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Q&A #2: How Often Should I Condition Leather?

Q&A #2: How Often Should I Condition Leather?

Posted by Daniel Sutton on May 8th 2014

Leather Guru Ponders Animal Hide's Deepest Mysteries

Q: How Often Should I Condition Leather?

A: Uh oh. That old boot of yours is getting really squeaky, isn't it? As for your couch, it's got more marks and scuffs than a dried up pirate treasure map, with a crinkled, dusty look to match! Don't even get me started on that antique leather of yours. That things got more flakes than a dandruff-ridden, parched scalp. Icky!

So why is this happening? It appears as though your leather has dehydrated. Without proper lubrication, (you can read about that in our blog “How Does Leather Breathe?”) your leather’s going to dry up stiffer than a potato chip. So how often do you need to condition leather? We are so stoked you asked.

With most cowhide, you’re going to need to clean and condition your leather every six months. The leather cleaning should come first, as it will seep deep into the pores of your leather to draw out dirt and old oils that would otherwise be sealed in by more leather conditioner. You want those out, lest they clog up your leather and prevent it from breathing properly. To condition leather is just as vital, however, and should always follow up a more thorough cleaning. While leather cleaning removes harmful contaminants from your leather, it will also rob it of its natural lubricants that keep it healthy and supple. Leather conditioners, like our Chamberlain's Leather Care Liniment No. 1, replenish those natural oils and conditioners.

Of course, common sense dictates that you’re going to want to spot up your leather more than twice a year. This can be accomplished with nothing more than a soft, clean cloth very lightly dampened with water. Make sure not to get it too wet, or you’ll end up taking out some of the leather conditioner along with the surface dust. You don’t want the water to seep into your leather, and you can learn why in our blog “Common Leather Care Mistakes.” Wait for your biannual leather cleaning and conditioning to get it wet.

These methods are lovely for cowhide. They really are. But don’t use it for all types of leather. Exotic leather, for example, will need to be taken care of differently than the common cowhide, and will vary depending on where the hide comes from. For a more detailed look at this, check out our blog on “Cleaning and Conditioning Exotic Leather.” Likewise, some brands of leather, depending on their make, may not even need to be conditioned. Unfinished leather is more susceptible to conditioners, and should thus be used sparingly (“Leather Care for Finished and Unfinished Leather Furniture”). On the other hand, with some types you may need to condition leather more often. Pull-Up leather, an unfinished leather, possesses a protective layer of oils and waxes when you first acquire it, but this layer will wear off as it gets used. You’ll want to keep this layer replenished as it is depleted. There are even some fine purse leathers that are recommended to be conditioned monthly.

Leather conditioning will also depend on how much use the leather gets. If your leather lives in a hot location or in places of high or low humidity, or it just gets dirty a lot (like a pair of boots) you may want to bump up your conditioning routine to 3-4 times a year. Get to know your leather, and try to apply your leather conditioner before it starts to display dry leather symptoms, such as squeakiness or cracks in its surface. If unchecked, these effects can make your leather permanently brittle. Vigilance will pay off.

Hope this helps!

Daniel Sutton
Chris Repp (

Want to learn even more cool leather facts? Check out WikiPedia's article on leather.

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