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.

I recommend applying a wax type dressing about every 6 weeks. This helps with water resistance and conditions the leather, helping keep it from getting stiff or cracking.

Leather is a porous material, it is not waterproof. Even when sealed with a top finish, leather can absorb water if exposed to enough of it. Wax dressings, when applied regularly, will build a barrier that reduces the chance of water damage.

If your leathers do get wet, towel them off when you get to a dry spot. Let them air dry and then reapply a good leather dressing to bring back the water resistance. Do no dry your leathers in the sun or use a hair dryer.  The heat can cause shrinkage and/or warping of the leather.

When washing your bike, take the extra 5 minutes it takes to remove your leathers if possible. 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 with can become abrasive and harm the paint over time.

The following is more specific information on the cleaning and care steps. 

Don't Oil Your Leather

Don't do it. A good leather dressing is better for the leather and will generally protect better - see next section!
Too much oil (mink, etc) can actually damage the leather. Baseball gloves, oil tanned boots and such are a different type of leather and don't have a sealer for rain so they need oil.  Personal items like bags, jackets and bike gear last longer when conditioned with a wax type dressing, not oil.

Dressing (Conditioning)your Leather

For Three Mutts leathers I use and recommend Obenhauf Heavy Duty Leather Preservative. Other popular brands are Pecard Motorcycle Leather Dressing, Fiebing Sno-Proof, GY-WY Dressing (Australia) and Marney's (UK, Europe).

These wax type dressings 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. Let the dressing soak into the leather for 5-10 minutes and then buff any residual off with a soft cloth.  With each application, the dressing builds a 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 Mutts shop gets a coat before leaving.

Apply every 6 weeks or as needed.  If the item gets wet, towel dry and let it fully dry then reapply the dressing.  

Not for use on soft leathers like suede or nubuck - see next section!

Cleaning Suede

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.