Written by Tenley Haraldson. Reviewed by cleaning expert Sean Busch.
Whether it’s your mother’s well-loved handbag or brand new boots, autumn is the time for leather apparel. Since these luxurious items can’t be tossed in the wash, you need to know exactly how to moisturize that leather jacket or mop up coffee spills.
Here, we walk you through how to condition and clean leather clothes, shoes, and bags to keep them looking their best.
Coated vs. Uncoated Leather: What You Need to Know
Coated leather and genuine leather are cleaned in different ways. First, determine what the item is made from by placing a few drops of water on the surface. If the water beads, it’s coated. If it’s quickly absorbed, it’s genuine, uncoated leather.
Coated leather can either be leather that’s coated in a synthetic substance or entirely vegan (typically made of vinyl or polyurethane). It’s more affordable and typically looks more “man made”, but its easy-to-clean surface is a major perk. For cleaning advice, we have an entire article dedicated to coated leather care.
Since it lacks an extra finish, natural leather is known to soak up liquids. While this material is more expensive (and more natural looking), stains and spots show up more prominently.
Tools & Products You May Need
- 2-3 microfiber towels
- Shoe polishing cloth
- Auto detailing brush to dislodge dirt and debris
- Leather cleaner (Leather Honey is free of silicone, solvents, & animal products)
- Leather conditioner to keep surfaces shiny and supple
- Shoe polish to cover blemishes and nicks
- Dish Soap
- Multi-Surface Cleaner (for uncoated leather)
How to Care for Natural Leather
Most of us don’t have the time and money to bring leather goods to specialty cleaning shops. Contrary to popular belief, it’s fairly easy to tackle everything yourself. Since frequent care is easy care, it’s important to follow these guidelines.
1. Remove Dirt & Grime
Your bag, boots, and gloves absorb a lot of gross stuff throughout your daily routine. Use a clean, slightly damp microfiber towel to buff off grime every 2-3 wears.
2. Condition Regularly
You need to moisturize your skin – leather is no different. When any leather product is conditioned correctly, there’s less risk of cracking and its lifespan increases dramatically. Be sure to test cleaning and conditioning products in a small, hidden spot first. Immediately stop if you see discoloration or “bleeding.”
- Make sure leather is free from dirt
- Patch test prior to applying all over
- Put leather conditioner directly onto a microfiber cloth
- Apply in a circular motion
- When in doubt, use less
- Keep leather away from direct sunlight
Pro Tip: Depending on the climate, you may need to condition items more often. In humid climates, products should be conditioned every 6-12 months. If your leather is in the sun and/or frequently exposed to heat, condition it every 2-3 months.
3. Take Care of Spills
Pumpkin spice latte accidents happen, so be sure to wipe up liquid spills ASAP. The longer it sits, the deeper it’ll sink into leather. Don’t use baby wipes or water: A dry microfiber cloth is your best bet for mopping up liquids.
4. Avoid Water
If you know it’s going to rain, try keeping your leather apparel indoors. Not only can excess water stain and shrink leather, but it can also cause odor issues.
5. Follow Manufacturer Directions
If you have specific manufacturer instructions, follow those for cleaning your leather. Otherwise, try the following techniques for both coated and uncoated leather goods.
Caring for a Leather Jacket
Ready to show your bomber jacket a little love? A little detailing and some leather jacket conditioner will have it looking new in just a few minutes. For uncoated leather:
- Gently wipe the material with a microfiber towel to remove fuzz, debris, dust, and grime.
- Use a leather cleaner for jackets (like Leather Honey). You can also dip a microfiber towel into a solution of warm water and a few drops of Natural Dish Soap. Wring out excess liquid and massage the cloth into the material using gentle, circular motions.
- Wipe off excess moisture with a dry microfiber cloth. You can use that same cloth to apply a conditioner for leather jackets (also made by Leather Honey).
- Be sure to follow manufacturer directions, as some products require time to soak into the material – and dry – before buffing with a microfiber towel.
- When your coat is completely dry, go ahead and wear it!
Caring for Leather Jackets Tips
- Keep leather away from heat and out of the rain
- Avoid folding it in half
- Hang it on a wide, padded hanger
How to Clean Genuine Leather Bags
If your favorite leather product looks scuffed and worn-out, it’s time for a good deep clean.
- Using a soft, dry microfiber cloth, gently wipe to remove dirt and dust several times a week.
- Use a specific leather cleaner to remove loose dirt and debris. Using circular motions, gently cover every spot evenly and buff out.
- Allow the item to completely air dry before using.
- Follow with a leather conditioner to keep your leather products soft and supple. Add a small amount to a microfiber cloth, massage into the time with gentle circular motions, then wipe off any excess with a separate, dry microfiber cloth.
How to Extend the Life of Leather Bags
- Handle your bag with clean hands
- Keep cosmetics in a zippered pouch to prevent spillage
- When not in use, stuff your bag with bubble wrap or newspaper to maintain its shape and avoid creasing.
- Store in its original dust bag (if possible)
- Remove stains ASAP
How to Clean Coated Leather Bags
Coated leather is much easier to care for than genuine leather, but it still requires regular attention.
- Wipe off grime with a dry, clean microfiber cloth. Paper towels tend to leave nubby textures.
- Fill a bowl with warm water and a few drops of gentle dish soap. Dip a microfiber cloth into the solution and wring out until it’s moist (not soaking wet). Wipe the entire article using circular motions.
Pro Tip: Since it has a neutral pH level, you can also clean coated leather products with our Multi-Surface Spray. Apply 2-3 spritzes to a clean microfiber cloth and thoroughly wipe down the product using circular motions.
- Wipe your bag evenly with a dry microfiber cloth.
- For small scuffs, try rubbing a light leather oil in small circular motions. Let it dry completely.
- To prevent future scuffs and dirt build-up, use your favorite leather conditioner to restore shine and luster.
How to Clean Genuine Leather Shoes
Leather shoes can be hard to keep clean, so avoid grime build-up by running a microfiber cloth over the shoes once a week. Whenever possible, stay out of puddles and direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time. If you’re thinking of fixing a difficult shoe stain, consult a cobbler.
- Standing outside, knock off loose dirt, dust, or salt outdoors by banging the soles and heels together.
- Remove laces (if applicable) and wipe remaining dust, dirt, or mud with an auto detailing brush. Moisten a microfiber cloth with warm water, then use it to wipe away extra debris.
- Apply a leather conditioner with a dry microfiber cloth to moisturize the shoe. Cover all spots evenly and apply the conditioner via circular motions. Allow to air dry.
- You can use a neutral or matching shoe polish next, depending on the sheen you’re after. Use your finger to apply 1-2 droplets of water directly to the shoe. Swirl the polishing cloth (or a bit of old t-shirt) into the polish and use small circular motions to cover the entire leather surface.
Pro Tip: Use a Q-tip for hard-to-reach locations
- Pay special attention to the heels and toes, as these become scuffed more quickly.
- Let the shoes dry completely, then use the friction of a microfiber cloth to buff and shine.
How to Clean Coated Leather Shoes
For vegan, coated, and patent leather shoes, follow the same steps for leather shoes. However, you can either use a leather cleaner or spray a microfiber towel with Puracy Multi-Surface Cleaner.
Keep Any and All Surfaces Clean with Our Microfiber Towels
Leather apparel needs regular care to keep it looking its best. Our Edgeless Microfiber Towels do it all. From spritzing to wiping to buffing, stock up on the most versatile item in our cleaning arsenal.