Do I Need To Clean Leather Before Conditioning? (Must Read)

Do I Need To Clean Leather Before Conditioning?

Leather is a beautiful and luxurious material, but it needs to be properly taken care of in order to look its best and last for many years. Cleaning and conditioning are pretty much two of the most important things that you need to do for your leather. But do you always need to clean your leather before conditioning?

Cleaning your leather goods involves using a good leather cleaner to remove dirt and grime that has accumulated on the leather surface. It is especially important to thoroughly clean your leather items before conditioning them so that the conditioner can better penetrate the leather and seal in any existing moisture.

In the rest of the article, we will talk about the importance of cleaning leather before conditioning it. We’ll also discuss the reasons why you should do so and how to clean and condition your leather properly.

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Importance Of Cleaning Your Leather Before Conditioning

1. Cleaning Leather Removes Dirt And Grime

One of the basic reasons why your should clean your leather before conditioning is to remove dirt and grime that has accumulated on the surface of your leather.

Leather can get dirty easily since it is in contact with a lot of things every day, including our bare hands and feet (if we’re talking about shoes), or even food spills when it comes to furniture.

While this is pretty much an obvious thing to do, a lot of people assume conditioning their leather will take care of any dirt and grime that may be on the surface of the leather.

The truth of the matter is that some leather conditioners will both clean and condition leather all at once but you do need to make sure the leather conditioner that you have has this quality.

Otherwise, it is important you use a leather cleaner to first clean any dirt and grime from your leather surface and then follow up with a good leather conditioner.

If you don’t clean the dirt and grime off your leather, it will become harder for the conditioner to penetrate the surface. Not only that but the dirt and grime can also cause damage to your leather over time.

So make sure to always clean your leather before conditioning it in order to get rid of all that built-up dirt and grime.

2. Cleaning Leather Removes Excess Oils

Another important reason why you should clean your leather items before conditioning is to remove any excess oil or wax that has accumulated on the surface.

Leather is a natural material and as such, it will absorb oils over time. These are essentially body oils and this is especially true if you live in a hot and humid climate.

As you may or may not know, leather is a porous material and can easily absorb body oils from the skin and environment.

If your leather is not properly cleaned, these excess oils can build up on the surface of your leather and create a waxy layer that can cause damage to your leather such as discoloration.

Not only that but if you have an unfinished type of leather like naked or suede, body oils can get into the natural pores of the leather and make it hard for a conditioner to penetrate the surface.

This is why it is important you use a good quality leather cleaner that will remove any excess oils from your leather before conditioning it.

The accumulation of these oils does not only prevent the leather conditioner from penetrating the surface properly, it can also cause the leather to become greasy and look shiny.

So if you want your leather conditioner to work its best, make sure to clean away any excess oils that may have built up on the surface of your leather goods.

3. Cleaning Leather Before Conditioning Removes Previous Conditioner

Before you give your leather goods another coat of conditioner, you should always clean it to remove any previous conditioners or products that have been applied in the past.

Leather conditioners come in two types: those that are water-based and those that are oil-based.

Water-based leather conditioners are the more popular type and they are safe to use on all types of leather.

Oil-based conditioners, on the other hand, are not as safe to use and are only meant for certain types of leather like suede or naked leather.

If you have been using an oil-based conditioner on your leather and then decide to switch to a water-based conditioner, you should always clean the leather before conditioning it.

This is because oil-based conditioners can leave a residue on the surface of the leather that can prevent the water-based conditioner from penetrating the surface properly.

In order to avoid this, make sure you always clean your leather before applying any type of conditioner to it.

If you’re not sure what type of leather conditioner was applied previously, do not stress, thoroughly clean your leather before proceeding to condition the leather once again.

You can never go wrong with a thorough cleaning as it will ensure your leather is in the best condition before you apply any type of product to it.

If you have been using an oil-based conditioner on your leather, do not try and clean away this product with water as that will only make matters worse.

Instead, use a degreaser or solvent to remove the oil-based conditioner before proceeding to clean the leather with a water-based cleaner. Once the leather is clean, you can then proceed to Condition your leather again.

4. Cleaning Leather Before Conditioning Opens Leather Pores

When you clean your leather before you condition it, you are also opening up the pores of the leather. As mentioned before, leather is a natural material, and as such, it has pores that make it easy for the leather to absorb whatever you put on it.

The more the leather item is used, the pores on the leather become sealed with dirt, dust, and natural body oils.

By cleaning the leather before conditioning it, you are opening up these pores which then allows the conditioner to penetrate deep into the surface of your leather goods.

This will ensure that when you apply a coat of conditioner on your leather item, it is not sitting on the top but instead, it is being absorbed by the natural fibers of the leather.

When you clean your leather before conditioning it, not only are you removing dirt or any previous conditioners or products that have been applied in the past, but you are also opening up the pores of the leather.

This will allow the conditioner to penetrate deep into the surface of your leather goods and ensure that when you apply a coat of conditioner on your leather item, it is not sitting on the top but instead, it is being absorbed by the natural fibers of the leather.

When you clean your leather before conditioning it, not only are you removing dirt or any previous conditioners or products that have been applied in the past but you are also opening up the pores of the leather.

5. Cleaning Moisturizes And Prepares The Leather For Conditioning

Just like most skin experts advise you to apply body lotion after showering to lock in the moisture, the same rule applies when conditioning leather.

After you have cleaned the leather, the leather fibers, just like our skin, become moistened and slightly damp making it the perfect time to apply a coat of conditioner.

If you apply your leather conditioner onto completely dry leather, the pores will not be open and therefore the conditioner would just sit on top of the surface rather than penetrate into it.

