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Exotic Leather Series: Crocodile Leather Care

Exotic Leather Series: Crocodile Leather Care

Posted by Daniel Sutton on May 7th 2014

There’s always been something about crocodile grins that’s set a fire roaring in my belly. Those sly creatures have got it all: attitude, amplitude, and one wicked sheen. Crocodiles have lived long in our hearts and imaginations from the elder days of Peter Pan all the way up to the untimely demise of Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter. We miss you Steve!

Naturally, it’s only a matter of time before we find a way to bring those little scales of nostalgia and sly humor with us wherever we go. And you have to admit – it catches the eye! Crocodile skins have a very elegant pattern to them that resonate with a subtle allure. Their very texture - apart from its stylish glimmer - boasts a plethora of facets and applications. It's practically the Swiss army knife of leather breeds! The belly of the crocodile is surprisingly smooth and tender compared with the rest of the skin, making it valuable as a base for making purses, briefcases and handbags. The back of a crocodile, however, bristles with the bone-hard, horny scales of reptilian pride, and is often used for making your horn back boots. The head, tail, legs and many other body parts also contribute unique styles of leather, creating a diverse palette even down to the most mundane objects you can think of, like money clips and lipstick holders. If crocodile leather has one great advantage, it is its versatility.

Shed No Crocodile Tears

There are downsides, however, as with every leather type. While crocodile leather may be very beautiful to look at, it is also a delicate creature that will require delicate leather care to stay in shape. Crocodile leather is somewhat fragile next to its other leather neighbors, and boasts a few notable weaknesses. Firstly, it is not (believe it or not) waterproof. Excessive water can cause your crocodile leather to develop spots and to dry out quickly, and potentially result in cracking. If your bag does begin to develop cracks or become flaky or brittle, it is likely that the leather has been robbed of its natural oils and minerals that preserve it (a condition known as dry-rotting) and is likely not repairable. If your bag does get wet, it is wise to act quickly. Gently dry the surface with a white, clean cloth until most of the moisture is gone, and allow the rest to dry in a cool, indoor location away from sunlight and direct heat. Heat and sunlight are also bad and will damage your crocodile leather under prolonged exposure.

Even if you manage to keep your crocodile leather away from harmful elements, it will still dry out over time. As natural oils are depleted and contaminants seep into the leather’s pores from everyday use, croc's going to need a helping hand to grin another day. Just don't stick your hand in too far. For good crocodile leather care, it is recommended you clean and condition your leather at least once a month, and spot clean any time you see dust building up.

Dip Under the Surface

Fortunately for us, cleaning crocodile leather is relatively simple. You’ll want to use a clean, white cotton rag damped with warm water. Gently wipe it over the surface of the crocodile skin until the entire surface of the skin is cleaned. Then, dry off as much as you can with another dry cloth, and leave the rest to dry in your aforementioned cool, dry indoor place away from sunlight and direct heat. If you desire to use a more heavy leather cleaner, use one specifically designed for reptile or crocodile leather care, as exotic hides tend to ruin more easily under the wrong kind of cleaner and conditioner. They will likely permanently darken under their influence as well. When in doubt, try your leather cleaner in a small, discreet place on your leather item, and observe the effects after it dries. If there is discoloration on your bag or excessive rub off on your white cloth, then it is best to avoid that cleaner, unless you are fine with your croc changing shades on you.

If you are dealing with grease stains and do not have a cleaner handy, lanolin-based leather cleaners will often do the trick, although you’ll want to test them first. Grease spots can often be removed simply by placing corn starch over the affected spot and allowing the starch to absorb the grease. You’ll want to give the process a couple of hours at least, but the starch should leave your leather grease free by the end. You’ll want to avoid rubbing the corn starch in, however, as you may only seal contaminants deeper into your leather. After a couple hours, remove powder by brushing it away with a clean, dry cloth, and avoid using paper or actual brushes, as they may scratch the leather. Scratches tend to be irremovable, so it’s best to keep them off rough surfaces and restrict excess movement of straps or other accessories that may be swinging around and scuffing it up. To read more about this process, check out our article, "How To Clean Grease From Leather"

Watch the Teeth

After you have cleaned your leather, you will also want to condition it. As was the case with leather cleaning, you will need to use a leather conditioner specifically designed for reptile or crocodile leather care, or other compatible leather conditioner. Always test your leather conditioner first before using it on the entire item. Beeswax tends to work well on crocodile skin, only try to avoid rubbing to much into the stitching. Although you will want to test it before use, Chamberlain's Leather Care Liniment No. 1 is also an excellent leather conditioning recipe to use for most leather types. Give it a try!

When conditioning your crocodile leather, rub it gently and evenly across the surface with a soft or microfiber cloth. Don't use too much! After you have given the crocodile skin an even coat of leather conditioner, allow it to penetrate the leather for about fifteen minutes. Afterwards, buff the surface again with a clean cloth until it shines and allow it to dry in the same indoor, cool place away from sunlight and direct heat. Voila! Shiny croc!

Apart from cleaning and conditioning your crocodile leather, you’ll want to make sure you keep it stored in a suitable place, preferably not under other objects as they may fold or stress the leather, weakening its integrity. Also keep it away from plastic bags as they tend to dry out leather really fast. Instead, keep it stored inside of a box or dust bag or otherwise clean area with minimal exposure to contaminants and heat.

Devilishly Grinning

That’s about all we have for you today. While good crocodile leather care can be slightly more difficult, it possesses a certain charm. That is infinitely redeeming to anyone bold enough to take sink their head into it. More than anything else, crocodiles are a bull, and you are their rider. So hop on if you dare - you'll have a waiting audience, and you're going to put on quite a show for yourself. Your croc is ready and grinning.

Daniel Sutton

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