How to Condition and Care for your Full-Grain Leather Bag
Once you have taken the plunge and invested in a high-quality full-grain leather bag it is well worth your time to keep it looking as superb as the day you bought it. Leather, like your skin, needs to have its vital oils replenished periodically to stay soft and supple. Make it a practice to clean and condition your full-grain leather bag and it will serve you well for many decades, possibly a lifetime.
Leather conditioner can be purchased commercially, or you can do it yourself with inexpensive ingredients at home. There are advantages to making your leather conditioner outside of the fact that you can save money. Creating a custom mixed leather conditioner allows you to personalize the scent, thickness, and consistency of the product to produce a leather balm or wax that is perfect for your needs.
For the best D.I.Y. recipes to create a leather conditioner from scratch read our THE BEST D.I.Y. LEATHER CONDITIONER FOR YOUR CRAZY HORSE LEATHER BAG article.
A good leather conditioner serves the following purposes:
- Helps to clean and preserve the leather.
- Replaces vital oils the leather loses due to exposure.
- Keeps the leather soft, supple, and flexible.
- Prevents cracking, drying out, and peeling.
- Preserves the luster and sheen of fine leather.
WHAT IS LEATHER CONDITIONER?
Leather conditioner is formulated to be easily absorbed into the leather to nourish and strengthen the fibers to restore softness and flexibility. Authentic full-grain leather is naturally resistant to dirt – however, even the best leather will get dirty with use. Leather that has been exposed to the elements (water, dirt, dry heat) will need cleaning and conditioning more often than an item that is rarely used. Over-conditioning your leather item can leave it too soft and can cause it to lose its shape. A small amount of conditioner is all that is needed, and typically leather only needs to be conditioned 2-4 times per year.
CAN THE SAME LEATHER CONDITIONER BE USED ON ALL TYPES OF LEATHER?
The short answer is no. Leather comes in a variety of forms - at its most basic level, a leather product can either be made from finished or unfinished leather. Any leather that has been labeled as suede, nubuck, aniline, semi-aniline, pull up, or raw leather is unfinished. Crazy horse leather is 100% natural cowhide that has undergone a specific treatment process and it is finished leather. Most homemade and commercial leather conditioners are great for finished leather, but for unfinished it is best to adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions. An outstanding example of a durable finished bag is the Yukon Solitary Duffle Bag. This bag’s buttery softness and beautiful vintage patina disguise the fact that this is one tough bag that will retain its beauty for decades with just a bit of care.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE LEATHER GETS WET?
You will want your leather backpack to be able to withstand dirt, dust, and inclement weather. Your beautiful leather backpack will not do you any good on a hike if you are afraid to get it wet. It is understandable to be concerned after spending hundreds of dollars on a quality bag, but here’s the good news – if you have invested in a 100% authentic crazy horse leather bag such as the Yukon Napa backpack it can survive the most rugged conditions year after year, decade after decade, with minimal care.
Crazy horse leather is water-resistant, however, that does not mean that it is safe to leave the bag wet. Water can stain any leather, even the highest quality leather. This doesn’t mean that you need to panic every time it rains, just take the following precautions to keep your bag looking as splendid as the day you bought it:
- Never leave the bag wet. Dry it off with a soft, clean cloth and gently wipe away any dirt, stains, or spills.
- Stains can be removed by rubbing the area with a soft, damp sponge.
- Never allow a wet bag to dry out without first applying a leather conditioner. If the leather is left to dry before the conditioner is applied, it can dry out and crack. Applying the conditioner immediately enables the product to seep into the pores and lubricate the spaces left from the evaporating water.
- Wipe away any excess conditioner and allow the bag to air dry naturally.
DOES LEATHER SHRINK WHEN IT IS WET?
Leather that is left untreated will shrink. Leather is organic - when water displaces the natural oils this leaves the leather fibers exposed to the air, causing shrinkage. This can easily be prevented by wiping the bag with a leather conditioner while it is still damp. The conditioner will seep into the pores and replace the vital lost oils to keep your bag’s shape, softness, and suppleness.
WHEN TO USE LEATHER CONDITIONER:
This depends on how often you use the bag and under what conditions. Typically, leather only needs treatment a couple of times each year. If you are an adventurer and your bag must last under the most extreme conditions, it is advisable to condition your bag three or four times each year. If your bag gets wet or rained on, always apply conditioner before allowing the bag to dry out. When used as needed, a leather conditioner can extend your bag’s life indefinitely.
HOW TO USE LEATHER CONDITIONER:
- Apply the conditioner to a soft, lint-free cloth. Never apply directly onto the leather.
- Perform a spot-test on a small, inconspicuous part of the bag. Wait for the spot-test to dry and check for discoloration. (Various leather conditioners can create differing results. It is a great idea to always test a spot first).
- Apply the conditioner to the entire bag, going section by section, and using a circular A thin coat is all that is needed, too much can leave the bag too soft and cause it to lose its shape.
- Buff away any excess conditioner using a soft, clean, dry white cloth (colors can bleed onto the leather, it is safest to use a plain white cloth).
WHAT AMOUNT OF LEATHER CONDITIONER IS THE RIGHT AMOUNT?
A thin layer is all that you need. Always test a small, hidden spot (like from the bottom of the bag) before applying all over. Leather begins as a living, breathing organ. Leather conditioner is vital to replenish the natural oils that get lost over time, however too much will prevent the leather from breathing and cause the fibers to lose shape. A little bit goes a long way.
ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A GREAT D.I.Y. LEATHER CONDITIONER RECIPE?
For the best D.I.Y. leather conditioner and leather polish recipes check out our other articles at yukonbags.com. Please come visit us to enjoy our fine selection of 100% authentic full-grain crazy horse leather backpacks, duffle bags, messenger bags, and more. We are the premier retailers for unique vintage bags with the durability to survive a lifetime of rugged adventuring.
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