Leather After Care

All my design prototypes and smaller items have been tested and used in my local environment, some for many months.   In addition my larger bags and backpacks have been weight tested and subjected to Cumbrian weather to ensure they perform as expected when used reasonably.  There are however, some things that you can do to help extend the life of your product and keep it looking its best.

All leather products can stain or become permanently damaged by exposure to: long periods of strong sunlight, chemical including mineral oils and some waxes, water or other fluids and heat or high humidity.

Vegetable tanned leather – Full or Corrected Grain

At Black Sheep Leather I only use the highest quality vegetable tanned leathers sourced from the UK.   Vegetable tans are more environmentally friendly and longer lasting than the widely used, and cheaper, chromium tanned leathers.

All vegetable tanned leathers will age over time, and when exposed to the elements, with the shell cordovan being the most resilient.  The leather will usually soften and darken in colour developing a patina unique to the owner.  It is not entirely water resistant and may stain when wet or when in contact with oils, particularly mineral oils.   Lighter coloured leathers (especially the un dyed natural tans) will darken when exposed to strong sunlight for extended periods.  This ageing is entirely   natural and is part of what makes owning a vegetable tanned item special and enjoyable.

Your item has been treated with a mix of natural oils and waxes when you buy it. This will help with weatherproofing but is not permanent and will gradually loose effectiveness.  If the item gets dirty wipe with a damp cloth if it gets very wet allow the leather to dry naturally, in airy surroundings, and do not use heat to speed up the process. Avoid getting the leather very damp or leaving it in a damp place for a long period.  Water can change vegetable tans making them stiffer when they dry and damp can also damage the edge paint and this may separate from the leather.

Ideally you should think about treating the leather annually but for our larger bags, that may have more exposure to bad weather, you should treat them two or three times a year.  Do not use mineral oil products as these can damage both the leather and stitching.  I use a natural beeswax based leather conditioner made specifically for vegetable tans. 


Oiled chromium tanned ‘pull-up’ leather

Pull-up leather is so called as you can push into it and it will stretch, becoming lighter in colour, and then return to its previous shape.   It is both strong and flexible and effectively waterproof.   However, in severe wet weather it will ‘wet out’ and, although I have never yet had water strike through, I always recommend that an inner liner is used to protect valuable items.  As for all leather when wet it should be left to dry naturally in a warm place.   Natural beeswax products can be used to maintain the leather’s condition.

Shell Cordovan Leather

Please see general comments above regarding staining and things to avoid to keep this high quality leather looking its best.

When coming to treat your Shell Cordovan, there are a few processes you will have to follow and a few products you will need. Because Shell Cordovan is actually a tight fibre of the rear quarter (Hind quarter) of the horse it is not the same as standard leather. It is not recommended to use a general leather wax as it may contain solvents that will penetrate the leather’s fibres causing it to expand and compromise its innate integrity. 

So lets start!

The products that I use are: Saphir Cordovan Cream, Saphir Mirror Gloss Wax Polish, Soft cotton polish cloths and a Horse hair polish brush. Please follow the process below.

Choose the closest colour of Saphir Cordovan Cream and Saphir Mirror Gloss Wax Polish, if you are not sure just stay on neutral. If there is a light or contrasting thread only use neutral as the pigments will stain the stitching. If there are light scratches a coloured cream will help reduce these. 

Wipe your wallet with the soft dry cloth to get rid of all the dust and wipe out any stain. 

With a soft cloth dip lightly in Cordovan cream and gently apply on to the leather and leave it for 10 – 15 mins to let the wax and colour pigment slowly penetrate into the leather. 

Gentry brush with a Horse hair shoe shine brush to get rid of left over cream. Buff with a soft dry cloth.  

Apply Saphir Mirror Gloss Wax Polish with the soft cloth all over the leather and leave it just a few minutes. Very gently buff with a clean soft cotton cloth. Then leave it to dry properly for 30 mins to 1 hr. 

You can repeat the Mirror Gloss Wax process if you want the leather to get more shine. 

If you have any doubts, please feel free to contact me.