Leather Care – It’s More
Than Skin Deep
Skincare is a responsibility that starts at birth. Babies are
washed with special soaps and shampoos and slathered with lotions.
As young children we are reminded to “clean your face before
bed” and “be sure to wash behind your ears”. Teens,
especially girls, are taught a myriad of ways to avoid acne through
proper skin care and showered with endless advertising for various
skin products. Throughout our lives we are reminded of the damages
that sun can cause our skin. Skincare is a never-ending cycle…important
responsibilities to keep our skin healthy and alive.
If we give so much attention to the skin on our bodies then why
do so many of us tend to ignore skincare we wear? Leather is just
skin but unlike the skin we are born with, leather does not regenerate.
For that reason alone we need to take care of our leather sometimes
with more attention than our own skin.
There are other reasons for taking care of your leathers. Leather
has been a valued trade commodity since early times. In ancient
Egypt, one of the most developed early civilizations, leather was
as an important item of trade. The ancient Greeks valued leather
so highly that leather artisans (shoemakers, tanners etc) were among
the eight basic guilds of artisans.
Cost is an important factor for proper leather care. While inexpensive
boots, jackets, belts and other items are available, the price is
usually indicative of the quality. Basic economics: superior leather
hide processing is more expensive than cut-rate leather and even
production of raw materials into finished garments is more costly
for higher quality goods. Buy good quality, well-made leather items,
take care of them properly and they will last longer.
Your leathers can also be a scrapbook of memories of your own personal
history. Were you wearing that pair of harness boots on your first
date with your partner? Did you splurge on a leather jacket when
you got a work bonus? Milestone events and special occasions can
often be connected to a certain piece of leather and keeping that
item in superior condition will help you keep that tangible memorabilia.
In the leather S/m community, leather clothing often delineates
a timeline of personal history. Earning leathers is considered a
personal rite of passage. Interestingly, learning how to care for
leather was and still is a common activity to learn in order to
earn boots or another leather item.
So how does one care for their leathers? There are many types,
conditions, colors and ages of human skin and the same can be said
of leather skin. There is no one method to care for all leathers
as each individual item is dependent on many factors. There are
two overall guidelines that apply to most all things leather:
Keep items clean! Sweat, blood, oils and other body fluids can
harm leather. Even ordinary substances such as alcoholic beverages,
sodas and juice, gasoline and body lotions can damage leather clothing
and shoes. Thoroughly clean leather after each use. Wipe down with
a clean, damp cloth and let items dry thoroughly in a well-ventilated
area before storing.
Leather is porous and needs to breathe. You should store your
leather in an airy, dry area that is not too hot or cold and certainly
not damp. Do not impede air circulation by hanging toys and clothing
in a tightly packed closet. Do not store in direct contact with
the flow of heating vents or near heating units and avoid direct
sunlight as this will dry and fade leather. Always use sturdy, padded
hangers to help preserve the shape of your leather clothing and
if you choose to cover leather items use a breathable material like
a cotton sheet. Avoid storing any leather items in plastic bags,
plastic containers, tight drawers, car trunks, bathrooms or packed
tightly into a toybag or toybox.
Cleaning, conditioning, polishing and shining your leathers are
probably the most knowledge and time intensive aspects of leather
care. A skilled bootblack can offer top-quality advice and instruction
on how to care for specific items. Bootblacking is the art and skill
of caring for leather. It is more than just polishing a pair of
boots: it can involve the cleaning, conditioning, dyeing and polishing
of all leather items. A Bootblack has often devoted many hours to
training, product evaluation and practice. He is able to give knowledgeable
suggestions about leather care.
Get in touch with a bootblack and learn how to keep your leathers
in tip-top shape. Leather care is more than skin-deep!
© Elegant 2006