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Since the Palaeolithic period, leather has been used to protect our bodies from the weather elements. Over the centuries, leather applications and designs have evolved a lot.
From a practical point of view, leather is preferred for its durability and sturdiness. From the emotive side, people love leather is for its earthy smell, patina (beautiful ageing process) and feel.
It is therefore imperative that you know how to protect your favourite leather good.
In this article, we want to share with you some of our tips so that you get the most out of your leather goods for as long as possible.
Things to keep in mind
It is good to keep in mind that there are many variations of leather, it is important to know which one you want to take care of before using any specific method. Not every care instructions are interchangeable and could actually damage your leather good.
Before choosing the method to take care of your leather, you should know these key points:
- Type of leather
- Leather treatment
- The problem you want to solve
Types of leather
Identifying real leather from synthetic or imitation leather
Identifying leather from synthetic or imitation leather can be tricky particularly to the untrained eye. Designs have become very sophisticated making it more challenging to differentiation.
Some basic tips are:
- Odour: Only real leather emits an earthy smell which comes from the tanning process and also because it is a natural material.
- Inside fur: Looking on the backside of the leather you should be able to see some kind of fur. Imitation leather is typically plastic glued to a fabric of some kind and most will have a different colour than the outer side.
- Feel: When touching leather you should feel a bit of texture. Synthetic leather is likely to be smoother with a plastic feel. It is important to note that there are some leathers, like patented or chrome tanned leather that can have an extremely smooth surface also.
- Bending behaviour: Similar to the feel, when bending synthetic leather it will bend like plastic leaving little to no signs of wrinkles. Leather will show visible marks and wrinkles and the extend of the marks will vary depending on the kind of leather.
- Water: Leather is water-resistant but not waterproof. If water is left for a while or excessive water is used the leather will eventually absorb it. Synthetic leather is waterproof so water would glide off it.
There are different kinds of leather treatment. Tanning is the process where leather is made durable. The 2 most used tanning methods are vegetable and chrome tanning.
This is the more traditional and natural way to tan leather. It is considered more eco-friendly also. When purchasing tanned leather there will be a wide range of earthy colours in tan, browns and reds. Other colours can also be achieved but through the additional treatment of the leather, like dyed or printed leather.
This is a more modern version of tanning which uses chromium during the tanning process. Most of the leather on the market is chrome leather because it is significantly cheaper to produce.
Other treatments of leather focus on the finished look. Examples could be patent leather that has a shiny finish or even stamped leather that can make a cowhide look like snakeskin.
A known test to differentiate these tanning leathers is to put a strip of the leather into boiling water. If it curls, it is vegetable leather, if it floats only, it is chrome tanned leather.
We assume though you do not have a spare strip to test this with your leather good. In that case, the thing is to ask the store you bought the leather good from.
Wrinkled and dry leather care
While many people love the aged look on leather it is important to keep in mind that leather is animal skin and just like our skin, it needs to be hydrated from time to time.
If you have a leather good that is wrinkled, dry or has some discolouration, we recommend to hydrate it. There are conditioner, oils and many other ways of doing this.
Our favourite choice is "Leather honey Conditioner" because it is:
- Water repellent
- Leaves no oily residue
- Controls mildew (a fungus that can develop of leather)
- Works with most leathers except suede and nubuck
Care for suede or nubuck
Many of our products are nubuck because we love the feel and look of it. From our experience, nubuck does not require too much care. Brushing the leather good from time to time will keep it looking really nice.
We recommend nubuck and suede specific brushes, like this one, that has a rubber side and a metal brush on the other. The rubber side is to be used most of the time to give the leather good a gentle brush. If there are stubborn marks, you can use the metal side, though be careful to not overuse it as it may damage the texture leaving a shiny area.
If you want to protect your suede nubuck from water, we recommend getting water protecting sprays that are typically available in shoe shops.
Applicable to most leathers
- Always follow the guidance from the store you have purchased your leather good in. They know best what leather and treatment have been used, hence also how to protect it.
- Protect from excessive sun exposure when you're storing your leather goods as this will accelerate colour fading
- Avoid excessive water and storing your leather goods in moist environments as mould could develop. Water can also make your leather good stiffer.
- Avoid exposing to other dyes fabric that may rub off colour. For example, some dark blue jeans when rubbed for an extended period of time against a leather handbag can stain it permanently.
We hope this article was helpful and educational. If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment and we will do our best to help.
Now that you have gained the lore, check out the Tania Rosas Designs leather goods you could be taking care of!
*The above product links are affiliated Amazon links. It means I will receive a small commission for taking you to the right product, should you decide to make a purchase.