A good leather moisturizer can help restore the beauty to dry, stiff leather products. It basically works the same as a skin moisturizer, and indeed, you can even use skin moisturizers to treat your leather products if you don't have any leather moisturizers handy.
Most leather products, if they have not somehow been chemically sealed during the manufacturing process, tend to become dry and brittle as they age and a way to fix that dryness is to apply a moisturizer. A moisturizer applied to the leather will slow down and prevent the leather from cracking or splitting - you will need to do this on a regular basis to prevent dryness, especially if your leather products are stored in a warm, dry place.
When leather is cleaned you should also use a moisturizer to protect the leather after the cleaning is done to protect it from water damage. Cleaning leather with just water and then leaving it to dry is a sure way of robbing your leather of its moisture and causing it to dry out and harden. (I had a baseball glove that that happened to when I was a kid because I left it out in the rain.)
Well truth be told I am currently restoring an old pair of hockey skates. I didn't have any leather moisturizers handy, so instead I used Aveeno Creamy Moisturizing Oil.
And it worked wonderfully! I am very pleased with the results (and it gave the old skates a nice pleasant smell too, which was good because it was in a basement for 20+ years).
Types of Moisturizers
Lotions and creams are offered by many different manufacturers of leather goods specifically for the products they make - mostly because selling moisturizers is very profitable because the chemicals themselves are very cheap.
Neat's Foot Oil and Saddle Soap are two such products. The soap is for cleaning leather and then the oil is a traditional way to keep leather soft and supple. After cleaning with the soap, the oil is applied and rubbed into the leather with a soft cloth. Many soaps also contain lanolin, which also acts as a moisturizer - but its not the only kind of moisturizer out there, there are many oils that make a good leather moisturizer.
How Do Moisturizers Work
Moisturizers work in exactly the same way oils or lotions work on dry or chapped skin. They fill in the pores of the leather with needed fluids to bring the leather back to a soft, pliable state. When the leather is cleaned, the soap or solution used can strip the moisture from the leather. This can cause the leather to dry and form cracks or become stiff with time. Like skin, age can cause moisture loss in leather, giving the hide a brittle, dull look. In this case, the moisturizer serves to restore the leather to its previous beauty.
For best results apply the moisturizer every team you use the item so it eventually becomes "as good as new". There may still be permanent cracks in it, but the rest of the item should be fine.
Applying the Moisturizer
Either apply a small amount of the moisturizer directly on the product and rub it around with a soft, clean cloth or saturate the cloth with the moisturizer and then rub it into the leather. When the leather has absorbed the oil, lotion or cream, the excess is then wiped away with a second clean, dry cloth. If the leather is extremely dry, it is often recommended that the moisturizer be allowed to stay on the hide overnight in order to absorb deeply into the leather.
Leather goods should be moisturized any time they are cleaned or otherwise show signs of dryness, but a routine cleaning and fresh moisturizer works best. By catching the problem early, a moisturizer will prevent the leather from cracking or dulling in appearance. Leather moisturizers can be found at most shoe or leather goods stores and are applied by the consumer. Most dry cleaners also offer leather moisturizing services for their customers.
If you can't get a leather moisturizer then skin moisturizers work equally well. Skin moisturizer will be more expensive because of the types of oils and lotions inside them, but I would argue they actually work better.
Things to Consider
Not all leather needs to be moisturized. For example suede doesn't need to be moisturized.
The consumer should ask the sales clerk if the manufacturer of the product recommends the use of a moisturizer, and for recommendations on how the product should be cleaned - and of course they will probably say yes because they want you to buy more things.
In general leather products such as shoes, boots, coats and purses, the consumer should be considered water and stain repellent - and if they aren't then you should be applying things to them to protect them. Stain repellent will help prevent staining of the leather, making cleaning and moisturizing less frequent.
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