how to condition leather

How To Condition Leather

So, you have bought a new leather jacket, or a wallet, a tote bag, and if it´s good quality it probably cost you a pretty penny or two. To make sure the leather stays in good condition and lasts for as long as possible, you also must take care of the leather. This includes conditioning your leather.

Or, you might have found an old leather jacket, or bought a vintage wallet or messenger bag. If the item has been kept in the back of a coset for years, it is mostly likely going to be a little dry and requiring some moisture.

Over time, leather can dry out as it loses its moisture and oils. This can cause the leather to lose its suppleness and crack over time, to restore and maintain the leather, conditioning is essential to maintain the leather´s natural oils, keeping it moisturized, flexible and more resistant to wear.

Regular conditioning will not only prolong the life of the leather, but also preserves the appearance and helps develop a nice patina. I make a lot of prototype wallets, bags, accessories that can sit on a shelf for a while. I condition every 3 months or so, and this seems to be the optimal time I have found.

Best Methods for Conditioning Leather

  1. Choose a High-Quality Leather Conditioner:

When choosing a leather conditioner, you don´t just want to grab any one off the shelf from your local supermarket. Leather is durable, yet delicate when it comes to chemicals. Anything with too much acidity, alcohol, perfumes, or oils can damage and stain the leather.

You want to go with a maker that is tried and tested in the leather world. These products are highly tested across all types of leather and are made without any harmful ingredients with leather in mind. There are many brands out there, and you can specify it down to the type of leather such as suede, full-grain or top-grain.

The good quality leather conditioners are made in a way to penetrate the pores of the leather and provide the most hydration. Here the top five leather conditioner I have used mainly on full grain cow leather.

The top 5 leather conditioners:

Lexol: Lexol is a trusted brand in the world of leather. Their leather conditioners are formulated to nourish and protect a variety of leather types. You can use it on the car seats, furniture, leather jackets, wallets, bags and more.  including automotive, furniture, and apparel.

Chamberlain's Leather Milk: Chamberlain´s products are well known for being made from natural ingredients. Designed to restore and maintain the durability and softness of leather. They have a variety of conditioners for different leathers. Known as a brand for premium leathers, but not an expensive product.

Bickmore: It might just be the type of leather I use, but I find that Bickmore´s leather conditioner penetrates the thicker leathers better. I feel the thicker, say 8oz and above type leather have a more flexible feel after a treatment with this one. So, it´s a good conditioner for a leather belt and straps.

Fiebing's: Of all the brands, I have the most products from Fiebing´s. You will find this brand in most leatherworker’s kits. They make so many products for leather such as dyes, glues, edge paints, cleaners and they are all made with leather in mind.

So, you can trust that their leather conditioner is going to do what it says on the tin and restore the moisture and suppleness to your leather.

Leather Honey: Leather honey is my go-to day-to-day leather conditioner. I use this one most frequently with wallets, bags, and mostly smaller leather goods. Their products leave a nice feel to the leather and the results are long lasting.

  1. Clean The Leather Before Conditioning

Before you apply conditioner to leather you must make sure the leather is clean first. There can be a layer of dust and dirt that you may not see, and when you mix in the conditioner this can leave stains in the leather. Cleaning the leather beforehand also allows for the conditioner to penetrate deep into the leather.

Use a brush first to get the bulk of the dust off, then with a clean cotton rag and some mild cleaning fluid clean the rest of the surface. Check my guide on how to clean leather here.

  1. Apply Conditioner Evenly:

I have tried applying conditioner to leather with sponge, a brush, my finger, but what I find works best is a lint-free cotton cloth. I always use a white one because a colored one might transfer dye to the leather. Don´t put too much conditioner on the cloth. Apply the conditioner in a circular motion to small areas of the leather at a time.

Focus a little more on areas that are dry or cracked such as the elbows, seams and where there are any folds. Let the conditioner absorb over a few hours or overnight, then wipe away any excess and buff the leather with a separate clean white cotton cloth.

  1. Allow Absorption Time

After applying the conditioner, allow it to be absorbed by the leather. The absorption time will vary depending on the type and thickness of the leather. For best results, I usually eave it to absorb overnight. Be careful to not leave too much excess though as this will saturate the leather.

