How To Care For Leather: A Practical Guide


Leather is one of the most resistant and versatile materials. That’s why it is commonly used for work boots that are exposed to harsh weather conditions, dust, mud as well as general wear and tear. Extremely flexible, the material is produced by tanning animal skin and rawhide, with the most common being cattle hide. Along with footwear for wear, it’s also commonly used to make furniture covering, clothes, accessories and even book-bindings.

Read on for a few tips that will help you care for your leather.

Look For Puncture Resistant Heels And Soles

If you’re planning on using your leather shoes under harsh conditions, it’s extremely important to pay attention to the type of heels and soles that it sports. Consequently, puncture-resistant soles are crucial if you’re planning on using your boots in areas littered with metal shavings, glass, nails and the likes. By the same token, the best way to protect your leather shoes in oily or wet surfaces is to ensure that they have slip resistant heels and soles.

Keeping It Away From Abrasives

The most important thing to remember about leather is that once damaged, it’s virtually impossible to repair it again. Consequently, you should be careful not to over-expose this material to abrasives in order to lengthen its lifespan. Still, bear in mind that the occasional scratches can still happen, even more so if you’re wearing shoes or boots for field work. In fact, some people actually prefer the look of rugged leather. However, if you’re not one of them, you can invest in particular creams or dressing to moisturize the material at least once every three months. This has been known to keep scruffs, dryness and cracks at bay.

Avoid Water And Dampness

According to Carolyn Forte from the Good Housekeeping Institute, allowing too much water to seep across leather is one of the worst mistakes most people tend to make. Avoid immersing your clothes, boots and other accessories in water to prevent any unnecessary wrinkling and shrinking. In addition, experts also recommend that you wipe your boots down after walking in the snow, but make sure not to rub them too hard or you might scrub off the color.

It’s also important to avoid vigorous cleaning: quite on the contrary, you should very gently rub in cleanser or mild soap on the material and allow it to sit for a few seconds before slowly wiping it clean. As far as drying is concerned, it’s always a good idea to let your items air dry so it stays as smooth as possible. Dampness has also been known to wreak havoc on leather: if you live in an area prone to humidity, for example, be sure to keep your shoes in its original box, away from windows and doors.

You can also invest in waterproofing waxes or sprays to create a protective barrier over your belongings. If using sprays, remember that less is always more- the last thing you want is to create a crusty surface on the leather.  

Know Your Material

The best way to care for this material is to know the type you’re actually dealing with. Vegetable-tanned leather, for instance, is made from barks prepared from roots, fruits, leaves, wood and bark mills. Because this type of leather is more delicate, it should be protected from different types of weather conditions. In fact, vegetable-tanned material has been known to congeal and harden when exposed to overly hot climates, which is why it’s commonly used to make book-bindings. Historically-speaking, this type was also used in armor making.

Brain tanned and Formaldehyde leather, on the other hand, is far more soft and supple than its rawhide or vegetable-tanned counterpart. As a result, this type of material absorbs water more easily, therefore it’s best to avoid using it in snow or rain.

Professional Treatment

If your item gets severely soaked or wrinkled, the best way save it is to go for professional cleaning. Bear in mind that this might not always work but it’s your best chance at trying to restore your item to its former glory.

It’s always advisable to get your leather boots professionally cleaned at least once every two years in order to extend their lifespan and keep them in pristine condition. Along with professional cleaning, do try to wipe your leather item with a damp cloth once a week. Make sure that the cloth is only slightly damp and not completely wet. Adopt slow, gentle movements and take proper care to protect the surface from fingernail scratches.

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