Cleaning and conditioning leather

Joanne asks the following question:

 I have denim staining from my jeans on my leather shoulder bag. Is there in that would remove this as its softish leather, or is it penetrated.

Good question.  Let’s talk about what leather is, and how will we can look after it.

Firstly, leather is a natural material.  Essentially made from protein, it relies upon natural fats for both suppleness and waterproofness.  And in its natural state leather is indeed quite waterproof – you don’t see farmers taking the cows in when it rains, do you?

So when the hide is removed from the cow, and converted into furniture or jackets or seats or handbags, we must go to a bit of effort to keep it moist and supple and even waterproof.

I think the single best thing to use for conditioning leather is Neatsfoot Oil, as it actually comes from cows.  Personally, I wouldn’t use any leather conditioner that was water-based (these are creams or lotions) as they defeat the whole purpose of the exercise.

If you want to waterproof leather, the absolute best staff is Dubbin, as anyone from a saddlery will tell you.

But back to the original question – how do you clean leather?  The difficulty of course is that leather is more prone to chemical attack than many other things.  Certainly, it’s a bad idea to use anything acidic or alkaline.

The best thing therefore is a mild solvent, like an alcohol.  Glen 20 is not a bad option as it is 60% alcohol, and there is an alcohol-based kitchen cleaner on the market called the Vanilla Fresh which would do the job.

But the absolute best thing to use would be isopropanol, which you can buy from the chemist as “rubbing alcohol”.  It’s a strong enough solvent to rub off most dyes and inks from leather, but isn’t strong enough to damage the leather.

It may strip the oil is out of the leather however, so it’s a good idea to oil it afterwards.

4070cookie-checkCleaning and conditioning leather

2 thoughts on “Cleaning and conditioning leather

  1. Thanks for the info. If leather has a pH of between 3.5 to 5.5, is it safe to use a product like Glen 20? I ask because alcohol has pH of around 7.5.

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