Water or not on leather?
A well-made or artisan leather handbag or shoes can be expensive but I'm sure you would agree that they can be even more expensive when you have to throw them away simply because they were not taken care of properly. I know this first-hand because I’ve thrown away a few pairs of shoes that I loved dearly. I was living in a country near the equator line and, over the last few years, in the southern hemisphere. Nothing has prepared me better than this to know that I have to guard my leather to prevent the weather element from damaging it.
I did my own due diligence (chemistry student, you can read this article to know more if you are keen) and with a little bit more experience, I learn that water can be good for leather as it absorbs moisture in the air on its own, but when in excess, can destroy the suppleness of leather, which essentially is made up of fat and proteins.
Water can soak through the leather surface and down into its fibres underneath. It can then form temporary bonds with the oils that are in the fibre serving as a lubricator. As the oil and moisture or water disperses, the leather will have no lubrication left. The hardened fibre that knitted the leather together will make your leather dry, rough and brittle. This is when cracks can happen and you can say good-bye to it.
Exposure to alkaline or acid must also be minimised as they can permanently damage leather. They are difficult to remove once they permeate the leather, if left untreated will not only discolour but also weaken it.
But all these don’t mean your leather cannot be in touch with wetness or dust, it just mean you have to protect it. It’s like applying a layer of shield. It’s that easy! But a word of caution: nothing can help excessive amount of water! So, the best way is careful handling and lots of care.
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Make sure you're armed with the right advice to maximise the use of your leather cleaning and conditioning products, download your very own user guide below.
In the meantime, some general rules on leather care and protection.
Regular leather cleaning prevents the build-up of dust, dirt, mildew and bacteria. Use your clean fingertip to gently rub out the scratch as the natural oils from your skin will remove most small scratches. To remove dirt, grime or surface residue, use a soft damp cloth. Gently rub for removal. For a deeper clean, use a cleaner to help preserve the natural lubricating oils instead of stripping them. Cleaning is an irreversible process and therefore, thorough consideration should be made before any such attempt. Do not use coloured rags that are not dye-colourfast as the dye may come off onto your leather.
Leather, like our skins, loses suppleness in time if it is not provided with regular nourishment. Use a wax-free leather conditioner that will work on nourishing and restoring the flexibility and suppleness of your leather article. To waterproof your leather, protect it with a layer of "guard" while maintaining the leather's breathability.
Leather is a natural material and should be stored in a breathable, non-plastic or non-porous container, to prevent the growth of mildew and bacteria. If you have to store it in a garment bag, make sure to keep it open for ventilation.
Avoid at all cost:
- Harsh detergents, abrasive cleaners or solvents as they may contain alcohol, turpentine and minerals spirits and can pull the colour off leather.
- Prolonged and direct exposure of leather to hot and humid weather.
- Putting too much mink oil or animal fats may darken the leather. Animal fat may also turn rancid, causing the leather and stitching to rot.
- Place leather near open fireplaces or room heaters. If need to dry wet or damp leather, let it air-dry naturally.
- Waxes or silicone formulas as it will impair the leather's ability to "breathe".
- Sharp objects that may damage leather such as shoe buckles, scissors.