Identify and Protect Your Leather
A quality leather item is an investment. It is very important to identify and protect your leather in order to able to use it for years to come. Here are some tips to keep your leather in great shape. The first step you will want to do, is to identify which type of leather your bag is made from.
Most leather bags are vegetable-tanned with tannin. It is the only form of leather suitable for use in leather carving or stamping. Downside: Vegetable-tanned leather handbags are not stable in water; they tend to discolor, so if left wet then it will shrink and become harder.
Chrome-tanned is more supple and pliable than vegetable-tanned leather and does not discolor or lose shape as drastically in water as vegetable-tanned. It is also known as wet-blue for its color derived from the chromium. It is reported that chrome-tanned leather adds up to 80% of the global leather supply.
Full-grain is premium-grade hide that has not been buffed, to showcase the skin’s natural “grain” or texture.
Top-grain: is easier on your wallet, this is a thinner leather and has had its natural grain corrected by sanding away scars.
Patent leather and exotics, with their high gloss are just two other examples of the other finishes and leather types available on the market today.
Nubuck is top-grain hide, sanded on the grain or hair side to achieve a nap; short fibers that yield a soft, velvety texture. Scratches are very visible, and care involves regular brushing of the nap to remove dirt.
Suede is often confused with nubuck, but is made from the underside of the hide, resulting in a longer nap. Easily stained and matted, treatment options for suede are much the same as for nubuck.
The general principle is simple: remove dirt build-up by wiping down with a cleaner made specifically for the leather in question.
Every other day, give your bag a brisk sweep with a soft dry cloth—this won’t take more than a few minutes, but will go miles towards preserving the appearance of your leather.
To clean nubuck and suede you will want to spot clean by using a rubber eraser to remove dirt and smudges. Then, brush lightly with a soft brush specifically made for suede and nubuck products. A spray protectant works best for these types of leather.
Think of conditioning as moisturizer for your leather, which will dry out over time. To prevent flaking and wrinkling, apply a small amount of conditioner on a soft cloth and rub gently all over.
Try mink or neatsfoot oil, which simulate and supplement the natural oils of leather. Leave on for 10 minutes, and then wipe off the excess. Dry thoroughly in an airy room. Condition every month or so to keep your leather looking its shiny best.
Leather is permeable and can never be entirely waterproof, so avoid toting your favorite leather bag in bad weather. Nonetheless, there are beeswax creams which function as a barrier against water. Word of caution: beeswax may alter the hue of dyed leather, so test first on an inconspicuous spot. A more breathable but less effective alternative: a spray protectant, which is virtually invisible on your bags.
Store your bag in a dust bag and fill it with stuffing, never use newspaper because the ink will smear and stain the leather.
Take measures to make sure your bag doesn’t get damp from humidity and mold. Air once every two weeks to halt the growth of mold.
Let water spills dry naturally. High-heat measures like using a hairdryer will only cause the skin to crinkle beyond salvage.
If you properly care for your leather items, they will last for many years to come.