People ask me about leather care all the time, and caring for leather clothing is fairly simple. Here is my top 12 list for good basic care…
1) If leather gets wet-hang it up on a properly shaped hangar and let it dry away from heat.
2) Don’t store in plastic- leather needs to Breath!
3) Avoid oily and greasy cleaners & conditioners – these are not for fine leathers. A cleaner/conditioner combo for a finished leather that is not severely damaged should be no greasier than a light hand cream, like classic Jergens™.
4) TEST all products in an inconspicuous area BEFORE you apply them to garment. Especially if you don’t know what type of finish your leather has.
5) There is no need to dry clean ANY leather garment on a regular basis; too much dry cleaning will destroy both the leather and the lining. The less Dry Cleaning the better.
6) Try to get personal referrals when choosing a dry cleaner for your fine leather. Leather is almost never dry-cleaned on site. It is sent out to a Leather Specialist which takes time. If a local dry cleaner says they can do it on site & quickly – GET REFERRALS. The label says “Dry Clean by a Leather Specialist” for a reason!
7) DO NOT DRY CLEAN (by any method) these Specialty finished leathers: Hi-Metallic looks and Leathers with spot-printed Glittery or Shiny effects, this includes many printed leathers- if they have shimmery areas they probably should not be dry cleaned-period.
8) Some over-the-counter dry cleaners will happily spot clean just the lining if that is all that is needed. This is faster, budget friendly and a good option if your trusted dry cleaner will do it. Spot cleaning of lining you can also do yourself in many cases – water only please!
9) Odors in both leather and lining can be treated with a product like Febreze Free™. (This works great on smoke odors!) Avoid scented products – Spray a regular leather garment from a distance that won’t leave droplets. Specialty finished – Suede or unknown finished leathers should be turned inside out and sprayed from a distance of at least 12” – You can also simply hang and “air out” any leather garment.
10) Avoid the use of any solvents around ALL leathers – when wearing perfume apply it before you are dressed and make sure it is dry before putting on leather.
11) Be aware that both light colored and naked leathers are prone to spotting & get dirty very easily. Avoid leather garments or bags that are both light colored and have a naked finish – this is a recipe for disaster.
12) Wear your leather and love it… cherish getting it broken in and let it show it’s character – don’t get too hung up on minor marks or scratches. Most leather requires minimal basic care over it’s life time and rarely needs more than that.
Having had over 20 years experience in this and hearing all sorts of stories – horrible and not – I have to say here that in ALL this time I have only TWICE ever resorted to Dry-Cleaning my own pieces.
When I first started, I made hats. I had a beloved chocolate brown suede “Carnaby” cap that I dropped into the neon green icing of a Cookie ’O Puss. (Don’t ask)
Dry Cleaning saved the hat, but not the lining, which was so degraded by the process that the hat did not last too much longer.
Second Case: On an editorial loan out for Little Kim, my own personal leather trench coat came back with a 6” wide yellow stripe painted into the lining- you know, like the center strip down the middle of the road? Nobody asked- they just did – Nice, right? I demanded they pay for replacement or clean it.
Lil Kim’s people were cheap and once they looked into what it cost to replace or clean the garment they flipped out.
I argued and demanded direct contact and was finally able to suggest to Kim’s people that they get the lining only cleaned. (My wuss-assed PR company at the time made it a point to never let a magazine or stylist lose an opportunity to rip-off a designer)
It worked – mostly – there are still small spots of road paint, but overall the lining is black – and just a little worse for wear. (It’s heavier than the average lining which helped) I still wear the coat- it’s an all time favorite of mine.