Leather is one of the most luxe materials out there, which means it’s also intimidating to care for. But don’t sweat it too much — here’s everything you need to know about keeping your leather in tip-top shape — and cleaning up scratches and faded color after a little wear and tear (it happens).
How to Clean Leather
Carolyn Forte, director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, says generally all leather is cleaned the same, but you shouldn’t treat all items equally: “Smaller things are generally less expensive and easier to spot clean at home, but I wouldn’t do a jacket or pair of pants myself.” Instead, she says to take your more expensive items to a professional. For items you can tackle at home, slow and steady wins the race.
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1. First, pick your product. You can use mild soap, like Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap ($2, amazon.com), or Forte recommends Weiman Leather Cleaner & Conditioner ($6, amazon.com). “It has UV protectants in it to keep the sun from drying out the leather,” she says.
2. To make sure your cleaning products and method are a match with your leather, test it out on a hidden spot first — like inside the hand opening on a glove. At the first sign of color bleeding or fading you should stop what you’re doing and take your item to a pro.
3. After spot testing, carefully rub mild soap or leather cleanser onto your item with a damp paper towel. Let the item sit for several seconds, then wipe it clean. Let it air dry afterwards (away from direct heat) and use a leather conditioner to moisturize (if you used dish soap instead of a cleanser.
How to Care for Leather
1. Protect clothing before you wear it.
Prevention is the best form of protection, says Forte. “Treating leather and suede regularly helps them look their best.” Our recommendation? Try Kiwi’s Protect-All ($14 for 2, amazon.com).
2. Reapply protection at least every three months.
Or more often if it’s a particularly nasty season (will the snow ever melt!?).
3. Select your cleaning method based on the item’s value.
For smaller items, Forte recommends you go ahead and clean your leather at home, but for expensive or big items, like a jacket, she says it’s best to leave it to the professionals.
4. And always spot-test before you start.
To make sure your cleaning products and method are a match with your leather, test it out on a hidden spot first — like inside the hand opening on a glove.
5. Don’t forget water drastically changes leather.
According to Forte, the biggest mistake people make when caring for leather clothing is getting it too wet, then rubbing the material too hard. “Leather is delicate, especially when wet and the color can come off easily,” Forte says, so don’t saturate or vigorously rub it while cleaning — and never immerse leather in water.