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How To Soften Leather - Tips & Tricks

July 14, 2020

How To Soften Leather - Tips & Tricks

by Alya Omran

Alya is a freelance copywriter, blogger and dentist! She has a passion for writing and enjoys writing on her personal blog in her free time. She is a travel enthusiast and enjoys visiting places with gothic architecture and exotic scenery.


Leather has been used in the fashion industry for decades. Leather jackets are an essential part of every wardrobe. Since leather is a natural material, it is subject to wear in time. Leather that is fresh from the factory is also usually quite stiff and may need softening.

Leather is tough, elegant, and is known for its longevity. This would also mean that leather can sometimes be rigid and not very flexible. The tougher the type of leather is, the stronger it is. However, when talking about a leather jacket, most people would prefer a softer texture. This is why we need to understand how to make your new leather jacket softer without affecting its quality or causing any damage to it.

Leather comes in different types depending on the animal it came from. There are over 5 types of leather available in almost every leather industry. The different leather types come in different softness, durability, textures, and may require different care and maintenance techniques.

What are the different types of leather and how do they differ in stiffness?

While you might think that most leather comes from cowhides, this is far from the truth. Lamb, goat, pig, buffalo and deerskin are also very common sources of leather. Bovine leather is considered rough and is mainly used for protection, such as the leather jackets worn by motorcycle riders. Calfskin, on the other hand, is very soft and fragile but wears slowly. Goatskin combines both softness and durability and is a great alternative to both bovine and calfskin. Goatskin is also water-repellent to a large extent which is a very unique and valuable characteristic. However, the leather most valued by luxury designers and high-end brands is lambskin leather.

Here’s an overview of the most common hides and how soft they are:

  1. Cowhide: the standard average leather mainly used for furniture is made from cowhide. It is the strongest type of leather and hence the toughest. It is not used much in the fashion industry due to its heavyweight and tough nature.
  2. Deerskin leather: It is a very commonly used type of leather and is much softer than cowhide leather. Deerskin leather has the ability to trap air between its particles giving it a softer texture. A unique property of deerskin leather is that it has the ability to keep your warm in winter and to stay cool during the summer. Like most types of leather, it is abrasion resistant and highly durable.
  3. Lambskin leather: This is the softest type of leather on the market. Since lambskin leather originally comes from lambs, the fact that they come from an animal that hasn’t yet matured is the reason behind its softness. It is the softest leather with the most buttery texture. This fine-grained smooth texture makes it stand out among all other types of leather. This softness means a higher liability for wear and scratches, which is why taking good care of your lambskin leather jacket is essential for its longevity. Lambskin has been used in the manufacturing of leather jackets ever since the industry bloomed in the early 1900s.

Another common classification that would help you better understand the physical properties of leather is the layer of the hide that is used in its making. According to that, leather can be divided into:

  1. Full Grain Leather: This comes from the top layer of the hide and contains all the grains and hence the name, full-grain leather. It comes with minimal surface alterations and therefore, it is the toughest type of leather. It is also the most expensive one and is sought by leather enthusiasts.
  2. Top grain leather: When buying a leather jacket, top grain leather is your best choice. This is obtained by splitting the top layer of the skin and sanding the top, giving it a soft and flexible nature. It can then be pigmented into elegance. This type of leather has high strength and durability. However, it has been found to have a tendency to stretch continually over time. It is used in most of the high-end leather products.
  3. Corrected Grain Leather: this type of leather is made from the layer that remains after the top layers of the skin are split and processed.
  4. Bonded Leather: it is made from the leftovers of all the previous procedures. It is the lowest leather quality and the cheapest and is not used for making clothes.
How To Soften Leather

What makes leather become stiff?

Other than the fact that some leather is manufactured in better quality by better craftsmanship which in turn makes it softer than others, there are multiple reasons why leather can become stiff over time.

Storing Environment

Most of us toss our leather jackets in the closet without considering the storing environment in which it is stored. Extra moisture as well as extra dryness can both be reasons for damaging the leather. It is best to store your leather jacket in the humidity of 40-50%.

Stretching

Choosing a leather jacket that does not fit well, especially when it’s smaller than your size, causes the leather to stretch. This stretching can make your jacket less flexible and lose its softness.

