How to Care for Leather and Suede
Understanding Leather, Suede and Vegan Leather
To properly care for different types of leather, it's essential to understand the key differences between them. Simply put, leather falls into two main categories: animal leather and leather alternatives.
Animal leather, or genuine leather, is derived from various animal hides. Its texture, softness, and colour depend on the animal it's sourced from and the following manufacturing process. On the other hand, Suede is a type of animal leather that comes from a different layer of the hide and undergoes a specific brushing process to achieve its distinct texture.
Leather alternatives are materials that mimic the properties of genuine leather but are not sourced from animals. These alternatives come from various sources, with synthetic materials such as PU and PVC being the most common. However, plant-based leather alternatives have gained popularity in recent years as people and the fashion industry have become more sustainably minded. For instance, we have recently collaborated with Life On Mars (LOM Australia) to create a range of luxury vegan leather bags. The leather from the collection is made from various plant-based sources, including regenerative cacti and the cores and peels of apples that would otherwise go to waste.
Caring for Leather
Leather items require varying levels of care, depending on their type, texture, and finish. However, to care for leather boots or other leather accessories, here are the essential steps:
- Clean: Use a damp cloth or professional leather cleaning product to gently remove any light scuffs, dirt or build-up as needed.
- Condition: Leather needs conditioning to restore moisture and maintain its softness and suppleness. Use a natural leather conditioner made from ingredients such as beeswax and oil for the best results. You can condition leather pieces after cleaning or when the leather feels especially dry.
- Waterproof: Protect leather items with a waterproofing spray, as exposure to water can strip the natural oils and leave the leather dry and brittle. Waterproof your leather before using or wearing it for the first time, and reapply every six months. If your leather garment gets wet, allow it to dry naturally.
Caring for Suede
Suede has a distinct look and feel that sets it apart from other types of leather. To care for a suede jacket or other suede accessories, follow these steps:
Waterproof: Waterproofing is essential, as suede is prone to staining and discolouration from prolonged exposure to water. Waterproofing your suede items before their first use and every six months after that is best. If the suede feels less soft than usual, it may be time to waterproof them again. If you can, avoid wearing suede items in wet conditions. If your suede does get wet, let it air dry naturally.
Clean: Avoid using cream-based treatments on suede as they can damage the delicate fibres. Instead, use a soft-bristled suede brush to remove dirt or scuff marks as needed. Consider using a specialised suede cleaning treatment or taking the item to a professional cleaner for tougher stains.
Caring for Vegan Leather
Besides its ethical and environmental benefits, vegan leather is considered lower-maintenance than animal leather. Investing in high-quality pieces is one of the best ways to care for vegan leather. For instance, cactus "leather" has undergone rigorous testing and can last up to 10 years. Here are the basic steps to care for vegan leather:
Clean: Use a soft, damp cloth to wipe away any dirt or stains on your faux leather accessories.
Protect: Unlike animal leather, there is no need to waterproof or condition vegan leather. Avoid using harsh detergents or exposing it to artificial heat to maintain its quality.
Considerations when Caring for Leather
There are other things to consider when caring for leather and leather alternatives.
Intended use: You can determine how much care your item needs based on its purpose. For example, everyday leather boots will require more frequent care than an evening clutch.
Storage: Proper storage is essential for leather. Keep your leather garments and accessories in a dry, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight, and store them in a way that preserves their shape. Hang leather jackets on a sturdy coat hanger and stuff leather bags with clean tissue paper.
Exposure: Avoid applying lotions or fragrances immediately before handling or wearing leather items, as the chemicals may damage or stain the leather.