Products made from natural leather will age with time. Just like the human skin, leather items need care and procedures like moisturizing so as to keep them in tip-top shape for a long time. They will age, even with proper care, but that doesn’t mean that your leather items should look worn out and aged, there are numerous ways to keep them beautiful and in excellent condition.
‘Patina’ is this ageing effect. It is one of the most special qualities of leather. It darkens with age and develops a gorgeous effect over time. This is mostly due to exposure to the sun, oils, dirt, moisture and heat. The leather absorbs it all and develops a sheen that brings out a relative darkening effect. The more you handle your leather items, it also affects the nature and degree of patina that develops.
Caring for leather:
Know what you’re dealing with: To work out how to clean leather clothes or accessories, you need to determine whether you’re dealing with finished or unfinished leather. Keep in mind that 100% unfinished leather is very rare (unless it’s still attached to the cow) and that ‘unfinished’ in this sense tends to be used to describe leather that is very lightly finished. The level of finishing will determine the best way of cleaning your accessories. Heavily finished leather items can withstand greater amounts of water than unfinished leather and are a little easier to clean, but cleaning unfinished leather isn’t too challenging with the right tools.
- To check what you’re working with, take a look at the label. If it’s not clear, or if you’ve cut the label off, apply a tiny water drop to your leather on a small, unnoticeable area – if it’s absorbed straight away, you’ve got unfinished leather. If it stays on the surface, it means there’s a protective film that’s preventing the water from being absorbed.
- Handle your items with clean hands: This might seem like an obvious thing to do, but most of the times we expose our hands to the nastiest of surfaces and then handle food and other items without washing or cleansing. Leather items are susceptible to absorbing grease and oils so always make sure you clean your hands, especially after having fries or that big juicy burger.
- Store them properly: Leather items should be stored properly when not in use, just like other bags. Keep your items out of direct sunlight in an area with low humidity and a good flow of air. Humidity can cause mildew to grow on leather after a period of time. Also, do not store it in a plastic bag, leather tends to ‘breathe’. It’s better to store leather shoes on shelves, rather than in shoe boxes, drawers, or wardrobes.
- Take it slow: The key to removing dust, dirt and other debris is not to use too much pressure. We can get a bit carried away when we notice dirt marks especially if it’s a bag or jacket that we love and try as much as possible with as much effort as we can to remove the marks, but it’s much more effective to lightly wipe off marks 100 times while using less force than 10 times while vigorously rubbing it off. The high pressure can lead to severe irreversible damage that will most likely also the finish on the items.
- Risk of stain formation: Cleaning off dirt marks should be preferably done immediately. Use a cloth to wipe a small amount of the oil all over your leather and then allow it to dry. This will act as a mild waterproofing agent, it will add moisture to the leather to prevent it from cracking, and it will reduce the risk of stains being absorbed into the leather.
- Rain and mud splashes: In a fluctuating weather season such as the one we’re experiencing right now, with one day being sunny and glamorous and the next with people armed with boots and raincoats, it is especially important to look out for rain and mud splashes on your leather. Wipe it down dry with a dry cloth and allow it to dry naturally. If the splashes have gotten a bit dry, wipe them off with a slightly damp cloth and let them dry. Do not use hair dryers or other heat applications. The heat exposure can cause the finish to peel away.
Buckles: Buckles do not require special care or attention. This however doesn’t mean that you should neglect or engage in any activity that should damage them. Use a soft cloth to sufficiently remove any traces of finger marks, oil deposits or dust from them.
Don’t over-stuff your bags or purses: Do not overpack leather bags, unlike other bags, leather stretches and it also becomes hard to return to its original shape. Overfilling also puts stress on the stitches and this causes damage in the long term. Also, stuff your unused bag with old clean rags or paper bags to restore and hold its shape.
Scratches: We sadly live in a world where scratches cannot be prevented, but you should keep your items away from sharp and metallic objects. Be careful of how you handle your bags or purses when you lay them on the ground or on any other surface.
It’s a good idea to add a protective layer to finished leather items after cleaning. You can use olive oil or a commercial leather protector to do so.
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