The Best Leather Conditioners
[Buyers Guide 2022]
Quality leather goods and accessories are durable and timeless, but you’ll need to do a little routine maintenance to make sure your leather holds up over time. Leather that’s well cared for is typically free of cracks and doesn’t look or feel dry. Dirt, moisture, and regular wear and tear can all cause the leather to lose its luster. That’s why leather conditioner is so important to have on hand for all of your leather goods.
Leather is an organic material and when you purchase leather goods, whether that be shoes, bags, or wallets, it pays to keep them in tip-top shape as over time the leather can degrade with daily use. This is a topic that’s usually kept quiet by many brands/manufacturers of leather goods as they either a) don’t have enough knowledge on the subject of leather care b) don’t care if your product degrades – they already have your money right?
A good indicator of a good leathercraft brand is one that specifically sells, writes about, or helps potential buyers with the complexity of caring for their leather goods (the likes of Popov or Mr. Lentz are great examples). Today we’re going to discuss leather care in detail and especially touch on our top recommendations for the very best leather conditioners on the market today. Let’s get into it.
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What is Leather Conditioner?
Leather conditioners protect leather goods from the elements by keeping the material supple and moisturized. It’s an important product to have on hand because if left untreated, leather dries out and becomes brittle, making the leather less water-resistant and potentially damaging it beyond repair.
Typically, a leather conditioner is sparingly applied after the leather is brushed clean and treated with a leather cleaner to remove dust, oil, and old leather polish. You can tell if your leather goods need conditioning if they feel rough to the touch. Simply noticing a difference in how you’re leather product looks and feels, compared to when it was brand new, is all the evidence you need.
A good leather conditioner will soak into the leather without leaving visible residue on the surface. It’s important not to use too much conditioner because it can get sticky and attract more dust.
Understanding the Jargon
When it comes to learning about leather, leather terms, and leather care it can be filled with confusing and conflicting Jargon that can affect anyone’s decision-making process when purchasing any product. Below is a quick and friendly overview of some of these terms, what they mean, and why they matter when it comes to caring for your leather goods.
Wax: Wax is an organic compound that is commonly used in leather care and provides external protection and nourishment to leather.
Non-toxic & All-Natural: This refers to the type of ingredients in conditioner contains. Natural conditioners could contain anything from beeswax through to plant oils. On the reverse side
Cordovan: This is a type of leather made and produced from a specific part of a horse. Its most notable due to its softness and flexibility and is usually used in leather goods that require good elasticity including and not limited to gloves. Over the years its gained much popularity and is considered one of the more premium types of leather with its average price reflecting this.
How to Clean a Leather Wallet
Choosing the right type of leather conditioner is only half the battle when it comes to actually caring for your leather goods. The other half is making sure you actually apply and create the right environment to ensure the cleaning process works. It can actually be fairly easy to make mistakes and cause more damage than harm to your leather goods so always take your time and make sure you don’t rush the cleaning process.
Below is a quick and simple overview of the process. For more detail visit our in-depth article on how to clean a leather wallet here.
- Remove any dust or dirt from the shoe with a brush.
- Spread the cream on the leather and massage gently using small circular motions.
- Let the leather soak up the cream for 3 – 5 minutes.
- Polish with a soft cotton cloth (but be gentle).
Chicago-based Horween Leathers is the oldest continuously running tannery in the U.S. and has been producing its Venetian Cream since 1907. It contains a mixture of oils, gentle cleaners, waxes, as well as petroleum distillates, and turpentine. Venetian Cream is an ideal product for beginners since the light formula is easy to control while applying it. Be careful; a little bit of product will go a long way.
Venetian Cream is famous for being the conditioner of choice by famed tannery Horween. Horween is probably one of the most famous tanneries in the world with a long history of tanning some of the most high-quality leathers in the world. Due to this, its popularity is amongst one of the highest and it can be difficult at times to find a place that isn’t sold out.
Use Venetian Cream on all types of leather, including Essex, Chromexcel, and Shell Cordovan, and most commonly used on shoes. The price of Venetian Leather cream is also one of the most affordable for the amount you get coming in at $25.00 for 8oz (that works out at $3.12 per ounce). For more information on the Venetian Cream check them out using the link below.
Blackrock Leather ‘N Rich
Blackrock Leather ’N Rich conditioner was originally created to care for cowboy boots. Since then, it’s become a go-to leather conditioner for all kinds of leather goods. The carnauba wax-based formula can revive and protect leather goods leaving them with a subtle glow. The colorless formula is suitable for any leather tone and can be used on finished and exotic leathers of any color.
Caranbu Wax is the wax produced from the leaves of the carnauba palm tree. Native to Brizal its popularity in use comes from it being one of the best conditioners for producing a glossy finish and commonly combined with other ingredients, like beeswax, for an all-around effective leather care product.
Blackrock Leather ‘N Rich has a fantastic reputation and is the care product of choice by esteemed leather brand Loyal Stricklin who produce a wide range of high handmade leather goods. Not only this, but Blackrock also pledge 1% of all sales to nature preservation groups. Coming in at a price tag of $10.00 for 4 oz (working out at the very affordable price of $2.50 per ounce) the Blackrock Leather ‘N Rich is a great affordable choice for those who love a shine. For more information on the Blackrock Leather ‘N Rich conditioner check them out using the link below.
