Using a leather cleaner and conditioner (why you need them)

using a leather cleanserWhen properly cared for, leather is among the most long-lasting materials. Even with the inevitable creases and fade-in, it can last forever and still look beautiful. 

Many people are confused about how to approach the cleaning of leather and whether they can use household cleaners or they should use professional leather cleaners to clean their leather products. That is understandable; leather is costly, and should it get damaged in the cleaning process, you have yourself to blame (for years and years that you would have been using it)

What is a Leather cleaner? Are cleaner and conditioner the same? Do you really need them to clean leather?

First, let me tell you why you need a leather cleaner – wouldn’t soap and a wet sponge do?

No, Do not use soap, detergent, vinegar, baking soda, cooking oil etc, unless you have already written the thing off. They may clean for the short term, but they can damage the surface over time. You want to retain the natural luster and softness of your leather product. Water cleaning can dry your leather surface and eventually lose its look. So yes, you need that leather cleaner and conditioner.

A cleaner formulated for leather will be very gentle on the hide so that the leather is not ruined. You need to remove dirt and prevent color fading, drying, and cracking of leather. Any cleaning agents in your house may remove dirt and oils. But they may also remove the natural shine of the leather. Leather cleaners are designed to preserve the leather’s natural oils, luster, and suppleness.

A commercial Leather cleaner is a carefully formulated chemical solution meant to remove dirt, smears, debris, and grease from leather without harming the leather. A Leather conditioner is a similar solution/cream that will replenish the leather’s natural oils and moisture.

They are used as a 2-step process, one after the other, as you would do your hair – cleaning and then conditioning.

When you clean the leather with the cleaner, it is sure going to remove the natural oils inherent in the surface. So immediately after every cleaning, the leather has to be treated with a leather conditioner. If the conditioning step is forsaken, the leather may quickly dry out, crack, or peel. 

The primary distinction between leather cleaners and leather conditioners is that leather cleaners remove dirt, whilst leather conditioners replenish lost oils. There are some products that promise to be both.

Although conditioning your leather is not required for it to survive for some time, conditioning regularly(once a month) may significantly enhance the appearance and longevity of your leather products. Leather conditioning is a regular maintenance procedure that may restore moisture and fortify leather from further future damage.

Steps to use a leather cleaner & conditioner

(If you are using a leather cleaner for the first time, you should test it on an inconspicuous area to verify that it will not discolor or harm the leather.)

dust the grime from the leather

1. The first step is to dust the leather. This will eliminate any loose dust and grime.  Use a soft bristle brush. Remove hardware, shoe laces, etc.

2. Next, use a soft cloth or sponge immersed in the cleaning solution to thoroughly clean the leather. If it is a bigger area like a leather couch, use a sprayer to spray the cleaner. Lather it up and reach everywhere to clean all nooks and curves.

lather up the cleaner

3. Use a moist (damp) towel to remove any residue. Remove the cleaner completely.
4. Using another soft dry cloth, apply a dime-sized quantity of the leather conditioner. Start rubbing the leather with the cloth in circular strokes.

Try to get a uniform dispersion of the conditioner and cover the full surface of the leather. The conditioner should fill all the crevices of the leather.
5. Allow your leather to air-dry after using the conditioner— 3 or 4 hrs or overnight.

6. After the material has dried, remove any leftover conditioner using a clean, dry towel. Now, the leather should seem supple and moisturized.

How often should the leather cleaner and conditioner be used?

The long lifespan of leather might tempt you to neglect the occasional maintenance it needs. Leather ages well for a long time, but after some time, you might get annoyed by the creases, etc. This is a result of the product losing shape and also losing moisture. So even if your leather product is not particularly dirty, condition it every 3-4 months. A standard for leather shoes and bags is to condition them after 100 wears.

(And keep the product supported from the inside to prevent the creases from forming in the first place)

Can the leather cleaner be used to clean suede leather, vinyl, and faux leather?

The leather cleaner can be used to clean vinyl, and faux leather but not suede leather. Leather cleaners and conditioners are designed for leather and should not be used on suede leather. Suede leather has a napped surface. Leather cleaning solutions can stain or damage the suede finish of your boots, coats, jackets, and handbags.

Related posts : How to care for leather; How to care for faux leather.; How to care for shoes

Updated on October 12, 2022 by Sarina Tariq

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