Keeping Vegetable-Tanned Leather at its Best

Vegetable-tanned leather is beautiful, durable material, used to naturally create leathers with a varying range of texture, temper, strength, and softness. To maintain its unique luster, vegetable-tanned leather requires some maintenance. Thorough cleaning is a must, as is applying a conditioning treatment every six to twelve months.

If you have not already used a conditioning treatment in conjunction with a spot cleaning, you generally will need to use one every six to 12 months. However, if the leather is frequently used outdoors, a conditioning treatment should be applied at least once every three to four months. Look for drier patches on the leather. That’s an indication of needing a neutral oil supplement.

To apply a conditioning treatment, rub a very light coat of conditioning treatment using a clean, dry rag. Allow the conditioner to soak in at least a few minutes or up to overnight. Use another clean rag to buff dry…look for an even glow and no dry areas. You may need to add more oil to certain places on your leather, followed by buffing.

A variety of oils may be used as conditioning treatments. With a wide variety of conditioning options in the retail market, you may choose a simple oil. Neatsfoot oil (a yellow oil rendered and purified from cattle), mineral oil (distilled from petroleum) and olive oil can all be used as leather conditioners.

Other key ingredients found in specially formulated conditioners target specific needs. Wax (paraffin or beeswax) is good for water resistance, especially for leather that is used outdoors.  Some shoe polishes and basic leather care products are easy to come by and may suit your needs.

Cleaning and conditioning your leather will darken its patina. This natural darkening process happens as your vegetable-tanned leather ages. Conditioning enhances this natural process and will provide a color that is beautiful, deep and unique.