Leather moisturiser is a product designed to restore the softness and flexibility of leather, while preventing cracks and surface damage. It is an oil-based product, usually made from animal sources. The oils used in leather moisturiser are chosen primarily for shelf life, so that the oil, once applied to leather, will not become rancid and create odours.
Leather moisturiser replaces the oil stripped from leather during cleaning, and seals the surface to help prevent damage from water and dirt. Like human skin, leather has pores that allow air to pass through it. Over time, even if the leather is never cleaned, moisture evaporates from the pores and causes the leather to become dry. Dry leather is stiff, rough and prone to cracking.
Leather moisturiser comes in three types that are categorised by the type of oil they contain. Neat's-foot oil is a leather moisturiser made from fats in the feet and lower legs of cattle. Mink oil is rendered from the fatty layer just under the skin of minks. Lanolin is a waxy fat that comes from sheep's wool. Most commercial leather moisturisers contain one or more of these three animal fats and lanolin is the most commonly used.
Full-grain leather should be cleaned and moisturised regularly, regardless of whether it is being actively used. Even in storage, leather will eventually dry out from evaporation. You should moisturise leather each time it is cleaned. Most leather products require cleaning and moisturization once every three months, or more often if they become soiled.
To use leather moisturiser, first clean the product using a cleaner designed for use on leather. Saddle soap is a popular choice because it strips less oil from the leather than other leather cleaners. Once the leather has been cleaned and is completely dry, apply enough leather moisturiser to leave a slight greasy film on the surface of the leather. Use a soft cloth or sponge to rub the product in thoroughly and to wipe away any unabsorbed leather moisturiser.
Although leather moisturiser is appropriate for most full-grain leather products, it should not be used on suede or nubuck. These leathers will lose their napped surface if moisturiser is applied. Some products claim to be both cleaners and moisturisers; unfortunately, most do not moisturise adequately. Always check the label on your leather products before choosing a leather moisturiser. Some treated leathers require special care to maintain their texture and appearance.
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