On the other hand, if your leather is still damp after cleaning it, the conditioner will be able to penetrate deep into the pores and this will help to keep the leather hydrated for a longer period of time.

Without doing this, your leather is likely to become dry, cracked, and brittle over time. Notice how your skin feels dry when you apply body lotion on dry skin?

What Happens If You Do Not Clean Leather Before Conditioning?

  • Leather Will Become Stained

If you do not clean your leather before conditioning it, the dirt and dust that have built up over time will start to become rubbed off onto the new conditioner that you apply.

This means that not only will your leather item now be covered in a layer of dirt and dust but it will also have streaks or spots from the conditioner.

Also, the dirt build-up on the leather could contain chemicals that could react with the leather conditioner causing a stain on the leather.

  • The Leather Will Become More Stiff

Leather conditioner is designed to keep your leather soft, supple and flexible but when you do not clean the leather first before conditioning it, this will have the opposite effect.

This is because all of the dirt and dust that has built up over time within the pores of your leather will start to become compacted and this will make the leather stiffer.

  • The Leather Will Lose Its Shine

When you apply a coat of conditioner on top of dirt, dust, and natural oils that have built up over time, it will give your leather an uneven appearance.

This is because the conditioner will not be able to penetrate deep into the surface of the leather and will just sit on top making it look greasy instead of the natural lustrous shine that leather is known for.

  • The Leather Will Become Brittle And Cracked

If you do not clean your leather before conditioning it, over time the leather will become dry, cracked, and brittle.

This is because when dirt, dust, and natural oils build up within the natural fibers over time, it will stop your leather conditioner from being able to penetrate deep into the surface.

This means that you need to clean your leather more frequently and apply a thicker coat of conditioner onto your leather goods in order for them to remain soft and supple.

  • Existing Stains Becomes Permanent

Another thing that is bound to happen if you do not clean your leather before conditioning it that if there are any existing stains on the leather then these will become permanent.

The way this happens is that the dirt and dust and other debris that is stuck on the leather will start to settle in deeper with use and over time. And then when you apply the leather conditioner, all of this dirt gets locked in permanently.

The only way to get rid of such stains would be through vigorous scrubbing or by using some form of abrasive chemical cleaners which can also damage your leather if done incorrectly. So it is always best to clean the leather before applying any conditioner.

  • The Leather Becomes Darker

When you do not clean your leather before conditioning it, the natural oils that have been building up for a long time will be absorbed by the conditioner and this will make your leather look darker.

This is because when oil traps dirt over time, it makes things appear darker than they actually are. And then with use, dust and dirt will start settling in deeper and this will make your leather appear darker than usual.

Leather, like all animal hides, becomes darker with age. This is a natural process that happens as the leather absorbs oils from your skin and the environment. The rate of darkening depends on a number of factors, including the type of leather, how often it’s used and how it is conditioned, and where it’s stored.

  • The Leather Can Become Sticky

Nobody likes sticky leather, but if you do not clean your leather before conditioning it then this is exactly what can happen.

When you apply conditioner on top of dirt, dust, and natural oils that have built up over time, it will give your leather goods a sticky feel.

This is because the oils in the leather conditioner will buildup quickly leaving behind a sticky residue on the surface of the leather.

  • The Leather Easily Gets Dirty

Last but not least, if you fail to clean your leather before conditioning it then the next time you use your leather goods they will get dirty very easily.

This is because the dirt, dust, and natural oils that have built up over time will act as a magnet and will attract all sorts of new dirt and dust particles.

So if you want to keep your leather goods looking good for years to come then it is always best to clean them before conditioning them. And this includes both regular cleanings as well as deep cleaning.

How To Clean Leather Before Conditioning It

Now that you know why it is important to clean your leather before conditioning it, let’s take a look at how this should be done.

It is actually easier than you might think, and if done correctly then it will only take a few minutes of your time.

Step 1:

  • The first step is to vacuum the leather and remove all loose surface dirt, dust, and debris.
  • This can be done by simply using a handheld vacuum cleaner or a brush attachment on your regular home vacuum cleaner.
  • You can also use a rag or brush to dust off any loose dirt, dust or debris.

Step 2:

  • The next step is to put some leather cleaner on a damp brush or rag and then gently scrub the leather.
  • You should always use a mild soap, dish soap, saddle soap when cleaning leather, as this will help to remove any dirt without damaging the surface of the leather.

Step 3:

  • After you’ve cleaned your leather goods thoroughly with soap, rinse the leather with a damp cloth to remove all the soap residue.
  • Then use a dry cloth to pat the leather item dry.

Step 4:

  • Once the leather is clean and dry (not completely dry), you can then apply a leather conditioner.
  • Apply the conditioner to a clean cloth or sponge and then gently rub it into the leather in circular motions until it is absorbed by the leather material.
  • If necessary, apply another coat of conditioner and repeat the process until all the leather has been conditioned.

Step 5:

  • Once your leather has been cleaned and conditioned, leave the leather to air-dry before using it again.
  • This will allow the leather conditioner to soak deep into the leather material and keep your goods in good shape for years to come.

My Final Words

Cleaning your leather before conditioning is important if you want to keep your leather goods looking good for years to come. Dirt and oils can build up on the surface of leather, which will make it look dull and dry.

If you take a little time to clean your leather before conditioning it, you’ll be able to restore its natural beauty and keep it looking good for years to come.

So don’t skip this important step – just make sure that you use the right cleaning products for your particular type of leather.

Kwabena

Hi! I’m Kwabena, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leathercraft enthusiast and I’ve been that for almost 13 years now. I'm excited to share my experiences and all the new stuff I learn each day about leather craft, leather cleaning & care, and everything in-between!

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