Leather Hints+Tips

from the Leather Rescue archives (1982)


Some belts are washable; others can be wiped off with a damp cloth or cleaning fluid. Leather belts can often be cleaned with a neutral cream wax or with saddle soap and then polished, but one must make sure that excess polish is removed before next wearing.

When belts are not used, they should be hung on a belt rack so that perspiration and dampness will evaporate.

The application of colourless nail polish to metals helps prevent tarnish and discolouration.


To wash washable gloves, rub damp white soap into the soiled parts and roll the gloves to allow the soap to soak in for a while; then turn the gloves inside out and rub them with soap, put the gloves on the hands, and wash them well in warm water; rinse them and roll them in a terry towel to remove excess moisture; reshape them; blow into each glove finger; and then allow them to dry away from direct heat.

If a washable glove has been dry-cleaned it cannot be successfully washed again.

Gloves can be stretched if put on and taken off incorrectly. The fingers should be worked on one at a time and eased over the hand, especially with new gloves. The cuffs should be rolled over the palm and the fingers pulled gently when removing gloves. Gloves should not be stuffed into a pocket but folded neatly and placed in the pocket.

Imported glove kidskin is unfinished leather so it must never be touched by a liquid cleaner.


Dry clean leather garments at least one a year. Send it to a reputable cleaner who specializes in handling leathers. Ordinary cleaners use steam processes which streak leather and destroy its colour.

Don’t let the garment become too dirty before cleaning.

Inspect the garment carefully before cleaning. Look for stains and skin defects and point these out to the cleaners. Give the cleaners all of the information you have noted.

All pieces of a matching set should be cleaned and finished at the same time.

Spot clean leather garments as needed. Collars and cuffs may need to be cleaned often.

Do not store leather items in tightly closed plastic bags. Plastic bags are oxygen-proof and gradually release a gas that discolours the leather. Plastic placed tightly around handbags sticks to the surface and destroys the finish.

Store leather garments in a roomy closet where they won’t be crushed. If the leather garments are stored for a long time (season), put themin a well-ventilated place at a temperature (65 to 70 degrees) with a relative humidity of about 50%. If the closet is too humid, mildew will start.

Rain will not harm the garment. Many smooth leathers are given a water-repellent finish at the tannery and need to be wiped dry with a damp cloth. Allow leather to dry away from heat, never near a radiator or any other direct source of heat. It will cause the leather to stiffen.

Wear a scarf around your neck when wearing leather garments to avoid neckline soiling.
Careful of salt spray on garments; if left on, it discolours and stiffens the leather.

Hang garments on padded hangers to prevent the shoulders from losing their shape.
If a garment needs pressing, use heavy brown paper or a press cloth between the iron and the leather. Set the iron at the lowest temperature and move it

constantly to avoid overheating. NEVER USE STEAM

Combination of leather and fabric garments should be cleaned professionally.

Leather bags

The worst offenders are people who carry too many items in a handbag, thus stretching it out of shape and causing the material to pull away from the frame. Bags stored for any long length of time should be cleaned inside and out and stuffed with tissue paper to retain their shape.

Fabric bags should be cleaned frequently by brushing, spot cleaning, or dry cleaning. Some fabric bags have a removable cover that is washable. The lining should be kept clean by brushing and vacuuming.

Polishing leather helps preserve the live of the bag and maintain its original appearance. A cream polish on smooth leathers helps protect the bag from mars and scratches. (You don’t need to cream or polish handbags very often. Too much wax and polish removes the tanner’s finish and makes the surface gummy).

Suede, buckskin, and antelope bags require brushing with a rubber or a fine bristle brush. Flattened, matting, and shiny nap may be improved by the careful use of a fine emery paper. However, resueding by me or another reliable repair shop is usually more satisfactory than any home method.

Bags made of beads or sequins should be repaired quickly when a thread breaks, because many beads are attached to one thread and a whole row will drop off.

Wiping plastic and washable with a damp cloth is usually sufficient care. Wiping and brushing is recommended for straw and African bags.

Do not store handbags in tightly closed plastic bags. Plastic bags are oxygen-proof and gradually release a gas that discolours the leather. Plastic placed tightly around handbags sticks to the surface and destroys the finish.

Clean patent leather with a mild solution of vinegar and water. Polish it with a touch of Vaseline on a soft cloth.
Alligator, lizard, and snakeskin keep their patina indefinitely without any preparations.


Shoes should be allowed to rest and dry out thoroughly between wearing in order to regain their original shape and give longer service.
Careful of salt spray on shoes and boots; if left on, it discolours and stiffens the leather.

Storing shoes away from dust saves unnecessary cleaning and keeps the appearance of the shoes. Shoe trees should be used or with similar support inside or placed on shoe racks with shoe shaped supports to restore the original shape and prevent wrinkled linings. (newspaper or tissue paper stuffed into the toes is a good substitute).

Shoes should be kept in good repair by having heels straightened and lifts on heels replaced, rips mended, and soles replaced or half-soled as needed. Worn-down heels and threadbare soles throw shoes out of line and put undue strain on the uppers.

