You might as well bookmark this now. I’ve asked one of my favorite people, Maggie Burns, co-owner of re-souL in Ballard to give us the low down on taking care of leather and suede. I’ve had LOTS of questions from clients about this lately. Maggie is the first person I think of for such things as re-souL carries very high quality shoes and accessories made from Italian leather including the re-souL shoe line made in Italy and designed by Maggie, right here in Seattle. (Maggie also volunteers with me styling homeless youth each month at YouthCare.) strongly suggest you swing by the shop (or go online) to order leather care products that re-souL stocks. I like to pick up Otter Wax, for example, as a stocking stuffer each year. And while you are there you might as well pick up some shoes, jewelry, handbags, socks…….
How to Care for Leather
Hello! Maggie here from re-souL. Mellicia has asked me to do a post about leather care and I was excited for the opportunity to share with you some of my tips on how to care for your leather goods. First, a disclaimer - not all leather is the same and leathers will have different reactions to different products. The advice I’m about to give is only through my personal experience here at re-souL and not the end all, be all guide to leather care. I am just imparting the tips and tricks that have worked for me. Okay, so with that in mind, let’s jump right into it, shall we?
So real leather is a durable, beautiful thing. It does require some care to make your leather last longer and keep it looking good. I want you to think of your leather like your very own skin. Your skin requires it to be cleaned and moisturized to help it keep looking fresh. Same with your leather shoes, bags, jackets, couch, etc. So here are some basic steps you can take to make sure your leather is always looking good.
First off, before you do any conditioning, clean your leather. Here at our shop, we have lots of fine leather goods that are vegetable tanned. This a natural aniline dyed process that is dyed exclusively with soluble dyes (fewer chemicals) without covering the surface with a topcoat paint or insoluble pigments. The result is a leather with the hide's natural surface, such as visible pores, scars and the like. The dye goes almost completely through the hide instead of just staining the top coat of the hide. For these types of leather I usually just recommend wiping down the whole shoe or bag with a damp cloth. If it is really dirty and may have some stubborn stains, a saddle soap can help wash some of that residue away. However, oil stains rarely come out and we will go into that later on a possible solution for these types of stains.
Suede is a whole different thing. Suede is the underside of the hide that has been trimmed to create that velvety feeling nap. When it is shaved, we call this nubuck and it feels super soft to the touch with little to no texture. Both types of leathers have a similar treatment when it comes to cleaning. First off, if your suede shoes get dirty or wet, wait for them to dry and then lightly brush them with a clean nylon brush, like a nail brush cleaner. This will help get the dirt off and we say lightly because if you rub it too hard it will strip those fine hairs from the leather and cause a bald spot. Which you do not want. Nubuck can be cleaned the same way, again lightly with a brush.
Some patent leathers, even though the material is leather, usually has a vinyl-like coating which gives it that shine. Patent leather can be cleaned just with a damp cloth.
Protecting your leather is important to keep it from getting dirty and preventing water stains. You can do this in two ways. One is by conditioning your leather and the other is by spraying it. Let me explain. If you have really nice vegetable tanned leather shoes, you want to protect them by conditioning them. We like to use a natural salve product by Otter Wax. It will condition your leather to keep it from getting dry as well as make your leather water resistant. The one drawback is that because it is an oil based product it will darken your leather slightly. You can also oil some suede, but only that really rough looking suede-like on a casual boot never a fine kidskin suede dress shoe!
Suede should be protected with a protective shield made specifically for leather. Most scotch guards have chemicals and solvents that will dry out your fine leather goods. So please make sure you use something specifically formulated for leather.
Small Oh-oh’s! and What to do About Them
So you have cleaned and protected your leather and life happens and you have an accident. Salt is a rare occasion around here, but if you do get some salt on your shoes they create a white stain. I have not tried this, but they say you can remove the salt with a cup of water and a tablespoon of white vinegar solution.
Remember earlier when I said what to do about an oil stain? Sorry, to tell you this, but that oil is not going to come out of your leather, so you can camouflage so to speak, by conditioning it with a leather salve. How about oil on a suede or nubuck item? If you have a stubborn oil spot, a light dusting of baby powder can help. Apply baby powder to the spot and let it sit for a bit. Then wipe away with a micro cloth towel. If there is still some baby powder residue, you can use the same suede brush to remove the powder. This will not completely remove the oil stain but it will help lighten it.
Do you have water stains? Just wipe the whole pair of shoes down with a damp cloth, as it dries this will help even out the color over the entire surface.
Dye from your Jeans
What about dye from your jeans? That’s not going to come out either. You can take your favorite bag to a dry cleaner that specializes in leather cleaning or take it to a shoe repair and have your cobbler dye it a darker color.
What about a scuff? If it’s not too bad, you can use some leather oil or salve to buff it out. But what if it’s an unusual color? You can usually find most colors at local shoe cobbler. A shoe repair shop should have a collection of color polish, most carry Meltonian. This is a good brand if you are trying to match for example, like a yellow or red.
You Really Get What You Pay For
When it comes to leather in general, the quality of your leather really matters. Here at re-souL, we sell handmade European products that use high-quality leather hides and finishes. You are investing in a great product, and with a little care and mindfulness, you can turn that valuable purchase into a wardrobe staple for years to come!
Your Leather Care Essentials
Melatonian Boot and Shoe Cream (multiple colors)