How to Repair Cracking Leather – An Essential Guide

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Leather is an extremely durable material which is naturally resistant to dirt, however, over time it will absorb oil and dirt and as this breaks down it can cause cracks in the surface of the leather.  How dirty the leather gets is likely to depend on the article and how it is treated, leather shoes will get dirtier than a bag or fashion accessory.  Part of the joy of owning a leather product is its feel and appearance, so in order to prolong the life of your leather and prevent cracking you need to keep it clean and you need to condition it.

Does all leather crack?

Full Grain Leather is the best quality leather you can buy and if it is looked after it will last a lifetime but if its natural oils are allowed to dry out it will be susceptible to cracking.  If Full Grain Leather is soaked in water, it will lose its natural oils and when it dries out it will crack.   Applying conditioner to the wet leather allows it to seep into the pores left open by the evaporating water, replacing the oils and lubricating the leather.

Exposing Full Grain Leather to hot sun will also dry out the natural oils and once again, conditioner should be applied to rectify the situation.  Full Grain leather is the most durable leather, however Top Grain Leather often has a semi aniline dye applied which provides it with a thin protective coating which reduces the possibility of cracking, although over time this protective coating will disappear and the leather will need protecting with conditioner .  The poorer the quality leather the more likely it is to peel and crack.  Even with careful treatment, bonded leather will peel and crack as it dries out over time and even the regular application of conditioner will not prevent this.

How to clean leather and prevent cracking

Before attempting any leather cleaning or conditioning you should always test on an unseen area of the article to ensure that the treatment will not adversely affect the dye.  Leather can be cleaned by using saddle soap or moisturizing soap.  Use a damp cloth to lather the leather and then buff to a shine with a dry cloth, you can then condition the leather using a small amount of olive oil.  There are also a wide range of leather cleaners and conditioners commercially available.

Always apply the conditioner to the cloth and not directly onto the leather, use a circular motion to apply the conditioner and then buff with a dry cloth. Allow the leather to dry naturally, away from sunlight.  Leather conditioner is designed to be naturally absorbed and will nourish and restore the flexibility of leather fibres and thus prevent cracking.  Normal leather conditioning needs to be done two times a year but leather which is exposed to the sun needs to be treated more regularly.  Never apply too much conditioner, this will clog the fibres and cause them to rot.

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