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How to Clean a Leather Wallet

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A great leather wallet is a solid investment. One that you wouldn’t like ruining while you clean it. You need to learn how to clean a leather wallet to maintain it to make yours last long looking like new.

How to Clean a Leather Wallet

The following steps will help you prepare your wallet for cleaning and give you the information needed to preserve and maintain your leather wallet 

Determine the Leather Type

If you are not sure about the type of leather you are cleaning, contact the manufacturer or brand company of the wallet. If that’s not an option, you can try the following: 

If you can see the natural character and color of the leather, it typically is aniline-dyed and does not have a pigmented finish. This type of leather is flexible as well as cool and soft. Because the leather is porous, you have to use care when cleaning.

Rows full of various leather wallets

If the leather is a full-grain leather but seems to be coated, it usually is a semi-aniline leather. To check to make sure, slightly scratch the surface with your finger nail. If its color does not change, it is a semi-aniline leather material.

If your leather has become softer with use and its leather-look is consistent, it is probably corrected grain leather. If the leather has an artificial appearance, you are looking at coated leather.

A suede or softly finished leather normally describes as split leather. This material is made from the lower layer of an animal’s hide.

Choose the Right Type of Cleaner

Cleaners for leather are water-based, alcohol-based, or chemical based. The following details give you more information on the nature of these products.

Water-based Cleaners

Water-based products cut the dirt and grime and remove it from the surface of leather. A water-based cleaner and conditioner will normally work well on most types of leather. This type of product will not darken the leather once the material absorbs the conditioner.

Alcohol-based Cleaners

We recommend an alcohol-based cleaner if a stain is set into the material. While some people use rubbing alcohol, makers of leather products prefer you use a cleaner designed for leather. Make sure you test the cleaner in an inconspicuous spot, as this type of cleaner can damage soft leather or suede. 

Also, don’t use the cleaner on an unfinished leather fabric. The cleaner saturates the pores to lift dirt and grime, which can affect the material’s looks.

Chemical-based Solvents

Although touted for leather use, chemical-based solvents are much more invasive and stronger than their water-based and alcohol-based counterparts. Many people often use synthetic chemical cleaners to clean stubborn and deep set-in stains. 

Cleaning solutions for dirty leather wallets

These cleaners dry out leather and therefore often require the use of a conditioner. Nubuck, soft leather, suede, or lightly hued leathers normally will not fare well when chemical-based products are used. Also, these cleaners may leave traces of a soap-like residue.

Clean the Leather

Make sure the leather is completely dry before you apply the leather cleaner. Apply the cleaner in thin layers. Don’t overdo it, as you can rub the dye off the leather. Also, too much cleaner can dehydrate the material. 

Rub the cleaner in a circular motion until you have cleaned and treated all the leather. Again, do not saturate the material. It is better to apply another thin layer of cleaner versus finding out you used too much.

If you use an alcohol-based product, your leather will dry fairly fast. Wait for the leather’s color to return to assess whether you will need to repeat the cleaning process.

What Not to Use for Cleaning Leather

Before you start cleaning your wallet, you should know what products can do damage and avoid using these solutions. Here are some examples of what not to use when cleaning leather:

  • Alkaline cleaner: Items such as sanitizing wipes will lead to deterioration. While deterioration is often considered part of the aging process, this is not true. Using the wrong product—one that is too alkaline—can damage a leather material and cause it to deteriorate prematurely.
  • Soap-based alkaline products: If an acidic pH comes into contact with an alkaline pH, the ultimate reaction, or end result, is a weakening of the leather material.

Therefore, you need to find leather cleaning and conditioning products that are matched to a leather’s pH, which means staying away from anything soap

What Is The Importance Of Ph

When searching for leather cleaning products, search for those products that are pH balanced or pH matched. Products with a neutral pH are good choices, as they will not react with the leather. Therefore, the best way to ensure your leather is clean and protected is to use products that support leather’s natural pH. 

a dirty leather wallet

The term pH refers to a material’s degree of acidity or alkalinity on a scale of 1 to 14. Alkaline materials, known as bases, such as cleaning products and soap, have an alkalinity of 7 to 14. 

Acids fall on the pH scale between 1 and 7. Neutral materials or substances have a pH of 7. Leather has a pH of about 5, so it is considered acidic. On the other hand, soapy water has an alkalinity of around 12.

What Happens When You Use Alkaline Cleaners?

If you use an alkaline cleaner on leather, a chemical reaction happens at the cellular level, one that can lead to loss of strength, hardening, brittleness, or darkening. Many saddle soaps are alkaline, so they are not the best products to use on leather. 

Moreover, leather waxes or oils may condition your leather wallet. However, they do not clean it. Rather, these products can cause dirt to get embedded into the leather, making it more difficult to clean. Therefore, you need to use care when choosing leather cleaning and conditioning solutions or substances.

Final Tips

The following tips will help you stay on top of cleaning and conditioning your wallet. Remember: a little cleaner can go a long way in removing dirt and improving your wallet’s appearance.

  • You should use a straight cleaner for more thorough leather cleanings or when you need to lift and remove a stain that has set into the material. Typically, a straight cleaner is a blend of non-alkaline ingredients, including water and alcohol. It can remove oils, denim transfers, stains, and contaminants, and works by penetrating the leather’s pores.
  • You do not need to use a straight cleaning product each time you clean your wallet. Surface cleaning is all that is necessary most of the time, which can be achieved with a liniment. A liniment may be used on various leathers, including lighter colors, unfinished leathers, crocodile, deerskin, and vegetable-tanned and full-grain leather items.
  • If you do use a chemical-based leather product, or one that is alcohol-based, limit its use to twice a year. Otherwise, you can damage your leather wallet.
  • Never start out with a chemical-based cleaner. Instead, use an alcohol-based cleaner. This is the best way to remove stains or dirt without resorting to chemicals first.
  • Always clean your leather wallet at the first sign of dirt. Don’t allow leather stains to set into the leather material.
  • Be careful about using ink around leather. Once it has dried, you usually cannot remove it.

As you can see, knowing how to clean a leather wallet involves a scientific and organized approach. You really do not want to wash the wallet with soap or saddle soap. Instead, it is better to use a water-based product that is designed to specifically clean leather. Make sure you safeguard your leather by using only those cleaning products that are non-alkaline, or are pH matched to leather material.

Allen Michael is the Founder and Editor of Home Viable, a website that he started to provide readers with tips on home efficiency and automation. He draws on his engineering background combined with his family-of-four experiences for his articles.