While leather is universally known for its opulence, it can be split out into various categories depending on its cut, grade, and finish. Each type of leather has a unique texture and properties that require slightly different care.
Some of the most popular types of leather are:
Napa is a soft, smooth, full-grain leather. Often considered to be one of the purest forms of leather, napa undergoes less processing than other variations. This means that it retains a lot of its original grain and texture – as well as some slight water resistance.
This water resistance can be improved with a special wax coating to add a sheen to its appearance and increase its durability. Napa is one of the more expensive types of leather and its supple, lightweight texture lends itself beautifully to a range of handbags, shoes, accessories, luggage, and garments.
Nubuck leather is another full-grain leather, except the tougher grain has been sanded or milled down to create a silky, soft and velvety finish. Buffing the grain in this way produces a short nap – the micro hairs on the surface of an animal skin – which gives nubuck a striking resemblance to suede.
Nubuck’s fuzzy texture is often used for crafting jackets, accessories, and footwear thanks to its comfortable touch.
Suede is a soft leather, like nubuck, that has a velvety surface. The material is sanded down to leave a short nap of hair, which is why it’s easy to confuse the two types of leather as they undergo a similar process. The difference lies in the way that suede is made from split-grain leather. This is when an animal hide is split into several thinner layers before being processed.
As such, suede is often less expensive and more pliable than nubuck, making it easier to craft into a selection of everyday garments and accessories. It’s not uncommon to find jackets, shirts, dresses, shoes, and handbags fashioned out of suede. The downside is that it can accumulate dirt extremely easily and can be difficult to clean.
Waxed leather is also known as oil leather or pull-up leather and, as the name suggests, benefits from a coating of oil or wax to strengthen the surface of the fabric. This coating improves leather’s natural water resistance and durability, ensuring that your favourite items last longer.
An oil or wax coating not only maximises leather’s durability, but it can also add a coloured sheen to the material which appears glossy when it catches the light.
Saffiano leather is a full-grain leather with a notable cross-hatch pattern for which it is known. Saffiano gets its finish from a wax coating that’s applied to the surface of the leather, which is then finished by the ‘stamping’ method. This involves heating up the leather to loosen up the fibres, before a specialist machine presses the signature etched texture into the surface of the fabric.
This process transforms the material into one of the most durable and long-lasting types of leather; the wax coating offers scratch and water-resistant properties, making Saffiano one of the most easy-to-maintain leathers.
Storing Leather Clothes
One of the most important things that you need to do when you own leather clothes is to store them properly. You can’t just let your leather garments sit in a pile of clothes in your room because they’ll start to get all wrinkled and worn out quickly.
Knowing how to reduce damage to your leather clothing is key. Correct storage can go a long way in keeping leather garments premium for longer. They should always be hung in order to prevent creasing, which can create irreversible damage.
When storing your leather garments, make sure that you put them inside a breathable garment bag or a garment box. This will prevent your clothes from getting wrinkled and it’ll also keep your clothes clean.
If your garment bag doesn’t have a breathable lining, your clothes will get stale and it’ll also get dirty real quick because there won’t be any air circulating in the bag. When storing your clothes, make sure that you put them inside a place that doesn’t have too much moisture. Too much moisture can damage your clothes and can even rust your zippers or other metal parts of your clothes.
Sunlight can also cause the colour to irreparably fade, so ensuring the leather is kept in a dark place is the best way to prevent this. If you have open storage or just want to be extra safe, use a garment bag to protect the leather from the summer sun.
Store away from any heat sources. Be mindful that your leather items are kept away from other sources of heat. They can put strain on the material and cause it to fade, warp, or even crack. If they require drying out before storing away, leave them out to air dry naturally.
