Leather care and cleaning
You just dropped a grip of cash on a new Three Mutts custom tank and fender bib set, a new swingarm bag or maybe it's a leather jacket you've had for years and want to keep it looking good for ten more. I'll walk you through some tips, products and techniques for caring for your custom leather gear to ensure you get your monies worth.Leather is very similar to our skin, it needs to be periodically cleaned, conditioned and protected.
Being specially tanned, natural leather does not like water. Like a sponge, leather will absorb water - even the best leather finish will take on water if exposed to enough of it.
Rule #1 - when possible, take the extra 2-3 minutes it takes to remove your leathers when washing your bike. Sure, it will get caught in the rain and such once in a while and it will be fine. Removing the leathers during washing allows you to clean the bike under the bibs and bags as well as cleaning the dust and road dirt from the felt backing. This keeps the dirt from building up, becoming abrasive and harming the paint. If your leathers do get wet, simply towel them off when you get to a dry spot. Let them air dry and then apply a good leather dressing to bring back the water resistance.
The following is more specific informaton on the cleaning and care steps.
To make things easy, I linked the photos to the products shown to their Amazon page.
Cleaning your Leather
When cleaning leather, I suggest going old school and using good ol' Fiebing's Saddle Soap. It is literally a cake of soap in a tin. I simply spray a little water on the cake and use a shoe shine brush or toothbrush (depending on the size of the area to clean) to build a light foam. Then, using the brush I brush on the saddle soap in small circles to clean. Once done, a slightly damp cloth wipes off the residue and then dry the leather off with a clean towel.
For vinyl topped bibs like our Mustang seats matching bibs, a drop of mild dish soap on a wet cloth or brush works well. Just clean the bib and dry immediately.
Oiling Your Leather
Using oil on leather depends on the type of leather used. I recommend asking the maker if you should oil the piece before doing so. Some finished leathers (upholstery and fashion leathers) can separate if oiled. Other leathers such as glove and pull up, enjoy the occasional oil wipe down. Typically tooled veg-tan leather, which is what I use most, does not need to be oiled. The three most common oils used on leather are Neatsfoot Oil, Mink Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Walnut Oil can also be used but can darken the leather quite a bit more than the others.
Conditioning your Leather
For vinyl & smooth colored leathers like jackets, leather clothing, purses, and automotive interiors a leather conditioning cream is used. I use Pecard Leather Lotion for these leathers. Simply rub it into the leather with a soft cloth. The leather will absorb the conditioner if applied lightly, a little goes a long way - no need to soak the leathers.
For Veg-Tan leather bibs (aka tooling leather - used for embossing, laser engraved and tooled leather, straps, keychains, etc). I use Pecard Leather Dressing. This is more of a paste that can be applied with a shoe shine brush or rag and rubbed on. The friction from light rubbing will warm it up and work it into the leather. After a minute or two of buffing your hide, a soft cloth can be used to wipe off any residual and buff to a mellow shine. Pecard Leather Dressing is a great water barrier and UV protectant while also feeding your leather to keep it nice and pliable. Every piece of tooled leather that rolls out of the Three Miutts shop gets a coat before leaving.
Suede is a different kind of leather. It is kind of like cleaning carpet with the 'nap' that gives it the soft feel and appearance. Pecard makes a Suede specific cleaner that comes with a bristle head on the bottle. Simply apply the foam cleaner and use the bristle cap to clean the affected area. If there is residual left after cleaning is complete, blot with a towel.
Airbrushed Leather care
For pieces that have added airbrushed artwork, the airbrushed area is coated with a special finish that does not need oiling, conditioning or serious cleaning.
Typically the airbrushed area can be simply wiped free of dirt with a slightly damp cloth. If just dusty, a shoe shine brush is great for getting dust & dirt out of the tooled crevasses. Do not use harsh cleaners like Windex on the airbrushed area (or any leather for that matter) as it can remove the finish and harm the paint.