There are various types and grades of leathers, each serving a different purpose. Some require a bit more maintenance than others, but all follow a set guideline of care to ensure a longer life.
There are four stages in leather care that include cleaning, conditioning, polishing, and protection. When perusing the store shelves for a product that fits your needs, be watchful for what kind of product you're purchasing. It can be confusing to try and figure out which product is for which stage, but look for words that explain how the product is to be used. It is also important to remember to work on your leather in a well-ventilated area. Some leather care products are very strong and can cause irritations.
To clean a leather item, first choose a cleaner that will help preserve the natural lubricating oils instead of stripping them. For example, saddle soap is a commonly used product for equestrian tack. It is meant to be used as a cleaner and a protector from moisture, but it trips the leather of the oils in the process of attempting to do two jobs at once. The cleaner of your choice should not leave any greasy residue behind. Residue makes leather susceptible to bacteria and can break down the stitching of your item. Before applying anything to your leather item, be certain to test it out for effect and possible color distortion on an area that isn't visible to the eye. Once you've ascertained whether the leather care product is acceptable to use, apply it to your item. With a slightly dampened cloth, remove the cleaning product. For areas with stitches, there are brushes available on the market. Another cleaning product to consider having in your leather care collection is a nubuck cleaning cloth. They have an astonishing ability to clean and restore leather to its original look.
Leather conditioners are meant for occasional use. They contain fats and/or oils that help lubricate leather and replenish the suppleness. Look for a product that will penetrate the strong fibers in leather, but beware of any that include petroleum or mineral oils. While petroleum by-products won't damage your leather immediately, they do over a period of time. Again, just as with cleaning, keep on the look out for thick, greasy conditioning treatments for the best care of your leather.
Polishing is done for special occasions when you want a more glossy finish on your leather. There are a couple things to be wary of when purchasing a polishing agent. Some products contain coloring factors that will brush off on things you come in contact with. Some products also have a tendency to clog the pores in leather or dry leather out. Just as with cleaning, be sure to test out the product on a small area and when ready, buff to a shine.
Moisture barriers are extremely crucial in preventing rain or other liquid hazards from damaging leather. Stiffness and spouting will happen if leather isn't protected beforehand. There is a drawback in protecting leather with a moisture barrier product. They tend to fill in the pores with a greasiness that makes cleaning, conditioning, and polishing difficult, but it's a necessary process to ensure leather isn't destroyed. Periodically apply a moisture barrier and allow it time to penetrate and dry before using your leather item.
To remove mildew from leather, create a mixture of one-cup rubbing alcohol per one-cup of water. Wipe the mildew area with a cloth dipped in the diluted alcohol, then allow it to dry. If the mildew persists, use mild soap and water that contains a germicide, then remove with a clean dampened cloth and allow to dry.
An important key to keeping leather in top-notch condition is to treat wet leather before it has a chance to dry. Remove any dirt, mud, or other stains with a cleaning agent, then condition while the pores are still fully responsive. It is critical to remember that leather should be dried away from heat.
Remember that leather is a natural material and should never be stored in plastic because it encourages the growth of mildew and bacteria and will ruin the leather. Always store leather in a cool, dry place away from heat.
Fresh stains from things such as blood and food can be cleaned up quickly with a damp cloth. Stains from oil or grease can be lifted by grinding ordinary blackboard chalk, sprinkling the area, and leaving the powder on for a twenty-four hour period. Resist the urge to rub the powder in. After a sufficient time has past, simply use a leather care brush to remove the powder. While fresh stains can be treated and cleaned at home, ground-in stains should be attended to by a professional cleaner who deals in leather.