how to care for leather

At Pad & Quill, we use extremely high-quality full grain leathers from one of the most reputable leather tanneries in North America. Our leather bags and cases are fully oiled, tanned, and waterproofed from day one. We are confident in the quality of the leather, and it's workmanship, which is why we guarantee it for at least 25 years.

However, well-maintained leather can last much much longer if it is taken care of properly. There are leather bags from over 100 years ago that are as good now as they were the day they were made and maybe even better!

All products made from leather will age with time. The aging effect on leather is called a "patina" and can't be replicated by any artificial means. A patina develops from everyday use and handling of your leather product. As you use the bag, it gets marks and scratches, lighter spots where the leather flexes, darker spots where your hands touch frequently, and smoother spots where it rubs. The oils and waxes from the leather move around and balance everything out into a bag that has a character and life-story that is as unique as you are. These leather goods become true heirlooms to their owners.

This is why we are proud to release three new leather care products: our waterproofing Leather Balm, conditioning Leather Oil, and our deeply restoring Leather Cleaner. With proper care, your leather bags, wallets, and cases will stand the test of time and age beautifully as well.

What Can Damage Leather?

dry damaged leather

Leather is a natural substance, and just like your skin, leather needs some TLC as well from time to time. When it is well taken care of, the fibers are flexible and strong. However when leather dries out those fibers become brittle and can crack or rip. Once this happens the leather cannot usually be repaired.

Over time, your leather can dry out just from being in contact with dry air. Also, when water comes in contact with leather and dries it can remove many of the natural oils and waxes that keep it soft and supple. Additionally, simply handling leather extensively can cause the oils from the leather to slowly leech out as they transfer onto your hands.

If leather absorbs too much water and stays damp for excessive amounts of time it can also start to grow mold and mildew which can rot the leather from the inside out.

How Do You Take Care Of Leather?

leather cleaner and conditioner and oil

To properly take care of leather, one must replace and replenish the leather's oils from time to time. All leather products can benefit from a treatment of a good leather conditioner to nourish and restore the fibers so they stay flexible and durable. A good conditioner is an emulsion of natural oils and waxes that are easily absorbed into the leather without leaving residue behind that will rub off on your clothing.

To do this we have put together a few products that contain special blends of all natural beeswaxes and lipid oils that are specially formulated to restore, replenish, and nourish our entire line of full grain leather products. Our leather balm is a fantastic product for regular use to provide a ton of protection to your leather, especially when it comes to replacing the waxes which waterproof the leather. Our leather cleaner is a special formulation that is designed to remove stains and dirt and grime that may have built up in your leather over the years. Our leather oil is a deeply nourishing emulsion of lipids and oils with very good penetration power.

How To Clean Leather?

deep leather cleaner

Leather will absorb the oils from your hands, along with any dirt or grime that it comes into contact with. The oils already in the leather can become contaminated and discolored. Also, accidents happen... and so do toddlers. We understand. The key to cleaning leather is to get the stain out without drying out the leather too much.

Light stains and marks can be removed with a bit of warm water, a damp cloth, and some elbow grease. Sometimes a bit of gentle soap as well will help. But for those stubborn stains or marks it will take a little more.

Additionally, if you live in a humid environment, the leather can start to mold or mildew if not properly looked after. Thankfully, our leather cleaner is designed as a deep cleaning solution for all these occasions. It will lift out deeper stains along with any oils that have attracted dirt and it will kill mold and mildew and prevent it from coming back.

Step 1: Simply spray the cleaner onto a damp cloth and work into the affected area of the leather with small circular motions.

Step 2: Using a different cloth that is very slightly damp, gently scrub the leather in small circular motions to lift the stain out. You don't want your cloth too wet here to prevent the leather from absorbing too much water and becoming damaged. You also don't want to rub too hard because you can remove the dyes from the leather and further damage it. It's better to lightly rub a mark 100 times than it is to heavily rub it 10 times.

Step 3: With a completely dry cloth, dry the leather and remove any remaining cleaner.

Step 4: Allow the leather to dry completely.

Step 5: Apply our leather conditioner. This is very important! Cleaning leather removes the oils and waxes that have become contaminated and these must be replaced.

A note here: There are "one-step" solutions on the market which both clean and moisturize leather, but we don't recommend these as a good leather cleaner will remove the contaminated oils from the leather, and a good leather conditioner will replace those oils with fresh clean ones. These are two opposite facing processes. A one-step solution simply can't do both these things well enough in our opinion.

