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Leather care basics
Have you ever been caught in a downpour while holding your favorite suede handbag, only to have it ruined with water stains? How about your vintage leather jacket; is it as well kept as you would like? As gorgeous and stylish as leather products are, properly caring for them can be tricky. On the upside, leather normally ages beautifully, especially when it develops a patina over time, which adds greatly to its appeal. On the downside, failing to take proper care of your leather goods can become detrimental to their appearance and durability.
Proper leather care entails knowing how to tackle problems such as water stains, dirt, mold, odors, cracking, drying and storage concerns. It is always a good idea to ask the item’s manufacturer for proper leather care tips while you are at the store, as they are your best bet to get expert advice, regarding their products. However, as a general rule of thumb, you should also keep in mind that leather is, in essence, very similar to our own skin. It should be kept dry, clean and away from sunlight, and from any sources of heat, such as hair dryers or radiators. Most types of leather should also be routinely moisturized throughout the year with products like Wilson’s Leather Lotion.
Leather care; how to prevent problems
Fortunately, it is rather easy to prevent most leather care problems. Routinely cleaning, moisturizing and properly storing your leather items will greatly help in this respect. Remember to keep your leather goods away from spills of water, as it can cause serious stains – or even destroy your product if it is made of suede leather.
As for handbags, proper leather care requires making a conscious decision to keep them well away from items or clothing that might cause dye transfer, such as your dark denim clothes, because they might create dye stains if they get rubbed on your leather bag – especially if it is white or any other light color.
Keeping your leather product away from all kinds of chemicals is also a basic rule of proper leather care. You should never ever use household cleaners, bleach or alcohol on your leather goods. If you absolutely must use a specialized chemical cleaning product on your leather item, be sure to test it on an inconspicuous spot first. Some types of cleaners might remove your leather’s color, finish, or even cause it to crack and dry out, just like heat would.
Leather care; how to identify the type of leather you are dealing with
Sometimes problems just can’t be avoided, and we find ourselves faced with difficult situations. The first step in a successful leather care strategy is identifying the actual kind of leather your product is made of. This will ensure that you take the correct measures to resolve your specific problem, since each type of leather comes with its own particular needs and characteristics.
Wild Tussah products are made of high quality full-grain leather, which is the most durable and best looking type of leather. Full-grain leather develops a rich patina over time, and ends up relaying a living story through its natural wear.
In order to determine if your leather product is made of full-grain leather, you should check the grain. If the grain pattern is not the same all the way through your product, then your leather is probably made of full-grain leather. Full-grain leather care is a bit easier, since it is very durable, and small signs of wear usually add to its ‘living story’ appeal anyway.
One other trick to determine the type of leather you have at hand is the ‘scratch test’. If you lightly scratch your leather using a fingernail, and you find that the scratch cannot be seen, then your leather has some protection on it. Semi-aniline, top-grain, finished leather and pigmented leather are some of the types that feature this kind of protective top coat (made of clear plastic or pigment).
Another way to test your leather is by bending or gently stretching it, to check and see if its color splits or dissipates. If it does, then you probably have bonded of bicast leather on your hands.
In order to check if your leather is actually suede or nubuck (top-grain cattle leather), you just have to brush your hand in one direction, and then draw a line using your finger, towards the opposite direction. If the line is visible, then your product is probably made of suede or nubuck leather.
For more extensive information regarding the various types of leather your item might be made of, please refer to our blog post, Types of Leather.
Leather care; how to clean your leather goods
If your leather product gets too wet, and it is suede, then it is probably ruined. If not, then proper leather care dictates that you should let it dry slowly, in room temperature with maybe some gentle air circulation over it. If it’s just a few drops, then carefully dabbing them off using a clean, dry piece of cloth would be your best option. If you were to use a hair dryer on your leather product, you would most likely end up with permanently warped or crinkled leather. Overfilling your bag or wallet might end up permanently altering your leather goods’ shape, too.
You should be cleaning your leather products regularly, using a dry, soft cloth. If your leather item gets dirty, a light brushing using a soft bristled brush would be great to start with, followed by a pass with a damp clean cloth. There are many recipes for removing stains, but you should generally start off with using a little mild soap (preferably saddle soap) and water. For oil and grease stains, you could try grinding up some chalk, dabbing it on the affected area and letting it sit for 24 hours. The chalk dust should lift the grease right up, and is easily dusted and wiped off.
If your leather product smells funny, and cleaning it doesn’t take care of the problem, it would be best -and safest – to take it to a dry cleaner’s. However, if you’d rather try and get rid of the offensive odor by yourself, then diluted vinegar should do the trick; just dilute it in equal parts warm water, spray it on your leather product and let it sit. Rinse it off and let the leather dry. This process might have to be repeated, until the leather is odor-free.
Leather care; how to remove scratches
Scratches are a leather handbag owner’s worst fear! You might be able to hide small scratches on the leather’s surface by rubbing them with your fingers. The oils in your skin should get worked into the leather, making the tiny aberrations less visible.
If the scratch is larger, then you should first do a spot test using a little bit of oil. If it seems safe to use, then you could try rubbing a drop of oil into the scratch and letting it sit. After it has been soaked into the leather, you should carefully dab the excess oil off using a dry, clean cloth.
Leather care; how to store your leather goods
Leather goods should be stored in dry, dark places. Do not wrap them in plastic, as leather needs to breathe. Handbags and shoes should be stuffed with plain paper (butter paper ideally) and then put into a dust bag, and leather clothing should be hanged on wooden or plastic hangers. Airing leather items every two weeks should help with avoiding mold and mildew problems.
Wild Tussah Products
All of our products come with cleaning tips to help preserve both the leather and weaves. If you have any specific questions or cleaning tips you’d like to share that we haven’t mentioned, please write us here.