Smith’s Leather Balm
Based in Maine, Smith’s All Natural is a small business specializing in simple, natural household products. Smith’s Leather Balm only contains three ingredients: Organic cocoa butter, organic beeswax, and 100% pure sweet almond oil. The non-toxic formula and short ingredient list make it one of the more environmentally friendly leather conditioning products available.
Smith’s boasting its conditioners use for any leather product whether it be furniture, bags, shoes, or boots. The neutral color makes it ideal for smooth leather and won’t affect the item’s natural color when used simply retaining and helping bring out and refresh your leather goods.
As a small family business based in Maine, Smith’s Leather Balm actually is one of the most expensive conditioners on this list coming in at a price of $20.00 for 4 oz (or $5.00 per ounce). That being said its huge popularity, ability to work with most leathers and sustainable aspects make it a great choice and a top pick on this list. For more information on Smith’s Leather Balm check their official website out using the link below.
Saphir Creme Cordovan
Made specifically for Cordovan leather shoes, the Saphir Médaille d’Or Cordovan Cream Shoe Polish is among one of the finest leather conditioners available. The leather conditioner contains beeswax, solvents, highly concentrated pigments, and neatsfoot oil. Unlike many leather conditioning products, Saphir Médaille d’Or Cordovan Cream Shoe Polish comes in a range of shades to match your needs including Black, Neutral, Dark Brown, Fawn, and Cordovan shades.
The Saphir Médaille d’Or Cordovan Cream Shoe Polish is specially designed to treat Cordovan leather shoes. Saphir Médaille d’Or uses 100% recyclable packaging and its leather accessories are made of natural materials such as wood, leather, and horsehair. The France-based company sources its raw materials as close to its factory as possible and transports goods by sea, rail, or road rather than aircraft.
At a price tag of $24.45 for 75 ml the Saphir Creme isn’t the cheapest option available but is probably one of the most commended creams and famously used by many high-profile leather brands making it worth the cost in our opinion. For more information on the Saphir Creme Cordovan Leather Conditioner check them out using the link below.
Popov Leather Balm
Each small batch of Popov Leather Balm is handmade in Popov Leather’s small workshop located in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. Popov is a brand I’ve been a fan of for quite some time now having reviewed many of their leather wallets in the past (full review can be found here).
The Leather Balm itself is a semi-thick balm that moisturizes and waterproofs leather goods so they’re protected from the outdoor elements. Popov Leather Balm contains triple filtered beeswax, seed oil formula, and naturally occurring lipid making it one of the more sustainable and environmentally friendly options on this list.
It’s an ideal leather conditioner for Vegetable Tan leather, Chromexcel, and leather that’s often exposed to the elements. Popov Leather recommends treating any new leather goods with the balm to waterproof the material and prevent water stains.
Popov is actually one of the most expensive leather care products on this list coming in at $8.00 for one ounce. That being said, if you yourself have any leather products from Popov it might be worth sticking to the recommended conditioner from the same company themselves. For more information on Popov’s Leather Balm check out their official website using the link below.
Leather Honey was invented in the 1960s as a solvent-free leather conditioner that’s odorless, water-repellent, and non-toxic. The natural ingredients in the formula offer up to six months of protection for leather. The wax-free formula soaks into the leather without leaving residue on the surface. Leather honey claims to be the No.1 selling leather care product in the USA and has thousands of 4 to 5-star reviews across the web.
Leather Honey can be used on all types of leather aside from suede. Use it to revive leather furniture, wallets, handbags, boots, jackets, and car interiors. It really is a versatile conditioner and can be used in a wide variety of applications.
Leather Honey is also great as it can be purchased as part of a kit that provides all the items you need to get started including both Leather Honey’s conditioners and cleaners, plus application lint-free cloths. It starts at a price tag of $19.99 for 8 oz of its classic leather conditioner (coming in at $2.50 per ounce) with the kits setting you back $45.99. Leather Honey is also one of the only conditioners on this list available through Amazon meaning you can capitalize on prime and next-day delivery. For more information on Leather Honey and its range of products check them out using the link below.
Chamberlain’s Liniment No.1
Chamberlain’s Liniment No. 1 is a leather conditioner created out of necessity when a family of leather makers needed a product that would preserve and protect their leather goods. They got together and came up with their own water-based leather conditioner that contains light emulsion oils, nutrients and, “a few mystical properties,” according to the company.
Since then, Chamberlain’s Leather Milk has shared the conditioner with the public. It’s ideal to use on leather bags, shoes, boots, luggage, purses, saddles, and leather apparel. Chamberlain’s Liniment No.1 is best suited for natural leather, lighter hues, and unfinished leather products.
The company says Chamberlain’s Liniment No.1 is made from an environmentally friendly recipe with all-natural ingredients, again, which is great for susitnablity and environmental causes creating a non-toxic biproduct.
Chanblerian’s is also one of the most affordable conditioners on this list coming in at a price tag of $16.95 for 6 oz ($2.80 per ounce) or $27.95 for 12 oz ($2.30 per ounce). It really is a fantastic conditioner and considering the price, esteemed brand, and quality it’s my personal choice of leather care product on this list. For more information on Chamberlian’s Liniment conditioner check them out using the link below.
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