Leather and suede clothing and accessories are truly timeless in style, and will age beautifully over the years if properly cared for. Leather's hard-wearing properties meant the material shot to popularity in the 1930s and 40s, along with the motorcycle trade.
While leather jackets, shoes and handbags are never going to look off-trend, you don't want them to wear out, get damaged by the rain or lose their colour. By following these simple tips you can ensure your suede and leather stays pristine for years to come.
Taking care of leather footwear will help to ensure its longevity. Leather shoes need regular treatment with a good quality wax polish. This not only protects the material from moisture and stains but also adds a wonderful shine and looks smart. Use a stiff brush to remove any dirt and buff away scuff marks, then apply the polish with an old cloth using circular motions. Finally, add shine with a clean brush or rag.
A shoe-tree will help hold the shape of your brogues or Chelsea boots, and stretches the leather slightly – ideal if you've just purchased a new pair and need to break them in. It's also wise to use a shoe horn when putting on and taking off leather shoes to maintain the heel's shape and structure for longer.
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Leather jackets are more exposed to the elements and are subjected to a greater range of movement and stress than shoes. First, use a leather protecting spray to keep moisture away. If your jacket ever gets really wet, make sure you hang it to dry in natural air (not next to a radiator or other heat source, as this can bleach the leather).
To restore the natural oils and shine, apply a leather conditioner. Simply rub it in with a cloth to prevent cracking or dryness and keep your jacket soft and supple. In winter months when it is particularly damp, you may notice small salt deposits forming on your jackets, but they'll be removed by wiping with a damp cloth. A great tip is to use a rubber to get rid of any small scuffs or stains.
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Suede has a napped finish, which means it has a textured surface with small, raised bobbles. It is incredibly sensitive to moisture, so avoid wearing suede shoes in the rain as it may damage them quite severely. If you do get caught short, try using a suede eraser once the material has dried out to reduce the appearance of the watermark.
Be sure to waterproof any suede shoes as soon as you buy them. Head to a well-ventilated area and apply a quick coat of the water stopper, holding the spray about four inches from the shoe. Apply between four and six coats to really protect your shoes, but be sure to leave it to dry in between and wait at least 30 minutes after the final coat before heading out into the drizzle.
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The steps for caring for suede and leather bags are much the same as looking after shoes or jackets. However, because bags are often adorned with clasps, straps and other embellishments, you should be more careful if you want to avoid damaging any other materials, such as metal.
When you decide to give your beloved accessory a spruce, be sure to check which other materials it is made up of. Sterling silver, for example, will tarnish easily so avoid harsh cleaning products. It's still a good idea to use waterproofing spray, so cover any embellishments with a cloth or masking tape before you begin. It's then easy to wipe any extra bits clean with a damp cloth for the finishing touch.
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Here are a few general tips for ensuring your suede clothing and accessories stay in top condition for as long as possible:
1. Never clean suede with water as it will stain the material, leaving a watermark and ruining the look entirely. This will also reduce the texture of the napping, so be sure to use non water-based products. Instead, try sprays and shoe shampoo made especially for suede.
2. If your suede begins to look tired or flat you can give it a soft scrub with a toothbrush to reinvigorate the texture. There's no need to get it wet, just use the head and brush in small motions, following the pattern of the napping. Don't use it to brush your teeth after, though.
3. Try scrubbing small stains with a suede eraser. Larger stains pose a bit more of a problem, but aren't the end of the world. Simply blot a cloth with a small amount of white vinegar and then scrub the material gently.
4. For liquid spills you should apply a covering of cornmeal or talcum powder when the accident happens. Let it set overnight and brush it with a suede brush to remove the covering. It should absorb moisture from the liquid spill away from the suede.
Don't be tempted to leave your suede and leather items for too long if they need a spruce up. Be proactive with your care to keep them looking great for many seasons to come.