Remember to Test Your Leather Recipes
You know how college days go. You’re struggling for money, just trying to get buy. You’ll even chow on PB&J for two weeks straight if it’ll stop your stomach from growling at you while you study for that Physics exam. Suddenly, you get into a car wreck going from 65 on the freeway to dead zero. Smoke, asphault, flashing lights – it’s hard to remember too much else, aside from all that money that just took the proverbial off-ramp. Perhaps you should have gotten coffee on the way.
This sounding familiar? No? Oh, it’s just me then.
Wasn’t long before I was back on the used car parking lot. Cheapest around was a Hyundai Elantra. It looked serviceable. Five grande and no money back. I felt this omen, but I needed to get back on wheels fast. I didn’t have time to run the car for a complete inspection. After a quick test drive, I dished over a few more years of college debt and was back on the road. I figured I’d made an okay deal, all things considering.
Little over a year later I’d spent five grande all over again on repairs. Turned out my 2001 Elantra was due for a fixer-upper in just about every place that can possibly go wrong. Also, no radio. Frowny face.
What’s this tragic anecdote all about then? College? The economy? Car shopping? Leather?
Always, always go into a big decision prepared. College costs a lot of money, economy is unforgiving, and used cars aren’t much better. But far worse than all of these are the horrors that come from using the wrong type of treatment on your leather. Have you seen moldy leather before? If you’re wanting to avoid owning a leather briefcase that’s shooting spores out like a baddy from Super Mario, it’s critical you learn how to test your leather recipes.
The most important thing is to know what kind of leather you have. Is it full grain or suede? Finished or unfinished? Chrome tanned or vegetable tanned? All of these play a factor. Most commonly, you’re going to have something made from full grain or top grain, with either a partially finished coat or full pigmentation. If these words are making you scratch your head, no worries! Check out our article on “How to Identify Types of Leather” for a quick education on the matter. You can also check out the manufacturer’s instructions if they were included with your leather, or else check the manufacturer’s website. Whether you know your leather’s exact type or not, it will still need maintenance. The best way to learn is not to read, but to experiment. Start testing recipes on your leather and give it some use. Leather needs to breathe too.
For most kinds of leather, you’ll need to use a conditioner, which uses oils to keep the internal fibers of your leather soft and supple. You’ll also likely need a deep cleaner to pull gunk out that gets caught in those fibers. Leather conditioners and cleaners, such as Leather Care Liniment No. 1 and Straight Cleaner No. 2, can be very rewarding to use on full grain leather. But when used on suede, they can have unhappy effects. If you think your conditioner/cleaner is good for your leather, then test it! It’s a pretty straightforward process.
How to Test Your Leather Recipe
- Find a discreet portion of your leather to test. This should not be something readily visible, as it may change color if your leather recipe is not compatible. Try the inside of a pocket on a leather bag, or around the sole of your leather boots. Anything that’s hard to see is fair game.
- Dab your leather recipe onto the leather, or use small, circular motions to spread it in. It’s important to spread conditioners evenly, otherwise you will end up with a splotchy dry. Also, don’t use too much force, as this will merely cram leather conditioner into the leather’s pores and clog it up. It’s better to let your leather naturally absorb the recipe after it’s placed on the surface. Buff off any remaining residue before you’re done.
- After your leather has absorbed a small amount of conditioner or cleaner, let it dry for about half an hour. Come back and observe the spot – what you see will give you a good indication of what the rest of the leather will look like. If you like the turnout, go ahead and take your recipe the full nine yards. If you don’t like the results, be happy you played this safe.
Better Safe Than Sorry
If your spot turned out alright but you are still skeptical, that’s okay too. Sometimes natural and unfinished leathers can have unpredictable skin that will absorb fluids differently in different places. This is usually due to scars or marks or other abrasions that your animal earned while it was alive. If you are worried about this, the best thing to do is test your recipe a second time in a different area than before.
Complete the same test in a different area than before, and compare your two spots. If they look the same, you’re probably good. If not, you can either find another leather recipe, or you can use your recipe in very light layers to feel it out. It is crucial that these layers are light – if you have too little conditioner you can always add more, but fixing too much leather conditioner is a challenge. Check out our “How Much Leather Conditioner Should I Use?” blog for more on that. If it seems to be taking well, just keep going easy until the leather’s had its fill.
That pretty much sums up all you’ll need to know about testing leather recipes. It’s not a very difficult task, but it is absolutely necessary. Using the right leather conditioner and cleaner can mean the balance between a 1 year lifespan and 100. Always go in prepared for a major decision, be it about education, politics, money, or leather. Know your stuff.