Protect and condition: these are the two main things you need to know when it comes to leather shoes and bags.
Just like our own skin, leather contains oils and fats that keep it supple. If these oils dry out, the surface of the leather will begin to crack.
Leather’s worst enemy is water, followed by heat, so preventative measures to make sure that leather doesn’t get wet is a must. There are a number of water and stain repellent products on the market, and treating your goods before using them is a great first step. Bear in mind that this won’t make them 100% waterproof though, so try not to use your leather goods in wet conditions.
Handmade by artisan leather craftsmen in Devon, this Baja Travel Bag by Tanner Bates is made from full grain oak bark leather.
Leather, in general, is quite porous, and it will lose moisture through evaporation, particularly if exposed to a lot of sunlight or hot, dry conditions. Expert Devon leatherworkers Tanner Bates recommend using a hide food about twice a year. This is a blend of pH balanced natural waxes and oils, perfect for feeding Oak Bark and other naturally tanned leathers.
Products like this moisturise and feed the leather, prolonging its life and restoring suppleness. Rub a dose into the outside (the grain side) of the leather and leave overnight. Any surplus not absorbed by the next day can be wiped off with a lint free cloth and brushed with a soft clean shoe brush.
Cream polishes are another great way to bring out the shine, add a bit of colour to faded leather and also help moisturise the leather. Just make sure you choose a matching polish for the leather, and buff with a clean, soft cloth afterwards to give it that extra shine and take off excess polish.
But what should you do if you unexpectedly get caught up in the rain or accidentally knock a glass of water onto your leather bag? The first thing to do is to soak up the excess moisture with an absorbent towel or cloth and allow for it to air dry. Resist the urge to use a hair dryer or expose it in direct sunlight or other heat sources such as heat vents or radiators, as heat warps the leather and dries it out. You don’t want those unsightly cracks at all!
Leather goods need to breathe, so it is essential not to use plastic containers to store your shoes and bags, as this will cause mould to grow. For bags, use dust bags or even cotton pillowcases, and include a couple of silica gel packets to absorb the moisture. There are many great videos on suede and leather care, this is one of them.
And last but not least, find a good, neighbourhood cobbler for shoes and bags as an investment. Not only can they buffer and polish your goods to the shiniest standard, but they also have a few tricks up their sleeves such as mending a leather tear and other services such as shoe stretching or colour re-dyeing.