How To Waterproof Leather?

waterproofing leather wax

Water is no friend to leather. When leather gets wet, the water forms a temporary bond with the oils in the leather, and then when the water dries it lifts the oils out leaving the leather dry and brittle. It can also remove some of the dyes in the leather and leave spots or splotches called watermarks. No good!

High-quality full grain leather, like ours, is treated with an extremely refined layer of beeswax which soaks deep into the leather fibers and provides a powerful physical barrier to water. Over time and with normal use, this barrier can be rubbed away, leaving the leather exposed to water damage.

To waterproof your leather again, we have our Leather Balm which is a mixture of beeswax and oils to provide a strong barrier to water while keeping your leather soft and happy underneath. Applying it is very easy.

Step 1: Apply a thin layer of balm to the leather with a dry cloth and work it in with small circular motions to help work the wax into the fibers. Less is more here, and you can always apply more balm later. You don't want to use too much at once because it can leave behind a sticky film on the leather which will attract dirt and grime.

Step 2: Let the balm sit for 10-15 minutes while it is absorbed.

Step 3: Using another dry cloth simply remove any remaining residue and burnish the leather with circular motions.

Your leather is now waterproofed once more and ready to take on the world!

A note: Oils and waxes can temporarily darken leather, this is especially noticeable on lighter colored leathers. So always test it out on a small inconspicuous part of the leather to make sure you are happy with the result.

How To Restore & Condition Leather?

leather oil conditioner

If your leather has gone too long without a refresher, it can become dry and crack. The leather will feel "thirsty" and rough when it gets to this point. What should you do if your leather bag has become overly dry and how do you restore it to its former luster and glory? Enter our Pad & Quill Leather Oil. It is a special emulsion of all natural oils along with a bit of beeswax to deeply penetrate the fibers and replace the lost oils for long lasting protection.

Step 1: Clean the leather using our specially formulated Leather Cleaner.

Step 2: Allow the leather to dry completely.

Step 3: Apply some of our Leather Oil to a dry cloth and work into the leather with circular motions. Then let it sit for 15 minutes while it is absorbed into the fibers.

Step 4: If your leather is particularly dry, or this is your first time doing it, it can take more than one coat. So you might want to repeat one more time if you feel that the leather is still overly dry.

Step 5: Using a clean, dry cloth, wipe away any excess and gently burnish the leather to restore its luster and shine with light circular motions.

Voila! You are done and your leather will thank you. While our oil has some beeswax in it and provides a level of waterproofing, if you live in a place where your bag might be getting wet frequently we recommend applying a layer of our Leather Balm as well.

How To Get Scratches Out Of Leather?

how to get scratches out of leather

Real leather scratches. That's just a fact of life. These scratches accumulate over time, soften with use, and develop into a rich patina that tells your bag's life story. While some scratching is a good thing as it adds to the patina, heavy scratches can leave unsightly marks that don't go away very fast.

Depending on the scratch you have a number of options which we will detail more fully in a future post. Our leather oil is very good at lightening may scratches and even removing them entirely sometimes, depending on the depth and damage. Gentle rubbing with a soft cloth dabbed in some conditioning oil can lighten some scratches. There are other steps you can take as well which we will write about in a future post.

How Often Should You Clean, Condition, and Waterproof Your Leather?


How often you should be conditioning your leather depends a lot on how you use it, how old the leather is, and the environmental conditions around it. There are no hard or fast rules here, and your mileage will vary. But here are some general guidelines to go by:

Arid, dry environments like Arizona or Minnesota in the winter will leach the oils out of your leather more quickly. So you may find that you need to apply leather conditioning oil every 4-6 months.

In wet environments like Seattle and San Francisco, you will want to ensure that your leather stays waterproofed with a good barrier by applying a coat of our Leather Balm every 3-4 months.

Excessively humid environments like Florida will promote the growth of mold and mildew in leather, so cleaning the leather with our leather cleaner every 4-6 months is a good idea to prevent mold from taking root.

Older leather is also more delicate and thin, and may need to be cleaned, oiled, and waterproofed more often.

How Long Can Leather Last?

leather laptop bag

All the full grain leather we use on our leather bags, iPad and iPhone cases, and our wallets at Pad & Quill are made to the highest possible quality standards. They are fully tanned, oiled, and waterproofed from day one and can last for well over 100 years with proper care. With just a little bit of TLC every now and then your leather bag, case, or wallet will become as unique as you and be your lifelong companion through thick and thin.

Start your journey with one of our leather laptop bags here.