You’re going home after a long day, but then suddenly, the sky opens up, pouring down heavily. At the moment, you’re not concerned about your clothes as you hurry to find shelter. It’s your leather bag you’re concerned about and especially if it is a handmade leather bag. You try as much as possible to conceal it from the heavy downpour, but even you know that your efforts are futile. Your leather bag is soaked already and you’re wondering if there’s anything you could do to redeem the bag to its former glory, knowing fully well that water is like leather’s worst enemy.
Even if your leather must have been drenched by the rain, don’t fret, your leather is still redeemable. But only if you act fast. This article would discuss how to repair your water damaged leather and future preventive measures to avoid repeating the same mistake twice.
Steps to take
Before taking any steps to repair your water damaged leather, you want to be sure of the kind of leather it is. They can be water-based and oil-based. The water-based leather is made with water-based dyes. An example of water-based leather is vegetable-tanned leather. While the oil-based leathers are made with oil-based dyes. Example of an oil-based leather is distressed leather.
The water based leathers are easier to restore from water damage, while the oil-based leathers are more difficult to repair. It is essential to understand the type of leather you’re dealing with, before repairing, as doing the wrong thing would only end up damaging the leather even more. If you’re sure of the type of leather you have, it would be best to inquire from the manufacturers.
Repairing water-based leather
Dry the leather
The first thing you need to do to save your leather is to dry your leather as soon as possible. To do this, use a dry clean cloth to wipe away excess water on the leather and inside the leather. For wet bags, stuff in crumpled newspapers, as this would help absorb the moisture and help retain its natural silhouette. The same thing applies to wet shoes. For leather jackets, hang on a wide, padded hanger. And for leather wallets, allow the leather to dry in its closed position. This is because when wet, the leather would be soft, but don’t worry, it will eventually harden, and you want it dried in its natural closed state.
Whatever you do, do not try to speed up the drying process by using a hairdryer or any artificial heat source. This would only end up damaging the leather.
The goal isn’t for the leather to get completely dry. You only need it to be partly dry or damp.
Clean the leather
When you’re sure your leather is damp, use a clean, soft cloth to clean the surface of the leather. You want to be sure that there is no dirt or grits on the surface as this would make repairing the leather more difficult.
Condition the leather
This is an important step you do not want to skip. It’s vital to condition your leather after it has been soaked or drenched. Real leather contains natural oils in it. When soaked with water, these oils tend to get washed away with the water. And as you dry your leather, more of these oils evaporate with the water. And the loss of oil in the leather would cause the leather to lose its supple. Leather conditioners contain the natural oil found in leathers, so applying conditioners to your leather would help restore the texture and durability of your leather.
Apply a reasonable amount of the leather conditioner while the leather is damp, making sure to massage into the surface of the leather. Remember not to apply directly to the leather. Use a clean cloth to apply on the surface of the leather. This would repair the damages caused by water, restoring the leather to its beautiful nature.
Repairing oil-based leather
Oil-based leathers like distressed leathers are made with oil-based dyes. Oil-based leathers don’t do well with water. One advantage of oil-based leather though is that after some time, it would develop a patina which then acts as a natural barrier to water.
Unlike water-based leathers, oil-based leathers need to be completely dry. Do not use a hairdryer or any other source of heat to speed up the product. Allow drying naturally. Although this might take a couple of days, the longer the leather stays to dry, the better.
Conditioning the leather after it’s dry is very important. Make sure to condition with oil, preferably extra virgin olive oil. Make sure to apply on a clean soft cloth, before applying in a small circular motion on the leather. Apply a little amount of oil at a time.
How to protect your leather from future water damage
You indeed have no control over the weather, but you can protect your leather from being damaged by water. You do not want to have your leather get damaged again after being repaired, would you? To protect your leather, you can consider waterproofing the leather.
Different ways to waterproof your leather include:
- Using a beeswax cream
- Using a waterproofing spray
Irrespective of the method you might decide to use, here’s how to waterproof your leather.
- Clean your leather
You do not want dirt or dust to stick to your leather surface as this would make the waterproofing process futile. So make sure you clean your leather properly. Ensure you don’t get your leather too wet while cleaning. Dry away from direct sunlight.
- Waterproof the leather
Choose whatever waterproofing method works best for you. If you’re using a beeswax cream, make sure to apply to a cloth first, before applying on your leather. Waterproofing spray works best for leathers like suede or nubuck. Continue applying the cream to build up the protective coating. Remember to test the spot on a hidden part of your leather before using it.
- Dry the leather
After applying the cream, let your leather dry. Do not dry in direct sunlight, instead let it dry out naturally.
- Buff the leather
To give your leather a finished look, it’s important to burnish your leather with a soft clean cloth.
Can leather be repaired when damaged by water? Yes, it can. But to preserve the life of your leather, you have to prevent it from getting damaged in the first place.
Iskra Banović is our seasoned Editor-in-Chief at BlueFashion. She has been steering the website's content and editorial direction since 2013. With a rich background in fashion design, Iskra's expertise spans across fashion, interior design, beauty, lifestyle, travel, and culture.