How to Soften and Condition Fine Leather Goods

Leather. The word seems to conger-up a number of images. Depending on their texture and thickness, some leather items such as belts, shoes, jackets, etc. must be conditioned before wearing, since some leathers can be quite stiff right off-the-rack. Even softer leathers should be cleaned and conditioned on a regular basis, since quality-made leather items are capable of lasting for years, even generations.

With regular use over time, leather will naturally break down and soften, but if the leather hasn't been properly conditioned it will also dry and crack. Keep in mind that leather was once a skin, so it pays to treat it as you would your own skin by keeping it clean and hydrated. Besides, with the variety of products available today for maintaining leather, conditioning takes less time and is easy to do.

With the exception of suede, the following instructions apply to most leather goods that require "break-in" conditioning, or restoring.

Before you start you'll need a high-quality leather conditioner, preferably one that doesn't leave any greasy residue. Products such as Leather CPR, Leather Honey, European Leather Restorer, and Lexal are among the better conditioners, and they all sell for less than $20.

Step 1: Wipe-down your leather item with a clean, slightly damp cloth and let it dry at room temperature for up to 24 hours. The key here is the leather must be completely dry before you condition it.

Step 2: After drying, take your conditioner and, using the manufacturer's recommended applicator, rub it into the leather making small circles until all of the leather has been evenly coated. For best results, don't lay on one thick coat. Instead, use several light coats, especially if the leather has a lot of rough and cracked areas.

Step 3: Wait about 30 minutes for the conditioner to work its way into the leather. Then, using the same rubbing technique, apply another thin coat. Wait another 30 minutes and, depending on the stiffness and/or the condition of the leather, add a third coat, if necessary.

Remember, proper hydration is the key! Each time you condition your leather items, including leather furniture and car seats, they will become even more supple and durable. Condition them on a regular basis, and they will last a lifetime.

Gary Korb

Executive Editor

Gary Korb has been writing and editing content for since its debut in 2008. An avid cigar smoker for over 30 years, during the past 12 years he has worked on the marketing side of the premium cigar business as a Sr. Copywriter, blogger, and cigar reviewer. A graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, prior to his career in the cigar business, Gary worked in the music and video industry as a marketer and a publicist.

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