Caring for leather is pretty simple, really. Most leathers requires some kind of conditioning every now and then to keep them healthy and supple – or at least keep them from drying out. We aren’t going to pretend that we have the absolute way of doing it, but let’s give you some guidelines.
We suggest using a conditioner with as many natural ingredients as possible – meaning animal fats (like lanolin and tallow) and animal oils (cod or neatsfoot oil) and bit of beeswax will also do the leather some good. You could use an animal oil alone, but the addition of beeswax makes it easier to apply. Basically you want to feed the leather and impregnate it slightly to make it more resistant to stains and wear.
Ps. If the conditioner has an unnatural smell or too many weird ingredients think twice about using it.
It’s always a good idea to condition all leather goods when you purchase them. You never know if the leather used on your new wallet spent 10 years on a shelf in the factory, or you don’t know if your new shoes spent a lot of time in a damp storage room before leaving the shop with you. Either way get into a rhythm, so you know when it’s time to condition.
Make sure that the object is clean and dust free. Brush it with a horsehair brush if you have one or some sort of soft cloth. Next you take a damp (NOT WET) cloth and quickly wipe it over. Let it dry for without the aid of any artificial heat sources. Done. On to the next step.
If it’s wet, when you apply the conditioner, you could potentially trap moisture in the leather, which worst case could cause it to rot.
Apply conditioner sparingly using either your fingers or a piece of soft cotton cloth or whatever your preferred applicator is. If you’re using oil make sure you’re quick on your hands, so you don’t end up creating an oil stain that doesn’t go away, once the oil has been absorbed. You may not like the look of stains.
Wait. Let the conditioner set. Do something else for a couple of hours.
Once the conditioner has been absorbed, use a horsehair brush or a soft cotton cloth to wipe off any excess conditioner.
Step four A (optional)
If you’ve purchased something made out of vegetable tanned leather in natural, and you think it’s too pale, exposure to sunlight will darken it.
Therefore you can easily darken the leather by placing it in a sun lit window or by taking it outside. Just make sure that you that it gets an even exposure to sun and if you take it outside, make sure the weather forecast doesn’t say rain and that there aren’t a lot seagulls or pigeons around. You don’t want bird droppings or even worse water marks on your new wallet.
USE IT! The only way to obtain a nice patina on any given item is by using it. There are no shortcuts. Leather is hardwearing and it will take a beating, but you will extend the life span of leathergoods by conditioning and feeding them. In return they’ll look more beautiful and be with longer.
Saddle soap can be used to clean leather goods. It’s a mild soap and it can remove a bit of dirt, but it’s not a conditioner. Do not use with excessive amounts of water. Water dries out leather.
If you want to make your own conditioner, go ahead; it’s fun and rather simple. A recipe could be 50% tallow, 25% beeswax and 25% lard/neatsfoot oil/cod oil. Mix well over low heat. There are millions of variations of potentially good recipes. Find out what works for you.
We’ve tried and tested a ton of different commercially available conditioners. Some of the best we’ve found are the dubbin by Sedgwicks and the neatsfoot oil by Saphir. But there are plenty of good conditioners, however too many do contain pretroleum-based ingredients and mineral oils, which could potentially speed up the decay of leather.