Q&A #6: How Should I Store Leather?
Leather Guru Ponders Animal Hide’s Deepest Mysteries
How Should I Store Leather?
Ah, domesticating vagrant paraphernalia for a little overdue spring-cleaning, eh? Whatever the case, I’ve high doubts all of your leather valuables are going to get twenty-four hour use seven days a week. Down time can be rough on leather, especially if it’s in a place that’s unhealthy. Leather’s refreshed by natural daily use – moisture in the air, oils in our skin, and the general friction of movement. It harkens back to its good old days, back when the hide had animal organs under its bones and an appetite for rats or grass or whatever it is animals eat. We care for leather by simulating the natural processes of an animal’s body. But unless we’re dealing with a hibernating bear, leather’s not accustomed to sitting in dejected corners for months on end. So what should we do to safely store leather away?
First good rule is to keep a bucket list of things to avoid. Sunlight and heat top this list, which are patently terrible hosts for your leather migrants. UV rays and heat cause moisture within your leather to disperse, and with it, the oils that it bonds too. As the oils are removed from their microscopic protein bonds, the fibers these oils bond together become hard and brittle, causing your leather to crack and dry out. You can read a little more about this in our article “How Does Sun Affect Leather?” Suffice it to say, leather’s not exactly the “sunshine and rainbows” loving type. Keep practical when you store leather.
Second thing to avoid when you store leather is moisture and humidity. Although water is actually extremely healthy for leather in the right amounts (read “How Does Leather Breathe?“), too much can be dangerous. Usually, the moisture in the air around leather is enough to keep it healthy on its own. The leather actually absorbs this moisture as part of a natural refreshing cycle, which disperses old oils and prepares it to receive new ones. Too much moisture – either when cleaning or just plain sitting around – can disperse the oils so much that your leather will dry out. It’s ironic, that more wetness means more dryness, eh? Take it up with science.
A third important thing to keep in mind is that, in addition to soaking in moisture, leather also absorbs dust and grime. Once this stuff gets into its pores, leather can’t breathe properly, and will eventually dry out. Although protective finishes may prevent this to some extent, they won’t be able to repel thick layers of dust sitting on your leather for extended periods of time. Clean, environmental atmospheres will a healthy leather bag make.
There are a few other things to look out for, but these are the basics. Regardless of whether you plan to store leather away for a few months or a few days, try to make sure the place is cool, away from constant light, dry and clean. Warm temperatures with lots of moisture is an ideal breeding ground for mold, which most people find appalling. More on that in our blog “How to Clean Mold From Leather.”
Different leather articles may also call for different techniques. In general, if the leather needs to be placed on a hanger, avoid using metal frames. These can deform the shape of your leather, and are generally a bad fit for such a supple material. Instead, try padded hangers made of wood, which has an easier texture. If you plan to store away your leather for an extended period of time, clean and condition it before it is sealed away. For more on that, read our blog “Leather Care for Finished and Unfinished Leather.” After the leather’s been fed, make sure it is gets a home where it can breathe, but has protection. Dust jackets work ideally for this, or a wooden box if you prefer. Make sure it is not airtight, or it could dry out. Stuffing newspapers or packing paper around and inside them also provides extra protection. Stuffing newspapers inside your jacket sleeve, for example, will help it to retain its shape and not flatten out. Speaking of which, when you store leather make sure nothing is putting pressure on it, or it may deform and wrinkle. Give your leather space to flex out.
Lastly, don’t forget your parting kiss. Leather gets sentimental like that. After all, how would you like to sit around for months at a time with nothing but a pair of pants or a hanger to keep you company? Thought so. A little love goes a long way, leathermancers.
This is Leather Guru, signing out.
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