Most leather goods will come with a protective fabric bag to keep them dust-free and reduce the chances of accidental scuffs. If you’re storing your items away for a long period of time, place them back into the dust bag for the best results. You can also use a cotton pillowcase to the same effect if you don’t have a dust bag to hand
How to Keep Your Leather Garments Fresh
The best place to store leather clothing and accessories is in a cool, dark, and dry place. Moisture can cause mould to grow, so it’s recommended to keep your goods where they will receive air circulation to let them ‘breathe’.
Moths also love to nibble at various leathers and their linings. If you are retiring your leather jacket for the winter, consider using a Fragrance Bag. The lavender scent is a natural moth deterrent, with the added benefit of keeping your clothes smelling heavenly.
Steps for Cleaning Leather
Whether you own a beautiful leather holdall or a timeless pair of loafers, it’s always important to remember that leather is a natural fibre. Therefore, each individual piece is unique and will be characterised by irregularities. Always bear in mind that these irregularities are not imperfections and only add to the leather’s exquisite character.
Always be gentle
As a natural material, leather can be prone to stretching. To help maintain its shape, always use a gentle hand when cleaning your leather goods.
Also, before attempting to clean any leather items, always test a small, inconspicuous patch first. The inner cuff of a jacket sleeve, the tongue of a shoe, or the tag on a leather bag often tend to be made from the same material as the exterior of the item; these are some of the most discrete places to test.
Use a dry cloth to buff away small marks
For minor marks, whether it’s on nubuck or nappa, try lightly buffing them away with a dry cloth.
This can often remove small scuffs that aren’t dried or soaked deep into the fibres. It’s also one of the least abrasive methods and is less likely to damage the material, so this should always be your first port of call when cleaning leather.
Brush scuffs away on nubuck and suede
The nap on nubuck and suede can be a little more complex to clean. Avoid getting these types of leather wet; any moisture can cause the nap to harden and ruin its velvety texture.
Instead, use a specialist suede brush to keep the nap fresh and remove any scuffs. Comb the brush in sweeping strokes, back and forth against the grain until the leather looks restored. Finish by brushing with the grain to settle the hairs back into the position they naturally lie.
Wipe down napa and waxed leather with a damp cloth
A coating is applied to napa and waxed leather, making it more resilient against water. It also means that you can use a damp cloth to remove any light stains.
Gently polish the surface of the leather to brush away any dirt. Try to wipe the cloth in the direction of the grain to maintain its appearance.
Blot up excess moisture with a damp cloth
Whether it’s a Merlot stain on your jacket sleeve or a pen has leaked in your bag, try to act swiftly to remove any liquid stains on your leather items. The longer the stain is left, the more chance it has at settling. First, soak up any excess liquid with a sponge or absorbent cloth. Then use a damp cloth to wipe off as much of the residue as possible. Stains are more difficult to manage when they have dried, so try to lift the stain as soon as you can.
Use a non-toxic leather cleaner
Once you’ve blotted away the residue, use a leather cleaner to erase the rest of the stain. Certain chemical cleaners can shrink, warp, or cause your leather to fade, so always opt for a non-toxic cleaner to avoid this. Leather cleaners can usually be used on napa and finished leathers that don’t have a nap, but always check the manufacturer’s instructions before applying the cleaner.
Finish with a leather conditioner
When your leather is clean and dry, seal the material with a leather conditioner. This finishing step works to revive the fabric and give it an illustrious shine, soften the leather surface, and preserve it against future wear and tear. Some polishes may also enhance your item’s water resistance. A gentle polish can also help to treat small scuffs left over after cleaning.
Use a leather polish to enhance the colour of your goods
Day-to-day use can cause coloured leather to fade. To revive the appearance of your leather shoes, bags, or accessories, use a tinted leather cream or polish to hide any discolouration. A leather polish also does an excellent job of camouflaging small scuffs.
Always apply leather polish to freshly cleaned, dried, and conditioned items. Carry out a patch test on a small, inconspicuous part to be sure that the colour matches your leather and always fully buff the polish into the fabric so that it doesn’t transfer onto your clothes.