Leather Care

Dont’s

  1. Never apply any kind of heat, if it would hurt your skin, it will damage veg tan leather. Approximately 65ºC is the temperature at which veg tan will almost instantly be completely ruined. The closer you get to that temperature and the longer you leave it the more damage you are doing. This damage will be permanent and irreversible. Again, I like to use the skin analogy as leather is skin.
  2. Never use veg tan that is completely dry of its natural oils as this will lead to cracking and lamination. Veg tan is just like your skin and needs its natural oils.
  3. Never use drying oils on your leather. Drying oils are meant for wood.
  4. Never use mineral oils on veg tan. They will permanently stain.
  5. Never use bleach or any kind of corrosive cleaning product, again veg tan is skin.
  6. Never mix or vary the protective coating on your leather. There are many different products to protect your leather, the best one for you to use is the same one the manufacturer used. Follow their guides on how to refresh their leather.
    Note! Oiling your leather is different to re-applying a protective coat.
  7. Never place heavy, sharp, pointed or patterned surfaces on to wet veg tan as it will mark it. This is how veg tan is embossed. Be mindful that even fingernails can mark wet leather.
  8. Never store leather damp. Although leather has a very good resistance to rotting it is not immune.
  9. Avoid letting wet veg tan dry out of shape as it will want to remain in the shape it dries in. This is how veg tan is wet formed.

Cleaning & Drying

  1. Cleaning leather is like washing a baby. Use warm water only, mild soaps and a gentle action if using cloths or SOFT brushes. Veg tan is not machine washable and cannot be put in an electric dryer.
  2. If you are using cloths or brushes to clean or polish with, always make sure they are clean themselves first. The easiest way to be sure is to use lint free white cotton cloths and ALWAYS test your brushes on your white cloths first before using them on the leather.
  3. Never force dry veg tan. This includes, but is not limited to; placing on a radiator, use of fan heaters, hair dryers etc.
  4. I find drying at room temperature with a normal un-heated fan works well. Where possible dry in the shape intended for use. Wooden lasts are best for keeping the shape but stuffing with dry paper or bubble wrap can work too, but only use paper without ink on it and only in the final stages of drying when the paper is not going to get too wet and stick to the leather.

Polishing
Only use the types of polishes recommended by the manufacturer and always use a clean brush and / or lint free white cloths.

Before you start make sure both the leather and the polishing kit are clean and dust free. Shoe brushes are best, and you can ensure they are clean using boiling water and a bucket. Whilst holding the brush in a pair of pliers over the bucket, making sure not to scold yourself, pour the boiling water over the brush, letting it cool and then drying it using a clean lint free cloth. You can also use a clean soft toothbrush for detailed areas of your leather, but do not use on teeth after.

Be aware that the application of neatsfoot oil will always darken leather slightly. This is normal, even when it is mixed with wax although it is lessened when done so. This is how most old veg tan has gained its rich patina. As oil is lost from the leather it will lighten again but not fully.

Polish is best applied at room temperature.

Apply an even thin coat of polish over the grain side only (that is the smooth, top, upper embossed or carved side). Leaving to stand for 10+ minutes will allow the polish to sink into the leather. Then lightly buff with a lint free cloth or brush. If you are using a shoe brush set it is generally the smaller brush that is used to apply the polish and the larger one that is used for buffing. Getting dust or lint on polish is not that big a problem to clean off, but getting dust or lint mixed in with the polish and then applying the polish is more difficult to remove.

Dwarven Leather Polish
Dwarven leather polish is made from Scottish beeswax and pure neatsfoot oil. I am not the only one who makes polish using this recipe, but I only use polishes that are made this way on Dwarven Leather products.

Oiling
Oil content in veg tan is essential. Lack of oil will lead to the leather cracking, splitting and laminating especially on leather that is subject to being bent, flexed, or having a load applied to it.

When to Oil Leather?
General day to day use will tend not to drive the oil out of leather and thus not require oiling. Getting leather wet or exposing it to long periods of cold and damp will bring the oils out which may appear as a white waxy layer on the surface, sometimes referred to as saddle sweat. This can be removed with a clean cloth and / or brushes.

If you have got your veg tan thoroughly wet, it will need oiling. The other indicators that your leather needs to be oiled include:

  • It no longer has the smell of leather
  • It has become stiff
  • You can hear it creaking
  • It has become lighter in colour

If your veg tan has been polished with beeswax polish always polish first as more of the beeswax will penetrate the leather and the protective coat it provides will be better and longer lasting.

Applying neatsfoot oil to leather will darken it, always follow the directions on the bottle , where possible apply the oil from the “flesh” side, (the inside), I personally use a brand new cheap paintbrush, but sponges are ok.

Pure neatsfoot oil is very good at spreading throughout the leather, so applying an even coat is helpful but not essential.

How Much Oil?
This depends on the product; a general guide is how much bending and flexing the leather is expected to perform. The more bending and flexing the more oil, it’s easier to add oil than to take it out. For example, about a third of the weight in my pouches is oil, my armours take 1.5 to 2 litres of oil yet with my books without a leather spine I only use a high oil content polish (to reduce the risk of oil leaching onto the paper).

You can over oil, the main problem with this is oil getting into whatever the leather is in contact with.

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