How to Clean Mud On Leather
Unless it’s a piece of furniture, leather usually isn’t kept inside. It’s going to see the great outdoors and experience the adventure it was designed for. That also means it’s going to become very intimate with Mother Nature. So, what happens when you come home from your most recent adventure to find mud caked on your favorite leather bag? Thankfully, it’s usually not too difficult to clean mud on leather.
For wet, brown mud, carefully wipe off the excess mud off with a damp cloth. Wipe off the entire muddied area with your damp cloth, going from seam to seam, and after you have gotten out as much as you can, buff it off with a dry cloth. Take care not to rub too hard, or you may force some of the dirt further inside your leather. If the mud has already dried, however, avoid re-wetting your leather at first. Instead, use a soft bristle brush to remove as much dirt as you can, and then take to it with a damp cloth or leather cleaner. Do the same process – gently wiping the muddied area off seam to seam, and buffing it off with a dry cloth afterwards.
Your red, clay-like mud variety poses a different sort of challenge. For this monster, you will want to grab a good leather cleaner, such as Chamberlain’s Straight Cleaner no. 2. Red mud can stain very easily, as opposed to its brownish cousin, and may leave a permanent tint in your leather if you are not careful. As usual, it is best to get this mud while it is fresh and wet. Remove any excess mud with a damp towel, then apply leather cleaner to a clean towel and wipe it in. There is one thing to note: always make sure you have tested your leather cleaner on the leather you are cleaning before actually using it. Some leather cleaners and conditioners can have disastrous effects on leather if they are not designed for each other. Suede, for example, is more porous than full grain cowhide (read our blog “Know Your Leather Grains” for more on this), so alcohol-based leather cleaners may have a harsher effect and probably darken it. To test your leather cleaner, take a small amount of it on a clean, white cloth and wipe into a discreet area on your leather. Check your cloth for excess color rub off, discoloration on your test spot, or any other negative effects. If your leather looks fine on all three counts, you’re good.
By the way, you should not use your leather cleaner if it is still wet. To clean mud on leather effectively, you need to make sure it is as dry and free of excess mud as possible. This will permit your leather cleaner to seep into your leather’s pores more effectively and do it’s job. After you have tested your leather cleaner, wipe it in thin and even layers across the surface. Make sure that it is even to ensure it does not dry splotchy. After the surface is covered, wipe off any residue and let it dry again. Drying should be done in a cool, clean, indoors location away from sunlight and direct heat.
One other method to help you clean mud on leather is to throw it in the washing machine with a cup of bleach… If you want to destroy it! I mention this both as a joke and a warning. There are a lot of resources out there that have advice on how to clean leather. Some are good and some not quite so. As you look for ways to clean leather, be wary of those bits that could cause more damage than it does to clean your leather. If it sounds a bit leery, look at other sources to see if there might be some legitimacy to that method.
Protecting Your Goods
The final and most important step to clean mud on leather is to feed it some leather conditioner. Chamberlain’s Leather Care Liniment no. 1 is a good choice for this task, restoring the vital oils and nutrients leather cleaner steals. Test first, and if its works well, spread it over the leather in thin and even layers, and leave it to dry. Remember to not use leather conditioner if the leather is wet, lest you seal in excess contaminants and moisture and darken your leather. After your leather’s received an even coat, come back in about 15 and buff the rest off with a clean cloth, and enjoy the shine!
Keeping mud off of your leather entirely can be a tall order, but there are measures you can take to make things easier for you. Leather protectors, like Chamberlain’s Water Protectant no. 3, help the leather to repel water and mud, making it easier to clean. It also helps to condition the leather to keep it looking like new. You can read more about Water Protectant in our blog “Protecting Leather with Water Protectant no. 3“, and remember to test first!
On the Road Again
“It’s a dangerous business… going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to!” — Bilbo Baggins
Now that you’ve cleaned your leather from your last adventure, you’re ready to keep following the call of the Road and see where your feet might lead you!
Chris Repp (www.leatherhelp.com)
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