One of the biggest pros of leather is its versatility: leather can be used to make anything from clothes to furniture and ornaments. Wallets, couches, purses, shoes, and jackets made of leather are not only beautiful and elegant but durable and very comfortable. However, to get the most of its lifespan (or even optimize it), it is important to keep in mind that leather is a delicate material and thus requires special attention.
We may sometimes forget about it, but leather is actually skin and, just like our skin, it loses its natural brightness with the passing of time. In order to stop this from happening or at least slow deterioration as much as possible, you should continuously hydrate your leather furniture or garment and keep it away from heat sources.
In the case of leather couches, for instance, it is wise not to place them on spots that receive direct sunlight. Meanwhile, leather garments should never be hung to dry in the sun.
Each particular type of leather will require customized care and will respond differently to cleaning methods and products. Nevertheless, we thought we’d share some tips on how to clean leather, the power of a homemade leather cleaner, and other minutiae to keep in mind when cleaning leather.
How to Clean Leather Bags and Jackets
When thinking of clothes and accessories, the main question people have is how to wash leather garments. The first answer to this question, unfortunately, is that it is not advisable to throw your leather jacket into a washing machine because it can rip, stain, crack or even flake. As for leather bags, refrain from leaving it to soak in a tub filled with detergent and water, as you would with other materials.
Ideally, you would want to have a professional wash your leather clothes and accessories; someone who has experience with cleaning leather and thus can ensure that it will be handled with care and cleaned properly. Still, not all of us have either the budget or the time to invest in washing services. So, should you be faced with one of those “emergency washes”, at least make sure to double check the tag for which products and methods to use on that specific leather garment.
If you have to wash a leather bag or jacket asap but are unsure of how to go about it, follow the steps below:
1. Pick the mildest detergent or soap you can find and mix 1/8 with (preferably) bottled water;
2. Use a spray bottle to spray the solution on a microfiber rag – NOT directly on the leather;
3. Wipe the leather surface gently and as homogeneously as possible. Depending on the type of leather, you will be able to spot the direction of the grain and if you do, make sure your hand moves with it, not against it;
4. Place or hang the bag/jacket somewhere protected from direct sunlight and leave it to dry completely;
5. Once the leather has dried, use a clean cloth to apply a tiny amount of moisturizers – such as olive oil, linseed oil or coconut oil – so as to create a protective layer over the material.2
What’s the Best Way to Clean Leather?
Each kind of leather has its own natural oil which maintains it supple and glossy. But as the oil dissipates with time and usage, the material becomes dull, rough, and sometimes lifeless. Hence, it is important to frequently clean and maintain any leather object, in order to avoid cracking and keep it looking new and shiny.
As we have mentioned, the safest and probably best way to clean leather is by trusting it to a professional service. Nevertheless, if you wish to make a DIY leather cleaner by using household products, that works too.
The first thing to mention about DIY leather cleaning is that water is not recommended for it stains the material and decreases its durability. Instead, use a vacuum cleaner or soft brush to get rid of dust and particles; a damp rag with neutral detergent, dry cloths for buffing and drying; and, every 3-6 months or so, a moisturizer to hydrate the leather.
(Do not underestimate the “neutral detergent” bit – as a natural fiber, leather must breathe and using regular detergent or even soap induces residues to choke the material, ultimately cracking the leather).
Another underestimated tip on the cleaning process of leather is to actually be mindful of where and how to store it. Here, always choose a non-humid place with plenty of air flowing through, so as to avoid bad smells and mold.
A popular and effective DIY leather spot removal is a mixture of 1 part cream of tartar and 1 part lemon juice. It works as simply as applying the paste right on the stain and wiping it on with gentle, unidirectional moves (same direction of the leather grain) and letting it sit for an hour or so. If the stain isn’t fully removed, repeat the process and wipe it clean with a clean cloth and leave it to dry naturally.
Keep Your Leather Clean
Leather garments are rather delicate and can’t be washed with other materials such as cotton or polyester, but that doesn’t mean they should remain dirty. The same applies to leather boots, leather sofas, and even leather wallets. Really, it is not rocket science; all you need to do is follow the aforementioned tips and pay extra attention in the cleaning process so as to conserve the brightness and texture of leather for much longer.
What to Keep in Mind
Whether you are trying to work out how to remove stains from leather or simply maintain it shiny and supple, there are some important points to consider:
- Some types of leather are highly absorbent, therefore, in the event of an accident be quick to act;
- Don’t clean leather with chemicals that contain ammonia or dye;
- Don’t expose leather to sunlight as it can make the material crack or develop burn-like marks;
- – Don’t use regular soap to clean leather – it will dull and weaken the material;
- If you spill any liquid on a leather couch, don’t use any heat sources to dry it out. Instead, remove most of it with a soft, dry cloth and let the rest evaporate naturally;
- When cleaning leather surfaces, avoid applying too much pressure or rubbing it too hard for it can damage the material;
- Before trying out new cleaning methods and products, test it on a small area of the leather surface. Only after certifying that no damage was done you should proceed with cleaning your leather bag, wallet or couch;
- It is not recommended to use skin care lotions to hydrate your leather couch. The human skin is much thinner and more delicate and body lotions used for people can grease the leather, making it an ideal spot for fungus and bacteria to develop.