Using A Dryer

You should never place your leather jacket in a dry for any reason. Dryers are too hot and aggressive for leather which makes your jacket dry out and lose its supple texture. If your leather jacket needs drying, use a dry washcloth for the safest use.

Your Jacket Is Too Old

Taking good care of your leather jacket ensures its longevity. A leather jacket can live for a very long time if given special care. However, this is not always the case. This makes your jacket lose its softness over time.

PHYSICAL - The Admiral Moto

PHYSICAL - The Suede Double Rider

PHYSICAL - The Technical Bomber


How to soften my leather jacket?

  1. Using Conditioner

Rubbing a conditioner into your jacket is the best option to keep it soft and supple. You need to use a conditioner on your jacket once every few months. Conditioners are water-based and provide just the right amount of moisture for your jacket.

 

  1. Alcohol + Vaseline

Dab alcohol on the leather surface using a cotton pad. When it dries up, apply Vaseline over it and leave it overnight.

 

  1. Coconut oil

Place your jacket in the sun for less than 10 minutes until it heats up, then apply coconut oil evenly. Be careful that this could cause your jacket to turn a shade or 2 darker than it originally was.

 

  1. Mink Oil

Apply 2-3 layers of mink oil to your leather jacket and give it 2-3 days for absorption.

What are the best products to use to soften your leather jacket?

Paul's Pail All Natural Beeswax Leather Conditioner

Price: $14.99

This is a leather protector, softener, and restorer. It is made of an all-natural blend of animal oils and beeswax. It has the consistency of soft butter and melts into the leather as you apply it. It is safe and non-toxic without any additives or preservatives. It is water-resistant and can protect your jacket for up to 6 months.

Valentino Garemi Leather Balm Cream

Price: $21

This cream is a high-end product created for luxurious leather shoes, jackets, belts, and accessories. This conditioner is used for protecting the finest of leather, even deerskin and goatskin. It is made of natural oils and wheat wax and leaves behind a sweet smell. It has non-pigmented elements which makes it suitable for use on leather of any color. The Valentino Garemi Luxury Leather Balm gently nourishes exotic leather garments through the use of quality grade wheat proteins to supply moisture. This is my favorite on the list!

Howard Products LS0006 Leather Salve

Price: $13.50

This conditioner restores leather surfaces using the finest refined oils including purified lanolin, neatsfoot, and coconut oil. It is used to revive old leather and protect new leather. It is made in the USA.

Chamberlain’s Leather Milk Leather Conditioner

Price: $16.25

This conditioner is the perfect mixture of natural oils and synthetic enriching ingredients. It nourishes your dry, cracked leather jackets and helps return them to their soft and supple appearance and texture. This is like a potion that would revive your leather jacket and restore its texture, color, and vibrance. It is synthetically made to restore high-quality leather but is better to be avoided on suede and extremely soft leather. Obtained from the finest selected ingredients, ranging from cosmetic grade adhesives to deeply conditioning oils and waxes, Chamberlain’s new Leather Milk Healing Balm may be the most intense leather healing remedy on the market yet. This product is highly recommended.

Bickmore 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil 8 oz - Leather Conditioner

Price: $9.99

This conditioner is made entirely of pure neatsfoot oil. The most significant quality about neatsfoot oil is that it’s water-repellant which is very useful when present in a leather conditioner since water is considered leather’s worst enemy. This will darken most leather types so it is advised to use it on a tiny part first to make sure it won’t drastically change the color of your jacket.

Care and maintain leather jackets

Conclusion

  • There are many types of leather present on the market. They can be classified according to a lot of factors. The most common classifications are based on the original hide the leather was obtained from and the layer of the skin that was split to make it.
  • There are many causes behind the dryness and consequent stiffness of the leather. Unfavorable humidity in the storing environment, stretching over time, using a dryer, etc. can all damage your leather and ruin its softness making it very harsh and cracked on your skin.
  • To protect your leather from drying out, you can use a lot of products. Conditioners, natural oils and beeswax are all basic ingredients in all leather-protection products.
  • Leather conditioners are available in the market in many forms. Choosing the right leather conditioner for you will mean you have to look up the ingredients used in each of them and choose the best for you.
  • It is always advised to try your new conditioner on a small area of your garment because most conditioners can darken leather.

Check Out More Great Leather Jacket Articles!


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