How To Care For Your Leather Pieces So They Live A Long Life

Leather fashion is almost always an investment, and there is something so wonderful about holding onto a leather piece for years, getting it to that lived-in finish, whether it’s a jacket that fits you like a second skin or boots that are just the right amount of “been to several festivals” scuffed. 
But because leather is essentially a skin, the care process needs to be adhered to if you want your pieces to last. It’s really important you maintain your leather pieces to ensure they have longevity in your wardrobe. 
If you’ve had your leather stored away for summer and are unpacking it now the temperatures are dropping, here are some handy tips to keep those pieces in peak condition.
1. Check Your Leather Is Protected First
Before you do any cleaning or maintenance, you want to make sure your leather items are protected. Most modern pieces will be, but if you have a lot of vintage or have bought market items, it’s worth testing. Simply scratch at a part of the leather with your nail (in a hidden area) - if a mark appears, your leather isn’t protected and you’re better off enlisting the services of a professional leather cleaner. If your scratch doesn’t leave a mark, you’re all good!
2. Air Your Pieces Out, Then Condition Them
If you’re removing your leather from storage, air your pieces out before squishing them into your (overfilled, just me?) wardrobe. Leather likes to be aired, so if your pieces have been stashed away for months, let them breathe!
It’s worthwhile buying a leather conditioner and moisturising your leather pieces every few months, so a great time to do that is when you unpack them after summer. Because leather is a skin product, it can dry out and crack if it’s not cared for. This is especially important if you live in a dry climate. Leather conditioner is essentially moisturiser for your products, so just massage it in and allow to dry.
3. Don’t Store Leather In Plastic
Heed my advice after I stored leather ankle boots in plastic and found them months later with mould (!!) on them. Plastic doesn’t breathe, so you’re more likely to discover your lovely items growing mould. Instead, store in dust bags for protection, away from sunlight and in a cool, dry place. Heat is also bad for leather so definitely don’t leave your items near heaters.
4. Clean The Interior Of Jackets With A Steam Cleaner
It’s a great idea to take your leather clothing to a professional dry-cleaner regularly, but if you want to clean your jacket after a sweaty night out or post-festival, a hand-held steamer will kill odors and in some cases bacteria. These range from high end to cheap options, and you simply fill with water and steam the inner lining of your jackets and other items.
5. Spot Cleaning
Spot cleaning is best done when spilled food or scratches occur. For dirt and spills, warm water and a little dishwashing liquid on a soft cloth will usually remove anything sticky or surface level, just start in the middle of the spot and work outward, then allow to dry. 
For oil or grease, wipe off excess and leave it. For most leather, the oil stain will disappear on its own. If it’s particularly intense, you can add a little baking soda to it, leave overnight, and wipe off. 
Still, it’s best to buy leather cleaning wipes - most leather products have protection on them so you’re less likely to disrupt the material, but wipes will be specially formulated to protect your pieces, so that’s your best option. 
6. Clearing Up Scratches
While many of us love the look of scratched up, scuffed boots, some items you’ll want to keep pristine. Really, the only way to rid your leather of a scratch is to buff it out. You can even do this with your fingers, otherwise use a chamois cloth. 
7. Wipe Down Regularly
It’s so simple, but wiping down your leather goods every week or so with a damp cloth will do so much for their longevity. Leather accumulates dust, dirt and debris which can damage it - a quick wipe down, especially if you’ve been out and about big-time in your pieces, can keep damage at bay.

Words by Melissa Mason. 

Melissa is a freelance writer and podcast host. You can find her on Twitter  and Instagram.