Almost everyone owns something made of leather: shoes, clothing, furniture, the seats of your car or maybe horse tack. Keeping your leather looking new, fresh and supple does not need to be expensive or time-consuming. Whether you use commercial products or make your own, cleaning and conditioning your leather items every three or four months will keep them looking new longer.
When leather is commercially tanned, one of the final steps is to treat the skins with special oils that will give the hide the desired softness, flexibility and strength. These emulsions are formulated to absorb into the leather and bind with the fibres to create the correct pH for the leather. Over time these special oils need to be replenished to keep the leather from deteriorating, becoming stiff, hard, and possibly cracking. Although there are many leather conditioners on the market, one of the oldest and favoured brands by longtime leather goods owners is a product called Lexol. Lexol contains oils that are similar to the original ones used at the tannery, and are non-toxic, odourless, nonflammable, will not irritate your skin and contain no chemical solvents that would ultimately harm your leather. The formula for Lexol is such that it absorbs and penetrates the leather much better because the high-quality oil droplets are smaller than products that use lesser-quality oils. And Lexol does not leave any greasy residue on the leather.
Make Your Own
If you do not want to use a commercial product, you can make your own leather conditioner. Add one part vinegar with two parts linseed oil--or if you do not want to use linseed oil you can substitute virgin olive oil. Mix this in a lidded jar by adding the ingredients, closing the jar with the lid and shaking the jar vigorously. Apply this solution to your leather with a clean cloth and let it set overnight, then buff your leather with a clean cloth.
It is always best to clean your leather item before you condition it. For furniture, vacuum the dust and dirt off, then wipe it with a soft, moist cloth. Other items should be cleaned using saddle soap as directed on the can.
Do not use the aforementioned methods on suede or leather articles that have a nap to them, such as split leather. The open fibres of those leathers will cause your leather piece to be ruined because they absorb too much and too irregularly the solutions mentioned here.