Leather gloves are magnificent. Flexible, fashionable, infinitely practical, and my favorite part: made of leather. A variety of leather types are used to construct these fine specimens, ranging from deerhide or elkhide all the way to sheepskin and goatskin. These leathers typically have something in common - they are very soft and flexible. Don't make the mistake of thinking that these leathery beauties are dainty mittens, though. Leather gloves can be exceptionally durable, especially when made from a top or full grain cut (you can read about leather cuts here). There's a good chance that whatever you throw at your leather, it can take and then some more. This isn't an excuse to abuse your leather gloves, however. If you want your trusty handwear to stand the test of time, you need to practice proper leather glove care.
Keep an Eye
Before we spend time talking about to keep your leather gloves in pristine shape, let's talk about a few things you don't want to happen to your leather: parched out leather, rot from the inside, and catastrophic chemical damage.
You can dry out your leather glove a variety of ways. You can leave it out in the rain, allowing water to soak through and run off with all of its vital oils and nutrients that keep it healthy (a good analog is water's way of making wrinkled skin). You can also neglect to condition your leather for a long period of time. Another way is to clean your leather glove without conditioning it again afterward. Most of the time, dry leather simply comes down to a single, unifying variable: your leather does not have the oils it needs to keep it healthy.
What will this look like? Your leather will feel rough, and look very dry. If the leather glove is neglected for a longer period of time, it may develop cracks. This is due to leather's microscopic makeup; at its core, leather is made up of thousands of tiny fibers, bonded and weaving together. Conditioned leather oils these fibers up, so that, as the leather flexes, these fibers rub smoothly across each other. When these fibers, dry out, they become rough, and with every flex, chafe against each other until they grind to dust - destroying your leather from the inside. It takes a while to get to this point, but this eventuality of parched leather is a good thing to keep in mind.
There's an opposite effect your leather can develop - rot. This can occur when oils or water are trapped inside your leather, usually due to excess conditioning, or trapping moisture inside your leather - you can even cause your leather to rot away from mold or mildew. This latter problem usually comes up when leather has prolonged exposure to moist, warm, and shady environments, and demands a separate blog to do justice to. If you've got mold problems, check out how to fix that here. Otherwise, all you need to know is that when leather loses its ability to breathe, stale moisture and oils trapped inside the leather can slowly begin to eat away at your leather's fiber matrix, and before you know it, you've got a slushy, drooping leather blob where one you had firm and supple leather. Avoid rotting your leather.
Chemical damage tends to be a little more difficult to treat than parched or saturated leather. This can occur when leather suffers prolonged exposure to sunlight or direct heat, or when commercial cleaners not designed for use on leather come into contact with your leather.
By this point you might be thinking that I'm Van Helsing and you've just learned about all of Count Leather Glove's secret weaknesses. It doesn't look so tough anymore, does it? WRONG. Not to brag, but leather's kept its reputation since the days of hunter-gatherers for a reason. It's alive, it's breathing, and it is one tough hide-of-a-cow. Even without care, your leather gloves are going to last you years before they finally expire. So why treat them? Because leather is the one material in the world that gives back. If you give your leather glove care that it deserves, it's going to probably outlast you. So get ready for some tips from the pros on proper leather glove care.
Maintain Your Leather
Let's be honest. Your gloves are probably gonna be kinda icky by the end of the day. Layers of sweat and salt build up and absorb, dirt piles on, and the whole thing gets sopping wet, one way or another. When your leather gets exceptionally dirty, it's a good idea to clean it.
- If the leather is wet, let it dry naturally first. You can dab excess moisture up with a soft, dry cloth if necessary, but don't rub.
- When the leather is completely dry, apply Straight Cleaner No.2. This deep cleaner penetrates your leather's pores and pulls out all the gunk other cleaners can't, with a soft, gentle touch that can't be rivaled. It's best to note that the sooner you treat an impurity, the easier it is to remove. Latent impurities, or impurities caused by harsher substances, such as ink, may need frequent cleaning and time to fully come out.
- Clean your leather when exceptionally dirty, or at least 2-3 times a year.
It's also a good idea to turn the inside of your gloves by turning them inside out. As these parts are often not made of leather, they will usually require their own cleaning treatment. Usually, a lightly damp cloth and perhaps a bit of rubbing alcohol will work well - but follow any leather glove care instructions from the glove's manufacturer, and always test treatments in a discreet area first. Allow your leather to dry in the fresh air, away from sunlight, for best results. This is also a good way to remove leather odors, along with keeping your leather gloves stuffed with rolled up shoe inserts when not in use.
Of course, you can avoid most messy situations by conditioning and protecting your leather beforehand. Leather conditioners like Leather Milk not only keep your leather healthy, nourished and strong, they also protect your leather from impurities like mud, dirt, water, and more. Considering the kind of work most leather gloves dig into, good protection can be important. Water Protectant No.3's got this covered. A natural medley of deeply conditioning oils and waxes, No.3 will protect your leather from just about anything, turning raindrops into beading balls of moisture that harmlessly roll off your leather. You can find out more about Water Protectant No.3 in our handy guide here! Test it first!
This one's a gimme. Leather responds best when it gets to flex and enjoy the outdoors. Letting your gloves move around and stretch helps them to breathe, and helping them to breathe helps them to absorb moisture, move air through the pores, and grow healthy and strong - not to mention keep shape. Your leather retains its shape best when it remembers your hand. Give it a hand to remember.
Fitness & Routine
Aside from cleaning and conditioning your leather, and everyday use, there are a number of passive things you can do to help your leather glove out as well.
Keep your leather in cool, dry places away from sunlight and direct heat. A drawer or wooden cabinet is best - something away from the dust, but breathable. When you store your gloves, also make sure they are laid flat to avoid wrinkling or discoloration. Also, don't store your glove wet - take the time to dry them first.
Leather gloves can often become a bit stiff after a while. Every so often, make sure you give your leather a gentle, lengthwise wise stretch across the edge of a table, and stretch each finger individually. Leather's a tough material, and this stretch - gentle and firm - keeps the leather flexible and strong for the long haul.
Leather deserves a break once in a while. Because of the tough work leather gloves can get, it's wise to keep multiple pairs on you, and switch them around every few days. This will keep the gloves from dealing with too much tension, and give them a chance to breathe and work through the oils and impurities in their system before tackling another day. In short, your leather deserves a weekend too!
Hope this helps, leather aficionados! Leather Glove Care is simple: take care of it, and it will take care of you. I'll see you later in cyberspace!