Leather is expensive, and often carries sentimental value as well. High-quality leather items can be passed down from generation to generation, especially if they’re treated with care.
The key to that process is a good leather conditioning and care regimen. Genuine leather is a natural material derived from a hide, and as such, it is used from the natural oils from the animal. Once the leather has been treated and turned into something else — whether that’s your favorite leather handbag, a jacket or leather car seats — you need to replace that natural oil with a leather conditioner.
The best leather conditioners are all-natural, nontoxic and rich, oil-based formulas. An oil-based conditioner, such as Leather Honey Leather Conditioner, will penetrate into the leather’s pores, hydrating the individual fibers of the leather from the inside out, and preventing cracking and over-drying. Here’s how to choose the best leather conditioner, including some surprising information about what youdon’twant.
What to look for in a leather conditioner
1. Water repellency, but not waterproofing
Many people are thrown by this — after all, leather and water don’t get along, and water (including rain) can do serious damage to your leather. But leather is also a porous, natural material, and it needs to breathe – sealing the leather’s pores with a waterproofer not only prevents that from happening, it also prevents you from conditioning again, at least until that waterproof layer gets worn off. We highly recommend avoiding products designed to waterproof the outside of the leather, and instead choosing products that are water repellent, while still allowing the leather to breathe.
2. All-natural ingredients
It can’t be overstated: Leather is a simple, natural material, and the products you use on it should be, too. That means skipping chemical-laden products, smelly polishes and thin, watery spray formulas, which may initially make your leather appear shiny but don’t do anything to make it last long-term. At best, these products give your leather a superficial boost that wears off quickly; at worst, they can damage your leather by actually drying it out over time. Instead, look for a product that is nontoxic and natural.
3. No animal products
This one sounds pretty silly, since you’re applying the leather conditioner to an animal product. But the best leather conditioners don’t contain any food or animal ingredients — no mink oil, no neatsfoot oil, no olive oil. Why? Because these rot and oxidize in the leather over time, which can cause the leather to rot, crack and smell bad. That’s not what you want.
4. A formula that penetrates completely
This means we’re ruling out wax, which is common in leather care products, but avoided in the best leather conditioners. That’s because wax leaves a sticky, oily residue on the leather, which can ultimately seal the leather’s pores (bad, as we noted above) and damage things that get in contact with your leather, like your clothing. It’s also not good for perforated leather, which is frequently seen in auto leather — it can build up and even turn white in the holes.
Instead, look for a thick, rich formula that still penetrates completely into the leather. To make sure, you should always do a spot test in a discreet area. If the spot test is able to absorb, you can move on to the rest of your leather item.
5. Trust, but verify, product reviews
In this case, a crowd is often right — the best leather conditioners should have thousands of positive, verified reviews from customers on Amazon and other online platforms. While there will be negative experiences sprinkled in — no product is going to work for every piece of leather — those should be few and far between and if you read between the lines, you should be able to notice themes where the product was used incorrectly, rather than performing poorly. Often, this happens when consumers don’t spot test or use a leather conditioner designed for genuine leather on faux leather or vinyl.
Finally, you’ll thank yourself if you follow the leather conditioner’s instructions carefully. Each product has detailed instructions that are specific to that product’s process, and following them is key to a good experience.
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