Do You Care?
-A Leather Care Guide
Leather items will provide years of use and comfort; but like anything else, they will last longer and perform better with care.
To discuss the different types of conditioners and typical questions asked about leather care, I interviewed Keven Sutton, manager of Tandy Leather Store,Nashville 131. He has 25 years of experience working with leather and leather projects.
Conditioners: There are several types of leather conditioners. "Treatment" does not mean conditioner, so read the label to make sure you are getting what you thought.
· Lanolin based conditioners are a by-product of the wool industry and there are many available. They typically do not cause a color shift. They are used frequently for jackets, purses, and couches. They need frequent application and are easy to apply. Many are in liquid form. The thicker ones are typically more powerful conditioners and are more difficult to penetrate the leather, they need to be rubbed to permeate the leather. The thicker ones are also more expensive than the more liquid lanolin based conditioners.
· Waxy conditioners are often in paste form and some shoe polishes contain waxy conditioners. Again read the label to see if the polish also has a conditioner included in the formulation. Some are also water-proofers. They range in formulation from paste to a block like form of the conditioner. If it does not say that it is a conditioner, it is not. TREATMENT does not mean CONDITIONER. Conditioners will need to be worked into the leather item with rubbing. Many of the waxy conditioners work better with heat, you may use a hair dryer over the item to help the conditioner to permeate more thoroughly after application. Remember to keep the dryer setting on low and do not overheat the leather item. Many of these change the color of the leather to a darker color. Keven indicates from his experience, if the finish is splotchy in appearance after application of a waxy conditioner, apply another coat to even it out. The waxy conditioners typically last longer than the lanolin and oil based ones.
· Tallow based conditioners are a type of waxy conditioner that can be used when you have a leather item that is in particularly bad shape. The Tallow based conditioner can be rubbed into the item to help restore the leather and "bring it back to life". It can be somewhat difficult to work with because of the thickness of the formulation and the damage of the leather that you are trying to restore.
· Liquid oils can include Neatsfoot oil, corn oil, olive oil, and mixtures of oils. They darken the leather and penetrate quickly. They are typically powerful conditioners. They can cause dramatic color shifts and are not as long lasting as the waxy conditioners. They can go rancid if over applied. Olive oil is more known for going rancid-this does not so much damage the leather as makes it smell awful. If using olive oil, remember to apply it sparingly. Neatsfoot oil has a better shelf life.
Some common leather questions that Keven encounters at Tandy are:
- Can you clean suede? Suede can be thought of similar to a sponge, some stains or soiling may be removed from the surface of the suede, but will remain throughout the body of the suede--like a sponge. You may carefully clean the top of the suede with gentle cleaning, but permeating stains may not be removed.
- Can you clean oil stains? Oil stains cannot really be cleaned from the leather, chemicals used to pull out the oils can cause more damage and destroy the leather. Unless the item is a costly and sentimental item, it may be better to buy a new one.
He said some of the more generalized leather questions he encounters are:
· Does Tandy carry finished leather goods such as finished belts? No, they supply materials used to make leather items but do not sell the finished goods. They also do not do repairs. You may take classes at their store to learn how to make leather goods. There are signs posted around the store and also on their corporate website, www.tandyleather.com The following is the link to classed that are being held at the Nashville, TN store: https://www.tandyleather.com/en/leathercraft-classes#id_616
If you have leather items that have gotten wet, do not put them away wet as they may become moldy or misshapen. For gloves, they may be placed over an empty cup or glass turned upside down to allow air to get around them. If your jacket or vest has gotten wet, drape it over something that will allow air circulation around it, please do not hang it on a hook that would make an impression in the leather as it dries. You may then condition it when it has dried.
There are leather conditioners and cleaners available for purchase at Tandy and Buckle and Hide Leather LLC. Some of the most common cleaning products are pictured below. We will be making some short leather care videos to have on YouTube in the upcoming months for your reference.
Special Thanks To:
Tandy Leather Nashville 131
405 Harding Industrial Drive
Nashville, TN 37211
Buckle and Hide Leather LLC
Smyrna, TN 37167