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Leather care – Tips on cleaning leather

If you love having a clean, sophisticated image, chances are you own several quality leather products be it shoes, wallets or bags. However, leather is also known for being a chore to clean and maintain, so what can you do?

Types of leather

There are two broad types of leather – finished and unfinished. There are varying levels of finishing from mild to heavy. Leather that is heavily furnished is less susceptible to water and easier to clean compared to unfinished leather.

If your product does not have a label identifying the type of leather, apply a tiny amount of water to a hidden spot. If it is immediately absorbed, you are dealing with unfinished leather. Finished leather will have a protective film on the surface repelling the water.

Cleaning finished leather


Use a stiff brush to brush off any caked dirt before using a soft cloth to wipe down your surface to remove grease and grime. Use moisturising soap to rub down your product and leave it in to be absorbed. Rinsing leather can overwet it and damage the product.

Cleaning unfinished leather

The only difference for unfinished leather is to use saddle soap after wiping off the layer of grime. Saddle soap is a mixture of oils and wax safe for use on leather products. Wipe down any excess soap with a clean, dry cloth.

How often to clean leather?

Now that you know how to clean and identify different types of leather, how often should you do so? While leather needs to be cleaned regularly, over cleaning can might even damage your favourite product.

Due to the fragile nature of leather, you should not subject it to an intensive wash. Instead, do spot cleaning as and when stains appear. There are homemade concoctions that make for good leather cleaning for different types of spots.

For normal spots e.g. water spots:


Mix 1 part lemon juice and 1 part tartar cream, work it into a paste and clean using a soft cloth. If the spots remain, leave it in before coming back to work on it again.

Water spots can be easily removed by moistening the area with water again and letting it dry naturally or by gentle blow-drying, it should never be dried in the sun.

To remove road salts


Mix 1 part water and 1 part white vinegar into a solution. Use a soft cloth to dab the solution over shoes or coats to remove the salt. You might have to repeat several times to clean the entire product, but will look good as new once you are done.

In summary, here are some easy ways to protect your leather product and leave you at the top of your fashion game:

  • Keep it out of direct sunlight
  • Clean it regularly
  • Test cleaning solutions on a small hidden area first
  • Add a protective layer to finished leather items after cleaning e.g. olive oil or a commercial leather protector
  • Dry leather items naturally and leave it to dry openly