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A Guide to Cleaning and Conditioning Vintage Leather

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Leather Bomber Jacket

1970s Vintage Leather Bomber Jacket

Image courtesy of Vintagevixen.com
Cleaning and conditioning leather is very simple if you just think of leather as skin. Just as you need to clean and moisturize your own skin, leather needs to be maintained in the same way to stay supple, pliable, and resilient. If you keep your own skin care in mind while caring for your vitnage leather, it is sure to outlast you.

Cleaning Vintage Leather

  • Professional Leather Cleaning

    If you have a very special or very delicate leather item, or if you do not want to take any chances cleaning it yourself, there are professional leather cleaners that can do it for you.

    Many dry cleaners offer leather cleaning services through which your leather is sent off site to a professional cleaning company and then returned to the dry cleaners.

    Although this process is done by professionals, slight variations in color, texture, and shape may result; so be sure to clean matching garments together even if only one piece is dirty.

  • Cleaning at Home

    In many cases all that is necessary to clean leather is a damp cloth or a store bought leather cleaner. This will remove any surface dust or dirt. (Always follow manufacturer's instructions when using a cleaner specifically for leather.)

    If the leather has been in contact with perspiration, water, or is stiff, you may need a more substantial method to cleanse it.

    Hand Washing

    1. Treat or remove any stains on the leather before washing it.
    2. Using warm soapy water made with an gentle cleanser like baby shampoo, Dove (unscented), or soap flakes rub the leather with a soft cloth to produce a lather in any area you want to clean.
    3. Wipe away excess lather with a clean cloth.
    4. Rinse leather thoroughly either by running through warm water or wiping several times with a damp cloth.
    5. Pat leather dry with a clean towel to remove excess water.
    6. Allow leather to dry flat in a warm place out of direct sunlight and away from a strong heat source (fire, heater, stove, etc.)

    Washing Leather in a Washing Machine

    Some people claim that leather can be washed using a washing machine set on a very gentle (wool or delicate) setting with warm or cool water.

    This method may not be worth the risk if you are washing a very old vitnage piece.

    If you choose to use this method, DO NOT use any detergent meant for washing clothes other than Woolite or Soap Flakes. Also, do not use more soap than is necessary to make the water slippery with a small amount of bubbles. Too much soap will make the leather dry and stiff!

Once the leather has completly dried, then it is time to condition it!

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