How do I care for my leather piece?
While leather looks great and is incredibly tough, it’s important to remember that leather is, in fact, skin and can dry out. The most important aspect of leather care is keeping the leather hydrated. You’ll do this by oiling the leather. The most commonly recommended leather care oils are neatsfoot oil and mink oil. I’ve used olive oil in the past but have since learned it can go rancid (although I’ve never had a problem with using a light coat). I’m also experimenting with using coconut oil. I also sell a locally made leather care product from Bear Naked Wonders. It is a solid blend of bear grease and beeswax that goes on much more evenly than a liquid oil and has a unique woodsy scent.
You’ll want to condition your leather about once a year. More if you want to really stay ahead of the aging look, and if you forget, it should be fine until you notice it getting dry. Although oil and water don’t mix, most leather conditioners don't waterproof your leather. Speaking of waterproofing, I don’t like waterproofing my leather goods. Waterproofing seals the leather and prevents the natural patina that makes every piece unique!
Generally speaking you need to do a few things for leather:
- Let it breathe to avoid mildew. The moisture in leather will naturally evaporate, hence the need to continue conditioning with a moisturizing oil. Although it can be tempting to lock in that moisture, never store leather in a plastic bag.
- Keep it away from direct sunlight and heat. This can accelerate the leather drying out and the need to condition it more frequently. Even if the leather becomes soaked, it’s best to let the leather dry evenly and naturally without a heat source.
- Clean regularly with a damp cloth. It won’t ever hurt to wipe your piece with a damp cloth just to stay ahead of the dirt that can accumulate and cause premature aging.
- Test any leather care product on a small less visible area before applying to the entire piece. If it ends up not looking the way you expected, the whole piece isn’t affected!
Caring for your leather piece also comes down to personal preference and the way it’s used. A pair of work boots don’t need as much care and as polished dress shoes. I prefer a minimalist approach to let the natural patina develop based on the way the piece has been used and the story it tells. Some people prefer a more refined approach.