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How to Care for Vintage Leather Clothing

Updated on April 27, 2013
Caring for vintage leather
Caring for vintage leather | Source

It seems that leather rarely goes out of style: it’s a popular material that is sought after by collectors. If properly cared for, leather can last for many years and look just as good as the day you purchased it.

Storing Leather

When storing leather, never put it an airtight plastic bag or container, because this will dry it out. Leather needs to breathe, so consider that fact when you store it away. Store it in a cool, dry place and do your best to avoid moisture. If your vintage items is something that you can hang up, then hang it up. When storing items, don’t let your leather be folded or crumpled up unnaturally or it will crease.

How to Clean Leather

Never toss your leather garments into the washing machine. They are very delicate and the washing machine can ruin your vintage clothes. To clean leather it’s best to wash by hand, using a slightly damp cloth. You don’t need a lot of water, because you don’t want to over-wet your product. If your vintage clothing isn’t very dirty or stained, all you really need to clean it is some water and and a clean cloth. Just wet a lint free cloth with some water and wipe it down. If you want to use something stronger, you can use a gentle soap such as a glycerin soap to clean your material. For other issues, like makeup, perspiration or other stains, use a cleaning product designed specifically for leather garments.

How to Condition Leather

After you clean your leather, it’s a good idea to condition it. It’s important to do this to keep it moisturized and to prevent cracks. Think of it like your own skin: if it gets dry, it tends to crack and that will change it’s appearance. Leather is very absorbent, so adding an oil to it will absorb into the fabric to moisturize it and prolong it’s life.

Don’t condition it too often, every 6 months to a year is ok, or as needed. It’s important not to over-condition: too much conditioning will make the leather very soft. When leather is made, they treat the material with oil to keep it looking nice. Frequent conditioning can cause the oils in the leather to be leached out and it might even cause your garment to discolor.

Some people like using oils that they have around the house to moisturize and condition. A very popular oil for leather is lanolin, but I don’t like using it because I find it tends to be too greasy. You can also consider purchasing a leather conditioner in-store. Chamberlain’s leather milk is a highly rated product, used by the Saddleback Leather Company. The product has a lot of positive reviews, it does not discolor the material and works very well in protecting it. It’s all natural and it doesn’t have a bad smell. You can use a product like this as often or as little as you want.

Be advised that when you condition your garment, depending on the texture and what product you use, it might change the color of your fabric. It’s always a good idea to test out new products on a small area, that isn’t noticeable before you go ahead and treat your entire article.

Once again use a lint free cloth. Wet the cloth, and then apply the conditioner to the cloth, before you rub it onto your leather. It’s not a good idea to apply conditioner directly onto your clothing. Apply the conditioner onto the entire leather piece all at once, massaging the conditioner into the material.

How to Repair Leather

If you want to repair a cut, it’s a good idea to buy leather repair glue. Some people have even repaired their garments using contact cement.

One of the best products on the market for repairing leather is Tear Mender Adhesive: it works very well in repairing tears in leather and other fabrics without leaving a mark. It’s also forms a very strong bond, it’s durable, it dries clear and it doesn't cost a lot. If you have tears in your material I suggest you invest in this product.

To repair tears, simply clean the area that you want to repair, add some of the leather glue to both sides of your garment. Then press the sides together. Take a Qtip and wipe away any excess glue, and then allow it to dry. When it is completely dry it should be clear and the color of the glue should no longer be noticeable. If required, you can use leather dye, to color the area and disguise the tear.

Leather Repair Video

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