Home > Leather Care > Facts, Problems and Solutions

Leather provides one of the world’s most unique, durable, and luxurious materials for furniture, clothing, boots, and accessories. Each piece is individual and over time will create a favorite pair of boots, a favorite saddle, or a beloved yet worn out leather coat. Leather has been manufactured and processed all over the world for thousands of years and known tanners guilds existed in England as far as the twelfth century. Tanning is the process of treating the raw hide to keep it soft and flexible and to protect it. Technology and methods have changed considerably over the years and now tanneries produce a remarkable variety of colors, textures, thicknesses, and finishes on leather. Tanning processes including chrome, vegetable, dry and aniline.


Obenauf’s products contain no harmful chemicals that can damage your leather. Our LP has natural oils suspended in a Beeswax/Propolis* formula. In the leather these oils gradually seep out of the Beeswax/Propolis* as a time released lubrication that restores inner fibers while reinforcing the surface against scuffing and abrasion. If exposed to heat or constant flexing, the oils are released faster, so instead of getting parched, your leather gets oiled when and where it needs it most. Many products claiming to be conditioners or preservatives are not. They contain harmful chemicals, mink oil, petroleum, pine tar, or alcohol to soften or waterproof leather. They soften by weakening or decomposing the fibers and they waterproof by sealing the pores! They are priced low but definitely not economical when you consider the damage done to fibers, stitching, and glues. Ironically, many so called “conditioner” actually shorten the useful life of your leather. Restoring with only natural oils is the key to preserving your investment in leather.

*Propolis is an anti-bacterial resin collected by honeybees to water proof and disinfects their hives. It provides a durable barrier against chemicals and resists bacteria, mold, and mildew. Propolis repels water better and longer than regular water repellents.


Leather “breathes” through its pores to vent sweat (salt and body acid). Never seal it off or these acids build up and cause dry rot. Salt and lack of oils cause premature cracking when dry fibers are flexed and broken. These irreparable damages will shorten the service life of leather. True preservatives are natural and cost more, but they are your best protection. They last longer, preserve and protect much better, which makes them the most economical way to treat your leather.


Leather is damaged by dryness and loss of oils. Water washes leather oils out fast and causes it to dry stiff and hard. Oils also dissipate every day when it’s dry just like your skin. Wind, warm air (floorboard heaters), dust, chemicals, mud, and normal wear (flexing) increase the rate of oil loss. Dry fibers scuff easily, wear against each other, get brittle, and break prematurely causing cracks in your leather. Dry leather also cuts stitching and is prone to dry rot. The solution is to not let the fibers dry out, lubricate periodically with natural oils.


Leather comes in a variety of colors, shapes, and textures. Its appearance is determined by the type of hide, the tanning process and whether it has been dyed or treated by the tannery. In most cases you can expect some change in color and possibly texture when you treat or clean your leather. Always make sure you test in an inconspicuous area BEFORE treating your entire piece. You should allow 7 days for the true color to show, and in many cases, as the liquid is absorbed, the will lighten.


Soft textured leather like suede and shearling lambskin are magnificent to touch and feel. Unfortunately, they are also extremely difficult to clean and protect. Use a suede brush for cleaning suede and sort textured leathers. Stains are a challenge since you can’t use any liquid cleaner without affecting the texture and possibly “matting” the finish. Try rubbing corn meal gently into the stain to absorb it and use your suede brush to remove it. Obenauf’s Leather Oil can be applied sparingly on these soft textured leathers, but any oil treatment may affect the texture and color. Suede and nubuck can be treated without oiling with Obenauf’s Water Shield. It will not restore oils but will provide a surfactant water and stain barrier that will not affect color.


Storing Leather requires special consideration to keep it in good condition and properly protected. Store leather in a ventilated, cool, dry area that is neither too hot nor cold and never damp. Avoid direct sunlight, which will dry and fade leather. Always use padded hangers to help reserve the shape and do not enclose it in plastic. Use a breathable cloth-like cotton cover instead. Hides should be rolled in canvas or an old blanket, and furniture should have a blanket covering when in storage.


Cleaning leather can be a tricky proposition since the very act of cleaning it could damage the leather. So be careful and do not scrub it. Obenauf’s Leather Oil is often used for cleaning furniture and other smooth leathers by applying a liberal amount with a clean cloth or soft bristled brush in a circular motion for several minutes, changing cloths and repeating procedure to remove dirt. Dirt is softened and floated out of the pores. Heavier soiled areas will require more treatments, a leather cleaner or mild soap and water.


Stained leather is another tough proposition, and in many cases there is not much you can do about it. If you are dealing with a fresh stain you need to act quickly to prevent it from setting. Using a dry cloth, blot it or soak it up. Then with a damp cloth, wipe it off as quickly as possible. Stains forming greasy or oily substances can often be lifted out by sprinkling powdered chalk on the area (DO NOT RUB IT IN) and letting it set overnight. Use a light brush or cloth to remove the powder. Lighter stains can often be “hidden” by treating the article with Obenauf’s Leather Oil since it will darken the overall color of your leather item upon application. We always recommend you first test in an inconspicuous place to assure you are pleased with the results which may take 7 days for final color to show. Serious stains that appear to be well set may be irreparable. In this case, your best bet is to consult a local leather expert who may be able to offer some suggestions about professional cleaning options.


Mild vinegar and water solution kills mold at the root. Once you have eliminated the mold, you need to immediately treat the article with Obenauf’s Leather Oil or LP to restore the natural oils. Obenauf’s Leather Oil and Heavy Duty LP have anti-bacterial properties that will provide protection from future mold and mildew problems. Dirty and damp leather will mold. Keep it clean and treated with a preservative and stored in ventilated dry areas.