever you do to leather will change it's appearance in some way. This, as well as normal use, will make the item uniquely yours. Oil will darken leather. Keep your handbag away from Italian salad dressing. Naked leathers are porous and will absorb oil. Oil from your hands will in time give this leather a pleasing patina. If you do not want this to happen you can use a conditioner, it will fill the pores and darken the leather according to the porosity of the leather and what is in the conditioner. This will perhaps prevent staining, The idea is to put oil or wax on the leather to pre-stain it in a uniform way. This will make a mess if there is an overage of glue or other products used in manufacture.

The first stain is the worst, especially an oil stain. Service Master, the cleaning Co. used to have a product called Oil sorb Pro. It works almost like magic, if you can get some. Otherwise try using Fullers Earth to absorb the oil or clean the leather with saddle soap and then use a conditioner on it if the leather feels dry. It won't look like new but you will have taken the first step in the break in process. The break in process usually takes about a year and is unique to each user, then the leather should maintain the same look for a long time. This break in process also depends on the type of leather. The naked leathers become more leathery looking with use than the leathers with some aniline finish.

Just about the time leather really starts looking good is when the bags with regular linings are shot on the inside or if all leather, the inside is getting grotty. You can use a sponge with warm water and soap on the bonded linings that we use, if necessary.

Clean the outside with saddle soap. Don't just rub it on, use it with a damp rag as if it were soap, then rub the leather dry. By this time you are probably ready to enhance the look with a leather treatment. Don't use silicone or any product intended for, or used on shoes. Some things rub off on your clothes, some darken, some shine. ( see advise from tannery below ) We use "Leather Balm" on our oak tanned, hand stained leather belts. The Tan Kote works in finished leathers and the embossed alligator leathers.

Chances are that even after 2 years, unless you have repeatedly gotten the leather wet, it won't really have to have something on it to keep the leather from cracking. You can tell from the feel if the leather is getting stiff or not. If it is, it's time for a leather conditioner. Or... just buy a new one... it's probably time for a change anyway :-)

If the leather stays dry it will give you years of use. What really destroys leather is mold growing on the leather. It feeds on the fibers, eventually the leather goes dry and powdery similar to dry rot in wood. Just putting on oil will not repair the leather. If it gets wet it will eventually need to have the oil in the leather restored for looks and flexibility, but more importantly it should not be left in a damp enclosed environment where mold can grow. Dry the leather, out of the sun, preferably in a room with a dehumidifier. Lay it out in the shape you want it to be until dry.

I asked representative from a U.S. tannery, who supplies some of my leather, to comment on my leather care advise. This is his reply:

"You have covered everything I can think of quite accurately. The only thing I might mention is that when informing customers on applying oils, conditioners, silicones, etc. that they make sure that they do not have a solvent in them. Most leather, and all our leather is made with water based finishes. If a oil or conditioner has a solvent in it, the solvent could destroy the finish."

I think what we are talking about here are things like Acetone
( which is in nail polish remover ) and other petroleum based thinners. I have had people do some crazy things with leather, like washing their glazed sheepskin coat in the bath tub, pouring Coca Cola on leather, and heating leather in their oven. Please do not do these things, contact me+ if you have a special problem.
  I see that people arrive here and maybe??? read this far. Please let me know what you think of my FRANK advise. Thanks H.

By Henry Hibbard