For centuries leather has been used as a material for all sorts of goods due to its many desirable qualities. In particular, due to it’s stylish and easily recognisable appearance, it has become a material associated with luxury and taste. As a result, when lucky enough to be in possession of such fine leather goods such as those we sell here at Noble Macmillan, it is important that we understand and value how best to look after them. This article will cover the dos and don’ts of leather maintenance from the basics of how to keep leather from cracking to specific products such as how to maintain leather handbags.
Not cleaning regularly
The first and simplest piece of advice to keep your precious leather goods looking as good as new is to make sure you clean them regularly. This cleaning needn’t always be a chore. Of course, there will be times when you should bring out the leather polish and/ or conditioner (which we will touch on later in the article), however the rest of the time there is a nice and easy solution to the issue of leather cleaning. This is to once every one- or two-weeks dust or gently wipe down your leather goods. By doing this you prevent the build-up of any unwanted residue such as dirt or dust that can cause premature aging and damage the material. To do this we recommend using a dry microfibre cloth or even the brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner – it is important not to wipe it too aggressively or with a material that may scratch the leather.
Using the wrong products
When it comes to the more hardcore leather maintenance of using specific cleaning products, care must be taken when choosing the correct product for the leather you have and the job you wish for it to do. Choosing the right product can be overwhelming – however generally leather cleaning products can be divided into two types, leather polish and leather conditioner or cream, each serve different purposes. A leather polish is about the shine of the product and therefore more commonly used for shoes and bags… Throwback to the days of polishing school shoes! This is used more for the look of the item rather than to protect it, although these days many do have a moisturising element (this can be checked by reading the description). It is also hugely important when selecting a product like this that you take extra care choosing the correct colour and shade so as not to ruin your precious item. On the other hand, leather conditioner or cream serves the purpose of moisturising the leather to prevent it from drying out and cracking. These processes only need to be done once or twice every 6 months.
Neglecting careful storage
Whether we are storing our items away for long or short term we must put them away appropriately according to their shape and material. First thing’s first, leather of all sorts should not be stored in direct sunlight or high temperatures, therefore you should be careful that you do not accidentally leave it by any artificial sources of heat. Leaving leather exposed to sunlight or heat risks damaging it causing fade and discolouration, and heat will dry it out and potentially shrink the item. The position in which you keep your item in storage is of equal importance, if the item is squished this is likely to ruin the integrity of its desired shape. Likewise, if you plan on wrapping the leather item inside something to further protect it while in storage you ought to consider the material it is wrapped in. This is because leather is a skin which naturally air passes through allowing moisture to evaporate from it and prevent potential mildew and rot – hence, ventilation is important.
Knowing your desired look
The desired look of your item should guide your choice of leather cleaner and generally how frequently you need to clean it. For example, as previously touched on, leather polish is best kept for things which you would like to have a high-shine or patent look. Leather cream / conditioner is useful for all sorts of leather – in particular, soft leather. Many of the items we sell at Noble Macmillan are made from or bound in soft leather. Soft leather has many appealing qualities and one of these qualities is of course its texture. So, if you are concerned that you have made some of the previous mistakes and the leather has dried out, leather conditioner is the way to go to moisturise it and revive it. However, many people do in fact enjoy a slightly worn, cracked-looking material due to the rustic style that appeals to so many. If this is a look that you enjoy and strive to achieve with your leather good, then the aforementioned methods of cleaning can be done less often. The Noble Macmillan washbag pictured below is the perfect example of an item where this 'rustic' style may be appealing.
Being aware of item-specific needs
As you might have gathered from the points that have been made, leather maintenance is often relative to the item in question. Every item is a different shape and made from a different sort of leather. As we have already explained the relative needs of leather products in accordance to the leather and desired style of your item, I believe we’ve covered the bases in terms of material-specific needs for different items. Meanwhile, although we have pointed out the importance of storing your item in a way that will not ruin the integrity of its shape there are other points to touch on… In particular, when thinking of how to maintain leather handbags (good to keep in mind if you are a lucky owner of one of our gorgeous Cross Body Bags pictured below). In order to maintain the bag’s shape, it is important that we do not overfill the bag, it is a skin and therefore will stretch. We also recommend that when leaving your bag over night - wherever you tend to leave it - that you empty it to avoid such stretching due to the same reason. Leather books should also be carefully looked after placed and when taken off their shelf. They should be placed on the shelf and picked up from the middle of the spine in order to avoid repeated damage to the top of the book and loosening of the binding.
Although the team at Noble Macmillan pride ourselves as producers of fine leather goods that are designed to last a lifetime, it is good to be aware if the potential issues with leather maintenance to keep you special items as pristine as the day you got them.