May 04, 2023 5 min read
Leather is utilized in everything from home goods, personal items, furniture, car interiors, wristwear, and clothing. This natural fabric is equal parts stylish and durable, rugged and sophisticated. Like any fabric, it requires some basic upkeep to keep it looking its best.
When clothing made from other fabrics gets wrinkled, your first instinct may be to grab an iron. For centuries, Ironing your clothes has been one of the most prominent ways to get rid of wrinkles. The electric iron was invented in 1882. Before that, warm smoothing stones and hot coals placed in flat-bottomed metal pans were used to iron out wrinkles.
Leather isn’t like other fabrics. Few are waterproof enough to withstand the saturation of the traditional washing process. Even fewer are waterproof enough that you’d want to expose them to such a thing. With that in mind, it begs the question: Can you iron leather?
There are a few reasons why one may want to iron leather. Like any fabric, it eventually gets creases and wrinkles. In some items, like bags or jackets, you may want to remove them. Ironing can keep many personal items looking top-quality.
Wrinkles aren’t just a temporary nuisance: They are a fundamental part of the wrinkled object in question.
What do we mean by this? Fabrics aren’t merely held together by stitches and seams. On a microscopic level, the connection between molecules of individual fabrics helps maintain their shape. When that connection is in some way deformed or changed, wrinkles occur. When the bonds break down, new ones form in their place, which can lead to either the creation or elimination of wrinkles.
There are three main culprits when it comes to the causes of wrinkles. These three causes are drape, moisture, and heat.
The way an article is hung impacts the shape it takes when it dries. Have you ever put off hanging your laundry for an extra hour or two and suddenly find everything wrinkled? It’s because as the bonds between garments started to lock into place, they got bunched up. The wadded-up or only semi-flat shape of the garment temporarily becomes its new one.
Moisture can also severely impact the way that bonds are formed. For many items, moisture is what causes their bonds to break down. It’s the reason why sometimes wrinkles appear to be set in the moment you remove clothing from the dryer.
The last method to reduce wrinkles by adjusting the bonds of fabric is heat. The bonds between molecules are broken as temperature increases and re-formed as they cool down.
How does heat specifically impact leather? Find out below.
To understand what heat does to leather, we can look at what happens to cars during heat waves. Under intense, long-term heat exposure, leather interiors can negatively age, discolor, and even crack. Why does heat do this to leather, compared to other fabrics?
The first answer is oil. Leather goods are conditioned and treated with natural oils. Oils help maintain the luxurious look and feel of your favorite bags, wallets, and more. Natural oils also prevent cracking, which is instrumental for goods meant to last years or even decades.
When permeated by moisture or heat, those oils begin to disappear. In the case of moisture, hydrogen bonds to the molecules of the oil. When the moisture evaporates, so too do some of the molecules of the oil. In the case of heat, the oils are eliminated under exposure to excessive, long-term warmth.
In either case, the long-term impact of heat and moisture on leather is a negative one. However, leather goods are made to be used, worn, and carried. Heat and moisture are an inevitability of life. There are plenty of ways to remove wrinkles and treat leather without harsh exposure. There are also ways to mitigate the effects of heat to make ironing a significantly safer process.
Before this passage, we have a significant disclaimer: There are many better ways to take care of your leather than ironing. However, if every other method has failed you, there is a way to safely (if you’re careful) treat leather goods.
First, if using a steam iron, empty it of water. That moisture is begging to be pressed into the fabric, causing long-term damage.
Secondly, make sure you are using the lowest setting possible when it comes to heat. Leather doesn’t just dry out and crack in response to heat: It burns. Be delicate with your heat, and never linger too long in one spot.
Third, never place any heating component directly on your leather. Place a soft sheet or pillowcase, damp but not wet, in between your iron and your leather goods. This lessens the direct heat your piece is exposed to, reducing the permeating of heat to deeper layers.
The last step is among the most important: Once you finish ironing, you’ll want to restore your leather. Any exposure to heat can be hard on leather, and protecting its future means taking care of it today.
Finish off your ironing routine by applying your preferred leather conditioner or cream. Our personal suggestion is for a cream that uses beeswax, like Andar’s Leather Cream.
Beeswax is something of a cure-all for protection and preservation. It is used in the preservation of papyrus, the protection of artwork, and even in reducing bruising and inflammation. Beeswax can subtly waterproof and restore the natural oils of leather. Whether post-ironing or as part of annual maintenance, beeswax deserves a place in your leather-care kit.
Of course, there are other ways to rejuvenate your leather other than ironing. Many of these are going to be much safer than heat exposure.
A couple of techniques for removing wrinkles from leather don't involve heat. These include delicately steaming, using homemade mixtures, and simply massaging the fabric.
Never use a steamer on leather goods. However, you can delicately expose them to steam in the bathroom. Place your goods somewhere off the floor and as far away from the shower as possible.
Turn the water on to a temperature where it will begin producing steam, and let it stand for 20 minutes. You want to expose your product to the steam but not so much that it acquires moisture residue. Don’t use this on unfinished leather, suede, or other water-sensitive materials.
Once you remove it from steam, lightly shape the garment to eliminate any remaining wrinkles. Follow this process with a conditioner to offer protection to your products.
For larger creases, you may want to spritz your leather using a mixture of one part water and one part alcohol. Pure water or pure alcohol can both be harmful in their own way. You’ll want to spray from a distance and only lightly.
This mixture can loosen the bonds, allowing the item to be reshaped. Wipe away moisture with a cloth, and press lightly. Once again, you’ll want to immediately apply a conditioner to restore lost oils.
Different leathers respond differently to treatment. The most enduring leather products are made from full-grain leather. It’s for this reason that full grain of the highest quality is the standard for all Andar products.
We believe that the secret to long-lived products is both inherent quality and quality protection. Embrace everything about high-end leather with Andar.