  1. Buff Excess Conditioner

Once you have applied the conditioner, and allowed it soak in, you need to buff the leather. Use a clean cloth to first remove any excess conditioner, then with a clean cloth, gently buff the leather until it takes on a nice sheen. Buffing the leather to a good sheen prevents dust, grease and residue from sticking to the leather so easily.

Making Your Own Leather Conditioner:

If you prefer a DIY approach, you can create a basic leather conditioner using natural ingredients. Here's a simple recipe:


2 tablespoons of beeswax (helps seal and waterproof the leather)

1 cup of almond oil or jojoba oil (restores the natural oils)

10-15 drops of essential oil (optional, for fragrance)


Melt the beeswax using the double boil method or using a heat safe bowl over a pot of simmering water.

Once the beeswax has melted, add the almond oil or jojoba oil to the bowl and stir well.

You can add a few drops of essential oil for fragrance as well.

Remove the mixture from heat and let it cool.

Once cooled, transfer the homemade conditioner to a clean, airtight container for future use.

Best Practices for Using Leather Conditioner:

Until you have a little more experience on the amount of conditioner different types of leather can handle, always follow the manufacturer instructions when using leather conditioner.

Test the conditioner on a small area of the leather first. Check for any reaction before applying the conditioner to the rest of the surface.

If you need conditioner for suede leather, be sure to buy one specifically designed for suede. Other conditioners may stain suede.

Try and condition your leather items every 3-6 months to maintain their softness and resilience.

Store leather items in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and moisture.


best conditioner for leather cowboy boots?

Leather boots tend to be made from a tougher part of the hide, so you want something that is deep penetrating. I would go with Bickmore´s conditioner for leather boots.

best conditioner for leather sandals?

Like boots, most leather shoes are going to use thicker material, so again Bickmores would be my first choice, but you can try other brands to find your preference.

Best conditioner for leather seats car?

The quality of the leather seats in cars can vary. If you have high end leather seats, I will opt for Chamberlain´s leather conditioner, or Leather Honey conditioner.

best conditioner for leather rifle sling?

I used to go hunting with my uncle as a kid, and I remember him rubbing olive oil into the rifle sling, and this works exceptionally well, but darkens the leather quite a bit.

You can also get oil stains, so you are better using a modern formula that gives you the same benefits but without changing the appearance of the leather. Fiebings, Leather Honey, Lexor, Bickmore´s are all good choices.

best conditioner for leather hiking boots

Again, you want something deep penetrating because boots get a lot of wear. The best conditioner for leather boots in general is one that adds suppleness, durability and protects from the outer elements. I feel Fiebings, Lexor and Bickmore´s really stands out for me here.

best conditioner for leather ball gloves

The best conditioner for leather gloves is going to depend on the type used. Leather gloves come in so many differently types of leather, so you need to be careful. The safest option would be Chamberlain´s as I think it has the mildest ingredients.

best conditioner for leather messenger bag

I would say any of the brands we mentioned in this article are a good choice of conditioner for a leather messenger bag. Still, always try on a small spot and look for customer reviews. My own choice here though is Fiebings and Leather Honey.

best conditioner for leather purses

Purses usually combine different materials, so check to make sure the one you choose is suitable. The purse will mostly be leather, but maybe you have a fabric lining. Choose a natural milder conditioner like Chamberlain´s.

What is the best leather conditioner for motorcycle saddlebags?

I made some of these for my brother, and I also have a few saddlebags for my bike. Saddle bags are made from thick leather, so a deep penetrating conditioner like Fiebings and Bickmore´s.

I could go on with so many more examples, but this should give you a pretty good idea on what type of conditioner to use on the type of leather you are going to condition. If you are ever unsure, then check the instructions, or feel free to drop me a message in the comments and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.


I enjoy making the items I do, and I want the to last as long as possible. It´s also a shame to lose your favorite belt because it snaps after drying out in the drawer over the summer.

Looking after and regularly conditioning your leather goods will prolong the life of your items for a much longer period. A thick leather belt cared for correctly you probably last you for your whole life. Keeping your leather jacket conditioned will help the leather keep that soft feel, stop it from cracking and keep its natural sheen.


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