Calfskin comes from the same animal as regular cowhide, but if you own this material, you should know you are working with an entirely different animal. Calfskin leather is generally a finer, more delicate hide, more useful for fashion than rugged, outdoor tromps you’re used to taking cowhide through; it'll require more delicate calfskin leather care treatment. Its lightweight and flexible make allow it to retain warmth in cold weather while feeling comfortable enough to wear on a warm day. Easier accessibility has made it a popular choice for high quality shoes, book bindings, wallets, and various apparel. The only downsides are that it is less durable than cowhide, and if it is colored, the dyes may fade more quickly than with other leathers.
General maintenance is going to be similar to suede. Although calfskin leather is fairly durable, it doesn’t have cowhide’s strength. It is generally more scratch resistant, however, and much softer to the touch. As calfskin leather will typically be vegetable tanned, you’ll also be getting leather closer to its natural form, and will thus stain more easily. This does leave it open to beautiful patinas, however, supplementing an already lustrous hide that possesses an almost indiscernible grain and lamblike smoothness. Just to give you the full picture, this same material is used to make parchment and vellum – stuff that people write on. It’s easy on the senses.
Enough with the Fluff
Calfskin leather will feel broken in even while it’s new, but you’ll still need to give it regular maintenance. Possibly even more regularly than cowhide. In fact, it may be a good idea to give it a soft conditioner straight off the bat to prevent stains and excessive dust from accruing. A spray conditioner may be best for this task, or a leather conditioner with a lighter consistency, such as Leather Care Liniment no. 1. This conditioner will wear off after a few months, so good calfskin leather care requires a reconditioning 2-4 times a year (“How Often Should I Condition Leather?”). Make sure you test any leather conditioner before you use it in a discreet area, as conditioners will usually darken leather. This darkening will usually fade with time and use, but to be on the safe side, always defer to manufacturer’s instructions before using any leather treatment. Compatible shoe polish may also be applied to bring out the gleam, but the same rules apply: test first and listen to manufacturer.
Regular cleaning is also on the tab for calfskin leather care. A soft, bristle brush will allow you to pull out excess debris trapped beneath in the leather’s grains, or a lint-free, slightly damp cloth can also work wonders. Make sure not to get your leather too wet, as this could damage it and lead to staining. Use gentle strokes and never put too much pressure on your leather. You’ll need to do this fairly often, depending on how often your leather is exposed to the elements. Clean it whenever it looks dirty, and try to brush it off at least once a week – more if it gets outdoors a lot. You’ll have to be the gauge. Learn how your unique leather works – no one leather piece is exactly the same as another.
If your bag does end up staining, there are a few calfskin leather care tricks to try. Grease spots can often be pulled out with that magical fairy dust called corn starch. This miracle powder has very absorbent properties that, when sprinkled over an infected spot and left overnight, can often pull stains right out. Merely brush the corn starch off afterwards and enjoy your handiwork. Alternatively, you could try a deeper cleaner.
My personal recommendation is a handy concoction of water and mild soap, mixed together in a bowl until soap suds are produced. It’s important that the soap is mild – generic soap varieties have an alkaline pH level that is incompatible with leather, and will be harmful to it. You can read a bit more about mild soap in our blog “Should I Use Mild Soap On Leather?”
Take the suds from your mild soap mixture and spread them evenly on the surface of your calfskin leather. Make sure only to grab the suds – you will remember leather doesn't like to get wet; for good calfskin leather care, try not to saturate. After the calfskin leather has received an even coat of your suds all around, allow it to dry in a cool, clean area away from sunlight and heat. Don’t try to artificially dry it with a blow dryer – heat hurts (and can even shrink) leather. After your leather has dried, it may be a good idea to give it a light coat of leather conditioner to restore any lost lubricants.
For the Keeping
Finally, for proper calfskin leather care storage, try to keep it in a clean place where it will have minimal exposure to dust and the elements. Dust jackets, pillowcases and wooden boxes work ideally – you want your leather to be able to breathe still. Don’t cover it in plastic, or else it will suffocate and dry out. Also, don’t stack things on top of it, lest its shape be deformed. Above all, keep it where it’s protected. Away from pets, lots of sunlight, places where it can be spilled on – this is valuable investment you own, and it will pay to take good care of it. Although perhaps not as long as cowhide, calfskin leather will keep sturdy for a long time if it gets the right care.
Hopefully that will be enough to get you started on calfskin leather care, leathermancers. Calfskin is a very beautiful brand of leather, but it will need beautiful treatment to keep that way. This dame’s not for the tender of heart. Calfskin’s a vixen who will demand much in return for her affection, but the affection you get gots no end of style. If you’re in the mood for instant looker material with a soft touch, look no further.
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