Leather is an awesome material. It’s strong, durable, and looks great. However, there are a lot of things leather is not resistant to, one of which is salt water. Saltwater can cause all sorts of damage to leather, from drying it out and making it brittle to causing it to rot.
It is, however, important to add that leather that is properly cared for, conditioned, and protected when exposed to salt water shortly will be able to withstand it much better than leather that is neglected.
So, if you’re going to be spending any time near the ocean with your leather goods, make sure you take the proper precautions.
In the rest of this article, here’s what I’m going to share with you;
- What does salt water do to leather?
- How to clean salt water off leather
- How to protect your leather from salt water damage
So, let’s get started!
What Does Salt Water Do To Leather?
1. Salt Water Dries Out Leather
One of the first things salt water does to leather is that it dries them out. This is because salt water is a desiccant, which means it absorbs moisture.
When salt water comes into contact with the leather for an extended period, it will start pulling the essential moisture out of the leather. This can cause the leather to become brittle and cracked.
Additionally, the loss of moisture in the leather can also make the leather rigid, contrary to the luxurious feel of leather that’s well-conditioned.
To combat this, you’ll need to rehydrate the leather as soon as possible after it comes into contact with salt water using a quality leather conditioner.
2. Salt Water Can Cause Leather To Shrink
Another thing salt water does to leather is that it can cause the leather to shrink.
Another problem that salt water can cause is shrinkage. This is because when leather gets wet, it tends to swell up.
And as we mentioned earlier, salt water is a desiccant, so when it dries out the leather, it will also cause the fibers in the leather to contract. This can lead to the overall size of the leather shrinking.
As the leather dries, it will start to contract, and this can cause it to shrink. The amount of shrinkage will depend on how much salt water the leather was exposed to and for how long.
In some cases, the leather may not return to its original size and shape even after being rehydrated.
To prevent this from happening, it’s important that you don’t allow salt water to dry on the leather. Instead, you should clean it off as soon as possible and then condition the leather to help it retain its shape.
3. Salt Water Can Discolor Leather
Saltwater can also cause the leather to discolor. If salt water is allowed to dry over the surface of leather, it will leave the leather with a whitish residue which can be very difficult to remove.
Additionally, salt water can also cause the leather to fade in color. The sun’s UV rays can intensify this effect.
Saltwater is super abrasive on leather and can cause it to fade in color over time. It can gradually eat away at the pigments in the leather, causing it to lose its color.
In some cases, the salt water will react with the tanning agents used in the leather, and this can cause the color to change.
4. Salt Water Can Make Leather Brittle
When salt water dries out leather, it will also make the leather brittle. This is because the loss of moisture makes the leather fibers dry.
And when this happens, the leather will feel dry and stiff, and the leather will not be as flexible.
This can cause the leather to crack and tear easily. In extreme cases, it can even cause the leather to break down and disintegrate.
5. Salt Water Can Scratch The Leather Surface
If you allow salt water to dry on the leather, it will form a crusty residue. Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, salt water is abrasive.
So if you try to remove the residue with a brush or scrubber, you run the risk of scratching and damaging the leather surface.
This will not only distort the look of your leather, but it will also ruin the finish and make the leather more susceptible to damage in the future.
6. Salt Water Can Cause Leather To Crack
The combined effect of salt water drying out leather and making it brittle can cause the leather to crack.
Cracks in leather are unsightly and can make the leather look old and worn. But more importantly, cracks in leather weaken the structure of the leather, making it more susceptible to further damage.
Unfortunately, once the leather gets to this point, there’s not much you can do to repair it. The best thing you can do is to prevent the leather from getting salt water damage in the first place.
7. Salt Water Can Leave Watermarks On Leather
Another problem that salt water can cause is watermarks. As the name suggests, watermarks are marks left behind on the leather when water droplets dry on the surface.
Watermarks are usually white or cloudy in appearance and can be very difficult to remove in the case of salt water.
And like other forms of salt water damage, if you allow watermarks to remain on the leather for too long, they will become permanent and will ruin the look of your leather goods.
How To Clean Salt Water Off Leather
If your leather is having salt water damage, the best thing you can do is to clean it off as soon as possible.
There are a few ways to effectively and safely clean salt water off leather. There’s no denying the absolute best way to clean or remove salt stains from leather is by using a leather cleaner or a leather salt stain remover.
However, I know most of us enjoy the DIY method. So I will give you a few tips on how to clean salt water off leather without damaging it using household items–so that if you’re not willing to spend on a leather cleaner or stain remover, you still have options.
Here’s a home remedy that can help you clean salt water off leather;
Using White Vinegar Solution
White vinegar is a gentle acid that can effectively remove salt stains from leather. White vinegar contains acetic acid–which is a weak acid that won’t damage leather.
This is why white vinegar is used for a lot of home leather cleaning recipes. You can create a white vinegar solution by mixing one part white vinegar with two parts water.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use white vinegar to remove salt stains from leather:
- Start by mixing one part white vinegar with two parts water in a bowl.
- Next, take a clean, soft cloth and dip it into the white vinegar solution.
- Rub the damp cloth onto the salt-stained area in a circular motion until the stain is gone.
- Once the salt stain is gone, take another clean, soft cloth and dip it into clean water.
- Use the damp cloth to wipe away any residue left behind by the white vinegar solution.
- Allow the leather to air dry completely.
- Apply leather conditioner to the entire surface of the leather to help restore moisture and protect the leather.
- For leather boots and shoes, you can polish them after applying the leather conditioner.
Tips On How To Prevent Salt Water Damage To Leather
- The best way to deal with salt water damage is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
- Clean salt water from your leather immediately.
- Use a leather conditioner regularly.
- Store your leather goods in a cool, dry place when not in use.
- Keep your leather away from direct sunlight.
- Avoid getting your leather wet, if possible.
- If your leather gets wet, allow it to air dry completely before using or storing it.
- Use a leather protector if you plan on using your leather goods around salt water.
- A leather protector will create a barrier between your leather and the salt water, which can help prevent damage.
If you follow these tips, you can help prevent saltwater damage to your leather and keep your leather goods looking great for years to come.
Salt water can be very damaging to leather. Saltwater can cause your leather items to dry out, crack, leave watermarks, etc.
The best way to clean salt water off leather is by using a leather cleaner or stain remover. But if you don’t have one on hand, you can also use white vinegar to remove salt stains from leather.
Remember to always condition your leather after cleaning to help restore moisture and protect the leather.
I hope this article has helped you better understand how salt water can damage leather and how to clean salt water off leather.