5 things you need to know to save your leather

Leather’s a high stakes high reward purchase. If you go ahead and make the plunge, you’ll end up with a material more beautiful and more lasting than any other. But take this reward with caution. Not only is a creature of beauty – it’s also a living creature, and it’s going to take some doing to keep it that way. We’ve assembled an easy, go-to guide for your most common leather problems. While this guide applies to most varieties of leather, you should always be informed about what your individual leather is best receptive to.

Each type can differ, and many need different treatments. Suede and extremely soft leathers, for example, are hurt by leather conditioner while most other kinds of leathers are nourished by it. Just remember to test any leather treatments you plan to use on your leather first, for best results. 


Leather and wetness don’t work together very well. Moisture draws out oils that leather needs, and then dries it up stiff. Usually you should use a conditioner or a protectant to keep water from penetrating your leather, such as Leather Care Liniment No. 1 or Water Protectant No. 3. In the event your leather was not protected, you should attend to it as soon as possible.

  • Blot up the moisture out of your leather with a soft cloth or sponge. Do not wipe here – wiping will rub moisture deeper into the pores of your leather.
  • When you have removed as much wetness as you can from your leather, let it dry overnight in a cool, clean place away from sunlight or direct heat. Do not use blow dryers or any form of artificial heat – these tend to shrink leather. Let it dry naturally. Stuff it with newspapers or wrap soft cloths around it if you can.
  • If the leather is dirty, use a leather cleaner, such as Straight Cleaner No. 2, to pull any contaminants out.Read about how to use Straight Cleaner here. Let the leather dry completely.
  • Apply a leather conditioner to restore any lost oils to your leather. Only use as much as the leather can absorb, and buff off any residue afterwards. Depending on what type of leather you own, you may want to substitute your leather conditioner for a heavier leather protector. You can learn which type is best for you in our Leather Care Liniment and Water Protectant guides.
  • Allow the conditioner to set overnight. Your leather should be good to go! If a water stain has developed, your method may differ slightly.

    This can occur when some water is trapped beneath your leather’s surface. These can be complicated to remove. Like any leather mishap, this is best tended to as quickly as possible.

    • If there is any residual moisture still present on your leather, blot it up.
    • Starting from the rim of the stain, slowly wet your leather outwards, lessening in intensity the farther you go out. If all goes well, this should help release some of the wetness.
    • Cloth/Sponge up the wetness. You can repeat step 2 if you think more progress can be made this way.
    • Leather cleaner can be used for good measure. Otherwise, just allow your leather to dry. Wrap around with cloths or stuff with paper to help it along.
    • Condition your leather and let it set overnight. If necessary, repeat process over again.

      These can be caused be most any kind of liquid or substance. If allowed to set, stain can be difficult to remove. You may need many treatments to remove entrenched stains.

      • Apply leather cleaner to stain. Or mild soap spuds if you’re running short on that, although this is less potent.
      • After your leather has dried, apply leather conditioner. Only use as much as will absorb, and buff off the rest.
      • Repeat this about every three days until stain is fully removed. If leather begins to develop textural changes, such as growing mushy, stop conditioning immediately. If it feels rough or dry, not enough conditioner is being used.
      • Baking soda or corn starch are also useful tools, especially for grease stains. Sprinkle them on and leave them to set overnight. If they turn yellow in the morning, it means they’ve picked up stuff underneath your leather. Dust the yellow powder off and replace it until they stop changing colors or the stain has disappeared.
      • Give the leather time. Some stains need to grow out of your leather. It’s a weird adolescent phase thing.


      When leather has been permitted to remain in dark, warm, unclean, and/or especially moist environs for considerable time, mold and mildew can develop inside them. Usually, it’s best to simply replace your leather at this point. If you are determined to save it, there are a few things you can try. 

      • Make sure you conduct your work outside. Wear something over your mouth and nose, your hands, and anything that will come into contact with your leather.
      • Brush off as much of the mold as you can with a soft brush.
      • Proceed with regular cleaning and conditioning routines. Take more aggressive disinfecting approaches if you feel they are necessary – we’ve got an article on that here.
      • To prevent mold in future, keep your leather safe in clean, cool environs away from heat. Storing them inside dust bags or wooden boxes helps.
      • Use caution and take no risks. You may want to give your leather multiple treatments. Do not use leather that has mold growing on it.


      Scratches can develop on leather if it endures rigorous activities. These can look aesthetically pleasing, or not. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose. If you want your scratches gone, I’ve a few recommendations.

      • Use a pencil eraser and brush. Although this may not work as well on finished leathers, which are very difficult to cure of scratches, it can have excellent effects on unfinished and suede leathers. Don’t rub to harshly, only enough to touch the leather up. You may need multiple sessions of this.
      • Nail filer is another option, although not recommended, particularly for finished leather. Its abrasive qualities will even the surface down so the scratch becomes less distinct, but it does so by removing some of the hide, usually the tougher portions of it, thus cheapening the leather. It is, however, effective at removing scratches on unfinished leathers.
      • Conditioners, especially heavy conditioners like Water Protectant, are excellent at covering up scratches and scars. Though they will not remove them, they can very convincingly disguise them, and help the leather grow into these markings in an aesthetically pleasing way. It’s a win-win, any which way.