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Cleaning and Conditioning Exotic Leather

Cleaning and Conditioning Exotic Leather

Posted by Daniel Sutton on Mar 31st 2014

Let’s be real. Exotic leather is not cheap material you’d pick up on a discount rack at your local shopping center. If you have paid for one of these fashionable keepsakes, chances are you know how important it is to keep your leather clean and conditioned. Like a fragrant rose garden, your snake skin wallet may look beautiful to the eye, but it needs to be nurtured if it’s going to keep its rich luster. Exotic leather is generally not as durable as standard cow leather due to the special membranes that keep it together, and should be treated with proper care. Don’t worry, you will not need to spend hours every day looking after it. As long as you have the proper technique, your alligator leather purse will keep its scaly sheen with only minimal effort.


So you finally have that ostrich hide duffel bag you have been dreaming about, or perhaps that fish skin leather belt that you just cannot seem to get out of your head. Good for you! But like any other kind of leather, wear and tear can eat away at these little creatures’ lifespans if you do not protect your investment. Even if you are careful to avoid too much sunlight and keep it away from sharp objects, you will still need to clean and condition your prized possession to prevent it from drying out and cracking. Just like cow leather, exotic leathers can also be finished or unfinished. If you are unsure what this means, read our blog “How to Identify Types of Leather.


Common sense is always your best friend when it comes to cleaning and conditioning exotic leathers. If they get dirty, clean them. If a few months have passed by and they have not been touched up, clean them again, even if they don’t look physically dirty. Leather is a living material, and it breathes in the dirtiness that settles on it. How would you like to roll around in a month’s worth of dust without a wash? Without a proper cleaning before you condition your leather, dirt and debris may be sealed inside its pores. If your exotic leather bag is already fairly clean and only needs regular maintenance, however, this may not be necessary. Application of an exotic-friendly leather conditioner, such as Chamberlain’s Leather Milk No. 1, should do the trick.

Before you start, make sure you have a proper leather cleaner to use on your purse or shoes, preferably one specifically designed for cleaning exotic leather, as some leather cleaners and leather conditioners can have unpredictable effects depending on the material they are being used on. Stay away from alcohol based leather cleaners, as alcohol tends to dry out exotic leather more severely than cow-based leather.

A good way to make sure your cleaner is right for you is to pretest it in a hidden, discreet place before applying it to the entire piece. When you pretest, use a white cloth to dab your leather with the cleaner, and wait an hour. If there is a change to the color of the leather after an hour has passed, or you see coloration on the cloth, don’t use the cleaning product, or accept that there may be some change to the leather.

1. After you have pretested, you are ready to clean your exotic leather.
2. Apply a small amount of leather cleaner
3. Rub it in with a clean cloth in circular motions
4. Continue until you have cleaned the entire item
5. Finish by wiping the entire item with a clean cloth

When you are done using the leather cleaner, it is time to condition your leather. You will use similar steps to complete the conditioning phase, with the exception that you will need to use a gentle conditioner that is formulated for exotic leather to avoid making it too oily, ensuring that its fragile skin is not damaged. When you are ready:

1. Apply a small amount of leather conditioner to a clean cloth
2. Rub onto the leather in circular motions
3. Allow enough drying time and then gently buff the leather with a dry, clean cloth

It is also essential to give your exotic leathers extra special care when storing them. They are best kept in an area that is dry and cool to help it keep its shape and beauty. Even if you do not use your exotic leather item for a while, it should be properly cleaned and conditioned to ensure its long term vitality every few months.

Now that you have mastered that snake skin polish, and put the fire back into your ostrich leather duffel, grab your compass and machete with pride and tackle the wilderness without restraint. Your leather pack’s got your back.

For more information on caring for exotic leather, check out our Exotic Leather Care Series:

Shark Leather Care
Lizard Leather Care
Fish Leather Care
Eel Leather Care
Ostrich Leather Care
Crocodile Leather Care
Deerskin Leather Care
Snakeskin Leather Care
Stingray Leather Care

Stephanie Clarke
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