Ask for specific care of each pair of leather shoes you buy. there may be other suggestions besides the usual wiping with a damp cloth, polishing with waterproof polish, and brush suede’s with a rubber sponge or brush.

Polishing keeps the leather pliable and more water resistant as well as improves the appearance. On most fabric shoes that are not washable like the washable casuals, spots can be removed with cleaning fluids or with mild soap and water.

Small Leathergoods & Luggage

Leather should be polished, and fabric, metal, and plastic should be wiped with a damp cloth. Both leathergoods and luggage should not be overloaded (identify the size that will be most convenient; the colour, material that will be most serviceable and will harmonize with other accessories and apparel that will be used).

Since luggage is handled roughly by porters, bellhops, and others, it is advisable to cover the luggage with a protective jacket or sack to prevent scratching and marring. The inside should be brushed, aired, and wiped out occasionally.

General Leather Rules

The preservation of leather is a relatively simple matter. Keeping it clean and supple requires no special training. Periodic cleaning will remove most surface dirt and regular applications of beneficial oils will help preserve its suppleness.

Most smooth leathers can be cleaned with a damp sponge. It is often recommended that they are spot cleaned with a mild hand soap on a damp cloth. Rub gently and dry the leather with a soft, clean cloth. (we recommend the leather be dusted with baking powder to seal the pores and then wiped with a dry cloth). If any cleaning film is left on the surface and not wiped off well enough, the leather will easily attract more dirt in the future.

NOT all conditioners are alike. Most leading brands contain about 90% water. When applied to the surface it appears to soak in rapidly, in fact it’s the water evaporating leaving only a thin film of beneficial oil on the surface. Use only the best conditioner available. For starters, try our Leather Rescue Cleaner and Conditioner – most are made in Canada!

Upholstery leather begins to lose it’s natural oils within 6 months of use. Occurring in areas where the leather is joined together with stitching. It is also the precise spot which will need the conditioner, and allow it to penetrate a few hours.

Never use wire brushes. They will scratch or cut the leather.

Since permanent softening is part of the process for capeskins suede’s, do not use softeners; you may use softeners to restore old leather.

Do not store leather items in tightly closed plastic bags. Plastic bags are oxygen-proof and gradually release a gas that discolours the leather. Plastic placed tightly around handbags sticks to the surface and destroys the finish.

Do not spray moth-repellent on leather. Chemical fumes discolours leather. Suede’s (because of the finish) must be cleaned and treated with moth-repellent before they are stored.

You should expect new suede’s to crock (when the colour rubs off), Crocking is a natural result of sueding the leather. The fine dust which rub off at first will gradually disappear. Rubbing with a towel will remove most of the particles of dust as will cellophane tape and a dampened clothes brush.

Avoid extreme amounts of light and heat for suede’s of blue, green, and gray as a precaution against fading.

Motor Cars, Boats, Airplanes & Motorcycles

The majority of Roll-Royce, Bentley, Jaguars, and Ferrari motor cars manufactured today still use hides made by the Connolly Brothers of London — The hides are all lacquer coated, the process known as “Vamoul” and is distinguished by their fine grains and textures. Unlike shoes and garment leathers the odor is unmistakably unique, sometimes referred to as the “sent of luxury”. Although superb in quality, the leathers are not durable and do not wear well.

The most rapid deterioration of leather occurs when it is subjected to freezer-to-oven-like temperatures. It is recommended that the leather be treated with an oil conditioner at least every 3 to 4 months. New leather* should be treated after the first 6 months and regularly thereafter.

New leather begins to lose it’s natural oils within 6 months of use. Occurring in areas where the leather is joined together with stitching. It is also the precise spot in which you should apply the conditioner, allow the conditioner’s oil to penetrate the hide for a few hours. Then wipe off the excess oils with a clean cloth.

If your conditioning a motor car, boat, or airplane seat, it’s recommend that you apply the conditioner while you are parked in the sun “baking-in” the beneficial oils. Wait 24 hours, and merely buff off any excess oil remaining on the surface. This will also bring up a natural sheen!


Final Note

Leather is treated, soaked, rolled, dried, oiled, stretched, split, dyed, dried again, softened and coloured yet it remains strong and organic in nature. The fiber has no particular direction or pattern, like a mass of spaghetti.

Repeated flexing and stretching causes the surface coating to chip away and the natural leather from underneath to show through. It appears to be cracked, but it’s not a crack! it is merely the absence of surface colour which we call “wear creases” In a frivolous sports coupe, or a favorite old army jacket or a handbag we tend to view this as “character”.

Furniture or an expensive motor car eventually begins to show “wear”. A meticulously restored classic motor car requires reupholstering (this is NOT always the case!). I try to encourage people to do what they can and when they can, by themselves or with friends, it’s a lot more fun and the practice saves money. If your not able to do the work, give me (MeHi) a call and I’ll try to help you with leathercare suggestions or advice.


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