How to Care for Your Leather Goods

Black aprons hung up on metal hooks against white brick wall with black vintage typewriter in the corner

Leather is on our minds at Craftsman Ave. With the launch of our “Craft Your Own Custom Leather Tote” workshop (now featuring black and purple leather too!) and the continuation of our “Craft a Custom Leather Wallet” workshop, we want to make sure that you all have the best info to keep your leather items looking as good as new (or as worn-in as you choose). Here is what to do after sewing your awesome leather items.

We tasked our Shop Assistant, Maggie, to research best practices while learning how to care for our leather aprons (above). We also reached out to some leather companies to get their input on the best way to care for your Craftsman Ave-sewn leather wallet or tote. Surprisingly, they came back to us with the same tips!

Piece of leather with stitching surrounded by tools used to create leather wallets in Craftsman Ave's DIY leather wallet workshop class
Leather bag on metal hook against white brick wall

For products, all signs point to Fiebing’s Saddle Soap for leather care (note: there’s a separate product for suede). The soap typically comes in two colors, white and yellow. The folks at Tandy Leather warn that the yellow soap might make lighter color leather a shade or two darker. Buy the white version if that is a concern for you. Made from lanolin and beeswax, this simple treatment is massaged on with a cloth and then the excess is removed with a second, clean cloth.

Since the Saddle Soap can be drying, the manufacturer recommends that you follow up with a leather conditioner (this is the companion product), but the shop where we buy our leather said that they really only condition the items that get lots of use. So if your beautiful Craftsman Ave tote or wallet is on you every day (and why wouldn’t it be?), you may want to invest in the conditioner.

Prefer to skip buying a separate product? Keep in mind that common cleaning options like rubbing alcohol and vinegar will dry out your leather products, although they will get out stains. If you prefer to be cautious, your best bet may be a mild dish soap (like Dawn or Method) diluted down with warm water!

Or – you can take a page from Craftsman Ave leather working instructor, Sander Randall, and let your products age gracefully. When I asked Sander for his leather care tips, he responded:

If the question is “how do I make my leather look perfect longer?” A soft microcloth and some standard saddle soap that you can get from any local drugstore do just fine. It’ll hydrate the leather with oils and make it shine nicely. And everything in moderation.

Personally, I subscribe to the school of thought that says leather is meant to be used and (good) leather shouldn’t need too much help to age as gracefully as Meryl Streep. There’s a reason we love our old baseball gloves and choose our old leather shoes over our stiff new ones. The more we use our leather goods the more they will bend and stretch and mold to our personal style.