Leather and water do not mix well. Rain, or any type of water, can damage the suppleness of leather. If left untreated, the leather will turn brittle and crack. Any water or moisture can cause mold and fungus to grow on (or in) your bag. This mold will discolor the leather, causing stains, and a funky smell.
Weather does not always follow our plans. If you find yourself (and your leather bag) unexpectedly soaked there are steps that you should take to protect your leather goods. If your bag happens to be made with Crazy Horse leather, like the striking Avalanche leather duffle you are one step ahead. Crazy horse leather is 100% authentic natural cowhide that has been specially treated to be water-resistant. Do not confuse water-resistant with waterproof – water resistance just gives you an extra boost of protection until you can care for your bag.
Here is the good news – with a little planning ahead, you can always be prepared to rescue your leather backpack, bag, or briefcase if the leather gets wet. Here are the steps you should take:
- Protect the leather. Carry a plastic bag inside your leather one. You can buy a handbag raincoat online, or simply keep a clean, large plastic trash bag shoved into your backpack. When the rain hits – you are prepared. Cover your bag with the plastic, then follow-up with treatment as soon as possible.
- Dry the bag. Wipe excess moisture away with a soft cloth (microfiber is the best). Wipe the inside, also. Stuff the bag with crumpled paper or clothing to help it retain shape. Let the bag dry naturally. Never use heat to dry your leather bag.
- Clean the bag. Dirty leather is hard to treat. Once you have wiped away excess moisture, use a soft, clean cloth to wipe the bag again. Gently wipe away as much dirt as possible.
- Condition the leather. This step is vital. Water molecules bind to the oils in leather. The oils get pulled out by these molecules as the water evaporates. When leather loses its oils, it becomes dry and brittle. Full-grain leather begins as a living, breathing organ. Just like skin, even the finest leather needs regular conditioning treatments to keep from losing its natural oils. To help your bag retain its suppleness you need to apply a good leather conditioner. There is a great recipe for a D.I.Y. leather conditioner at the bottom of this article.
- Pre-treat the bag before going out. Crazy horse leather has the advantage over all other leathers, as this premium leather is pre-treated before it is crafted into a bag. Crazy horse leather also has the amazing ability to change color hues when bumped or scratched – making the bag more beautiful over time. This treatment creates a durable, dependable product, but even pre-treated leather needs immediate care after it gets wet. You can see a great example of crazy horse leather on the Harper backpack. Pre-treat your bag before venturing out with a good, natural water repellant. Beeswax is a wonderful water-repellant. See the D.I.Y. beeswax conditioner recipe at the bottom of this article. The beeswax coating will cause water to bead-up and roll off the bag, it also adds an attractive sheen. Always follow the steps to care for wet leather, even when the bag has been pre-treated.
- Be cautious of leather sprays. The leather spray is a quick and convenient way to waterproof your bag, but beware – sprays can change the hue of your bag. It is best to avoid spraying the leather, but you can spray the hardware on your bag to avoid rust.
HOW TO WATERPROOF YOUR BAG
Beeswax can be purchased online or in a store. You can make your own beeswax water-repellant cream by following these steps. You will need:
- 1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil.
- 2 ounces of natural beeswax (available online or in markets).
- A clean, soft buffing cloth. (White cloth that is free from dyes). Microfiber works best.
- A glass jar or container to store the cream.
Pour the extra-virgin olive oil into your glass container. Break the beeswax into small pieces before adding to the jar. Place the jar into a pan of cold water. Heat the water, continuously stirring the mixture. Heat (do not boil) and stir until all the beeswax has melted.
Next, cool your mixture. Stir continuously as it is cooling - it is finished when the mixture as stiffened into a workable cream. You might want to put on some music – the mixture will need to be stirred for roughly 20 minutes.
Spot test on a small part of the bag. Ideally, you want to test a patch with the least visibility – the bottom of the bag is a good place for a patch test.
Apply the treatment with a clean, soft cloth. Use circular motions as you gently buff the leather. Continue buffing until you have built up a protective coating.
D.I.Y. LEATHER CONDITIONER
Leather needs regular conditioning treatments, and cleaning and conditioning your bag after it gets wet is crucial. There are a lot of good leather conditioners available online and in stores, but you can save money and create a custom conditioner using a few simple ingredients. You will need:
- Solid beeswax to protect the leather.
- Coconut or shea butter to soften and condition the leather.
- Sweet almond oil to moisturize the leather and help it retain its softness and suppleness.
- Castor oil to add a beautiful sheen.
Use this ratio when mixing your ingredients: ½ part butter, ½ part beeswax, 2 parts oil. You can adjust this ratio to create your custom conditioner. If you want a firmer, paste-type compound, use more beeswax and butter. For a softer cream use more oil.
- Melt the beeswax and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Avoid boiling or burning the mixture.
- Continue stirring while adding the sweet almond oil.
- After the almond oil has thoroughly blended with the other ingredients, add the castor oil. Stir constantly until castor oil has blended into the mixture. Heat on low for an additional 5 minutes. Do not allow this mixture to boil.
- Pour your mixture into a glass container, or a tin.
- Allow the compound to cool before spot-testing your leather bag.
Taking the time to waterproof, clean, and condition your leather bag will pay-off in the long-run. An authentic leather bag can be pricey, taking good care of your investment is smart. Regularly treating your leather to a good conditioning treatment will help your bag retain its suppleness, softness, and sheen. For the best selection of fine leather backpacks, duffle bags, and more, please visit us at yukonbags.com