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When cared for properly, your leather items can last decades. The key to cleaning and conditioning leather is remembering that it is like delicate skin. As leather ages, it becomes more susceptible to oils, dirt and UV damage because it naturally loses moisture. To help this material retain its beauty, you have to clean and condition it with the right products. The best leather cleaners and conditioners are pH balanced.
What to Look For
The best cleaners are those that you would use on your own skin, such as gentle hand soap. You can also raid your pantry and use natural ingredients like white vinegar or baking soda to help clean your leather products. The best leather conditioners are those that help waterproof, nourish and moisturize the material, as well as repel stains. Food-grade linseed oil (another pantry item) and olive oil are excellent leather conditioners. If you purchased a high-end leather item, ask the retailer if the manufacturer sells specific leather cleaners and conditioners for its products. Some companies sell care and maintenance items that are formulated for use with their clothing and accessories.
Basic Leather Cleaning
Place a bit of gentle hand soap onto a microfiber cloth and gently apply the soap onto the leather item using a circular motion. The idea isn’t to rub the soap into the leather. Instead, the gentle circular motion will encourage the dirt to rise to the surface of the material. Use a bit of water to create a slight lather, but don’t get the leather too wet. Then use a clean microfiber cloth to wipe off the soap (no water needed). With a third microfiber cloth, buff your leather item and allow it to dry. To help clean items made from hard leather, like shoes, you can use white vinegar instead of hand soap.
If your leather has a stain, apply a solution made from 1 part rubbing alcohol and 1 part water directly onto the stained area and blot it off. A paste made out of baking soda and water is another good stain-fighting solution that you can use to spot-treat leather.
To make a two-in-one leather conditioner and cleaner, mix 1 part white vinegar with 2 parts linseed or olive oil. Apply the mixture onto the leather as you would a cleaner, let the solution sit on the leather overnight and buff the leather in the morning. To condition the leather, place a few drops of a leather conditioner, linseed oil or olive oil onto a dry microfiber cloth. Buff the conditioner onto the surface of the leather and wait for the material to absorb the conditioning agent before you use it.
What to Avoid
When cleaning and conditioning your leather goodies, stay away from products that use mink oil, petroleum or petroleum solvents, silicone, or other glossing agents. These ingredients can stain, leave a greasy finish, or cause a buildup on your leather clothes or accessories. Also, avoid products that have the potential to stain other clothes that come in contact with the leather. Before using any cleaner or conditioner on leather, do a spot test to see if the care products will create a stain on the material.