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April 20, 2023 5 min read
To answer the question outright: Yes! … Well, some of the time — and it depends on what you use and how you do it. With the proper techniques, you can safely wash your leather without damaging its protective coating or degrading its natural oils.
While there are plenty of concerns about the effects of water and acidic cleaning solutions on leather, there are equally as many wholesome ways to clean and replenish your prized leather products. All it takes is a little bit of care and caution, and your leather clothes or furniture will look shiny and new.
At Andar, we want you to have the best resources available to care for your leather, which is why we’ve created this guide for you on the best ways to wash leather. Now, you can proceed without trepidation, knowing you’re in good hands.
First of all, let’s get this out of the way: If you came here wondering if you could machine-wash your leather, we’re afraid to inform you that this is probably the worst way to wash leather, no matter what type you’re dealing with.
Machine washing will soak your leather in water, exposing it to an amount of moisture that is wholly unhealthy for it, causing the material to shrink, become discolored, and crack. As the water dries, so will those natural oils that protect your leather. Not to mention, most laundry detergents will strip these vital oils away.
If you’re washing by hand, you can easily monitor the amount of water going into the leather. You’ll be getting only the surface moist rather than soaking the material.
Leather cleaners have proven to be a pretty popular product when it comes to washing your leather, but they do have certain pitfalls you should be wary of. Still, for many people, these products are an essential aspect of leather care, stripping away those layers of polish, dirt, and other toxins that can degrade your leather over time.
On top of that, by removing those harmful layers of grime, leather cleaners help your leather to breathe again, increasing its durability and lifespan. Plus, without those dirty coatings, your leather can better absorb new conditioners and moisturizers.
Take note: many leather cleaners contain dehydrating chemicals like sodium hydroxide. If used in excess, this can also deteriorate a lot of the good oils in your leather, too, causing it to dry out and crack.
At the end of the day, leather cleaners are an important tool for you to have, especially for those leather jackets, shoes, and handbags that regularly face the elements.
At Andar, we especially recognize the importance of preserving the protective oils that are vital to the durability and beauty of our full-grain leather handbags.
So be sure to use a moderate amount, rinse the product off with a damp sponge or towel, and always replenish your leather by conditioning it.
There are plenty of home remedies that have become widespread online, promising to fight even the toughest of stains on your leather. While many of these can work, they aren’t always the safest for your leather’s health.
Some of the most popular ingredients included in these home remedies are things like baking soda, olive oil, lime or lemon juice, and white vinegar. These can certainly remove stains, but when it comes to leather, they are a little bit risky.
The highly acidic nature of these compounds can actually cause additional stains on your leather, wear away at the stitching, and, of course, dry out the material, turning it stiff and brittle.
Some DIY guides even point to nail polish remover as being an effective stain-fighter. This type of product has high concentrations of acetone and alcohol, which are extremely bad for leather, at times even causing bleach-like stains to occur.
If you’re going to use any of these remedies, maybe stick with the more natural types, and even then, you’ll want to dilute them with a good amount of water. Follow with a thorough damp cloth rinse and conditioner.
One of the best solutions to wash your leather with (and still widely available in the home) is simple, mild soap and clean water.
Mix just a dash of the mild soap with a much larger portion of water, and add it to a spray bottle if you have one handy. The spray bottle will help you to apply only a light misting of the solution onto your leather to prevent oversaturation.
Then, with a damp cloth (microfiber is best), clean your leather with circular motions, working with the patterns of the grains. You’ll want to avoid leaving any soap residue behind, as it can cause dry patches, cracking, and suffocate your leather. If you can, sometimes an additional misting of just plain water will help you.
As you’ve probably heard us mention a couple of times by now, whatever product you're using on your leather, be it leather cleaner, a home remedy, or even just soap and water, there is always the possibility that these solutions can dry out your leather.
Even simple water can bond to the oils in your leather, causing the surface to turn rigid and breakable. That’s why it's essential to always follow your cleaning solutions with a quick run-down: Grab your damp microfiber cloth, leather conditioner, and get ready to breathe new life into your favorite pieces.
Leather conditioners are made from naturally occurring oils like the seed oils and beeswax that go into our leather cream. Otherwise, they might contain other natural oils like coconut oil, mink oil, or neatsfoot oil. These fatty substances replenish the oils in your leather, rehydrating it and keeping it soft and flexible.
Always use a moderate amount, applying a thin coat. Buff with a soft brush afterward if you can. Too much oil can clump up in the creases and folds, causing some mean stains.
Following up on your leather washing routine, it’s always best to allow your products to air dry. The moisture can naturally evaporate, while the leather conditioner will create a protective coating over the surface and enhance the vibrancy of your leather’s colors.
Under no circumstances should you ever machine-dry your leather products. The high heat of a machine dryer will damage your leather, undoing all the progress made by cleaning and conditioning it. You should also avoid direct sunlight or heat when air drying your leather, as these things can have a similarly deteriorating effect.
Hang your leather jackets up on a good wooden hanger, giving them room to breathe. For handbags and shoes, stuff them with absorbent paper or use a shoe tree to help maintain their shape as they dry.
For wallets, a good pro tip is to try and dry them in the closed position. Otherwise, you may stiffen up the fold that keeps it closed, causing it to annoyingly flop open once dry.
We pride ourselves at Andar on creating products made from the finest, full-grain leather. This high-grade material provides some of the best durability and flexibility available, and we incorporate it into everything from our handbags to our large selection of wallets.
That’s why we take leather care so seriously. We would regret ever seeing such beautiful material, rich with protective oils, deteriorate before its time. With proper leather care, your products can continue to last you years, protecting the valuables you need and love.
We hope this guide has helped you learn how to do just that! We are consistently updating our blog with new tips and tricks to keep your leather stylish and healthy. Thanks for joining in!
16 Things You Should Never Put In The Dryer | The Spruce
Sodium hydroxide | Definition, Common Name, Uses, & Facts | Britannica
How to Clean Leather Furniture So It Looks Like New | Architectural Digest