HOW TO SOFTEN YOUR LEATHER GOODS
From boots and belts to shoes and saddles, there’s an entire world of products that benefit from leather’s durability and strength. While these goods look great when you first get them home from the store, there’s often a breaking-in period before they reach their full comfort levels. You might want to make this time go by quickly, but it’s important to do it properly to avoid compromising the beauty and integrity of your product. Before you haphazardly apply a generic leather softener to your items, here are some professional suggestions on how to correctly condition them.
WHY SOFTENING IS IMPORTANT
Your leather goods will eventually soften by themselves due to wear and tear, but there are a few reasons why you should hasten the process. From a comfort standpoint, breaking in shoes and boots can lead to blisters and calluses, so why not get it over with quicker? In a more practical sense, it might seem right to let your items soften on their own terms, but without proper conditioning, you could experience cracks, tears and other aesthetic blemishes. A good rule of thumb is to treat your items like you would your own skin because that’s exactly what they used to be.
PREPARE YOUR GOODS FOR SOFTENING
Before you start the process of softening your leather shoes or other items, you should first make sure the items are ready to receive the chosen product. This is true no matter which softening method you plan to use. Start by thoroughly cleaning every surface you intend to treat with conditioner. This can be done with a clean cloth and a small amount of water, but there are also cleaners available to help deal with tougher jobs. Once you’re finished removing stains and dirt, let the piece dry completely for up to 24 hours at room temperature.
- Coconut Oil
- Petroleum Jelly and Rubbing Alcohol
- Commercial Products
Method 1: Coconut Oil
You may have used coconut oil to achieve a golden brown suntan, but you can also use it to condition your leather boots and other goods for softening. Before proceeding, take your prepared items and let them sit out in the sunlight for 10 minutes so they’re ready to accept the oil. Using your fingers, gently apply a layer and rub it into the surface. Work in small areas until you’ve coated the entire item. This is a popular softening method, but it does come with the drawback of significant darkening, so try testing it on an inconspicuous area to see if you’re happy with the final shade.
Method 2: Petroleum Jelly and Rubbing Alcohol
The second method for softening leather is the application of rubbing alcohol and petroleum jelly. Start by using a cotton ball to apply the alcohol to every surface you’d like to soften. This might take a few different treatments because of alcohol’s tendency to evaporate quickly. Once you’ve completely treated the whole item, follow up with a generous layer of petroleum jelly using your fingers as an applicator. Unlike the coconut oil method, you shouldn’t experience any significant darkening of your items when you’re finished.
Method 3: Water
If you’d like to soften your leather goods without using chemicals, water offers an easy option. Use a spray bottle to apply a thin layer to every surface, stopping when it begins to bead up and roll off. You don’t want to go overboard here because your goal should be to have just enough moisture to seep into the leather without saturating it. To avoid cracking, follow up with a clean microfiber cloth to remove any excess liquid before allowing the piece to dry naturally. Once it finishes drying, follow up with a quality conditioner. This technique will not work with any item that has been treated with a waterproofing product since the moisture will simply roll away without absorbing.
Method 4: Commercial Products
Home remedies are a good place to start, but there are occasions when they don’t do the job completely. If you need something stronger, head to your local store and find a commercial product that’s appropriate for your item. Read the product’s instructions and apply according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. You might have to reapply a few times every year to prevent your leather goods from drying out.
Once you’ve softened your leather goods to a desirable level, it’s important to exercise proper care to keep them strong and beautiful for long-term use. You’ve invested a lot in your items, so treat them well by keeping a few things in mind:
- Avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight during storage.
- Allow good air flow by never storing items in sealed plastic bags.
- Prevent stains by regularly using a damp cloth to clean your goods.
- When polishing or conditioning, use products that don’t contain dyes.
- Always test any new conditioners or cleaners on a small area before full application.
Enjoy Leather’s Beauty and Strength
Now you know more about softening leather, you’re ready to augment your wardrobe and home with products made from this durable material. No matter if you’re looking for a gift for a loved one or a new accessory for yourself, leather’s beauty and warmth can fit the bill. At Haxford, we work every day to create beautiful leather items that stand up to the wear and tear that comes from daily use. To learn more about our full lineup of offerings or get advice from a member of our staff, use our easy online contact form to reach out today.