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Leather 101- How to Care for Your Leather in Winter

leather care tips
John Muir said it best when he said, "Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt." We had this sagacity in mind when designing our bags, cases, and accessories. They excel in any condition. From mountaineering to jet-setting, full-grain leather will take care of you while you explore. Winter is a great time to nourish and care for your leather, here's how to maintain your prized full-grain leather.

Daily Care for Full-Grain Leather

Winter can be especially taxing on your leather and it's important to care for it daily. Healthy full-grain leather will patina over time. Our Heritage Bella Fino for the XS Max makes an excellent case study. Below, you can see the rugged look of our leather fresh out of the wax-sealed envelope, and six months later. The lighter leather is our veg-tanned leather, and it will change the most dramatically over time. It'll gain a rich amber color. The darker spine is our traditionally dyed leather, a keen eye will notice how it's more supple and has a rich sheen. Over time, the spine will get a shade or two deeper, but won't change as much as the veg-tanned leather. Using your leather, no matter how the leather is dyed and tanned, is the best way to care for it on a daily basis. The oils from your hands will keep it moisturized. Also, usage will keep the leather flexible.

How Often Do I need to Care for my Leather?

During the winter, the colder, drier air can sap your leather of its personality. Other than the daily care, you can prolong the life of your leather by giving it a thorough cleaning once or twice a year. How often you need to do that deep clean depends on what you're using your item for. Your everyday wallet will need a different amount of care than your special occasion items.

Personally, I own two leather bags. I use one during the summer, and another during the winter months. Between snow, sand, and sun, my purses take a beating year round. Once it starts to get cold, I take all my belongings out and perform my deep clean on the summer one. Once the sun comes out again, I do the same thing with my winter bag, then store it for the season. At this time, I also treat my Madewell boots, iPad case, and other leather accessories to some TLC too.

How to Start Caring for Leather

how to restore leather

Before we dig in, it's so important to talk test patches. If you're trying out a new leather product, test it out before applying all over. Under a handle, a corner on the back of a bag, or just under a stitch line are good places to try out your new product. A test patch doesn't need to be very big, usually, a dime-sized area will suffice. Apply it, then let it sit overnight. Take a look the following morning and then decide whether or not to proceed.

Also, remove your belongings at this point. Cleaning leather isn't hard, but you do want to be precise. Unwieldy books and tech devices can cause bags to fall onto unintended surfaces.

Step 1- Cleaning Your Leather

best leather cleaning kit

Regular cleaning is important to prevent it from getting clogged, stained, or dried out. Leather has pores, and they need to be free of dirt and debris to maintain it's supple quality. You don't need much to kick off your winter cleaning. A leather cleaning kit (or individual leather cleaner and oil), a simple cloth, and some balm is a great place to start.

First, apply your cleaner onto your washcloth. Leather, particularly dry leather, absorbs viscous liquids quickly. If you apply directly, you will get a patchy application. Or, you may see the drizzle/ spray marks of cleaner for years to come. The washcloth acts as your middleman, preventing any weird stains. Buff in the cleaner in broad strokes, then in buffed circles. This method should get up most debris but don't be afraid to repeat the process a couple of times. If you need to repeat, use a different section of the cloth, or you could be rubbing grit back into your bag.

Step 2- Enriching the Leather

By its nature, the cleaner removes quite a bit. If you simply strip the leather of the protective layer of oil, it can crack. After cleaning, you need to replace the nourishing oils. Once your cloth comes up clean, use a different cloth to buff in the oil. You don't need much, the leather can only take in so much and the excess can transfer. When done well, however, this will rejuvenate the leather and give it a healthy shine. 

Step 3- Protecting for full-grain leather

waterproofing balm for leather

 At this point, you've buffed and buffed, seal in your hard work! A leather balm is the only way to ensure the treatments have a lasting effect. Since the lipids within the balm are larger than the oil's, it will add an additional level of moisturization to your leather. Using clean hands, gather about a half dollar size in your palm and work it into the leather. The balm starts out as a solid, and the warmth from your fingers will warm it up.

Once it's been worked in, the balm will resolidify, creating a weatherproof barrier. This barrier will also help rebuff any debris that wants to cling to your bag. In between cleanings, the balm is the best and easiest way to care for your leather. It can help buff out any scuffs or scrapes. It will replenish corners and sections that come into contact with the elements. 

how to care for leather bags

Whichever paths the new year brings, your full-grain leather has you covered. Keep an eye on it, and refer back if your leather is dulled or become dirty. Feeling lazy? Send your Pad & Quill product in and we'll clean, oil, and balm it for you. Well cared for leather will last for decades, and we stand behind our leather goods with our comprehensive warranty. That's our Pad & Quill promise, welcome to the family!

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