When it comes to wallets, no other material can rival the quality, suppleness, and toughness of leather. The animal skin has evolved over millions of years to protect them from all kinds of harsh environmental agents, including bites from other animals and insects, scratches from bushes and stones, etc. When the same hide is treated in tanneries and the same qualities are preserved, you can expect the resulting leather to last a long time.
So how long can leather wallet last? Leather wallet made from full-grain or top-grain leather can last for as long as 10 years. If it is made from a lower grade genuine leather, it can still last up to 3 years. Depending on how you take care of your wallet, you can increase or decrease its lifetime.
A lot of this depends on how you take care of your leather wallet. Like any other thing in your daily use, your wallet is exposed to many damaging scenarios every day. It gets wet; it is exposed to direct sunlight, it can get stretched if overloaded for a long time, get scratches or cuts from sharp items in your pocket, and so on. To make sure your leather wallet stays with you for a good amount of time, you need to take care of it.
What can damage a leather wallet?
Leather is a very versatile material that can withstand rigorous use over a very long period of time. That's what makes it such a good choice for many items like wallets, bags, belts, shoes, and leatherwear. But like all items, quite a few things can shorten its life.
If you say that water is the Achilles' heel of leather, you won't be wrong. Water can destroy a very good quality leather within a short time if exposed.
But how does water damage the leather? Water dissolves and strips away the natural oils in leather fibers that keeps it soft and supple. Once the oils are out, the leather becomes dry & hard and cracks as a result.
So if you look at it, water does not directly damages the leather. It produces conditions which, if not treated properly, can result in a damaged leather.
Direct sunlight / heat
Direct sunlight & the heat has the same effect as of water. It dries the natural oils in the fiber, and the resulting leather wallet becomes hard and cracks. To best care for your wallet, never expose it to strong sunlight & heat for a long period.
This doesn't mean that you cannot take your wallet out of your pocket in the daylight. That's totally fine. But if you leave your wallet in direct sunlight and forget about it for a few days, you will find it hard and brittle when you return to it.
Unnatural wear & tear
Natural wear & tear is part of any leather item, including your wallet. A full grain wallet will absorb minor scratches and will produce a beautiful patina around usual pressure points. But like everything, leather has its limits, too.
If your wallet goes through unusually rigorous use daily, it will see wear & tear before it can reach its full natural age. The most common abusive use is the habit of sitting from 9 - 5 on your office chair while your wallet is in your hip pocket. You are daily crushing your wallet with the weight of your body, and the shear forces are always trying to rip the stitches apart while you shift your body weight here and there every few minutes.
How to take care of your leather wallet?
To get the best out of your leather wallet, you will have to take great care of it. Like all human possessions, the more a wallet is in use, the more you get attached to it, and losing it can be painful sometimes.
Below are a few expert tips to care for your leather wallet so that it can last for as long as possible.
Avoid water & moisture
As discussed above, water is leather killer. It will dissolve the natural oils and leave your wallet in a dry and brittle state. Make sure you never expose your wallet to unnecessary moisture or water. That includes rainwater as well.
If your wallet gets wet for some reason, NEVER EVER dry it in the sun or through direct heat (blower, electric heater). Wrap it in a soft towel and leave it in a well-ventilated room for at least 12 -16 hours so that the water evaporates slowly.
Once dried, apply a good leather conditioner to restore the lost oils in the leather fibers and make it soft and supple again. The specific instructions for the correct application of the leather conditioner can be found on the packaging.
Prevent cuts and excessive wear & tear
Generally, leather is pretty resistant to wear and tear, but it still has some limits. Any sharp object in your pocket can easily produce cuts and bruises on your wallet. Once induced, these cuts will act as concentration points for stress to further propagate the cuts and eventually rendering your precious wallet useless.
Carry your wallet in a separate pocket. Never carry it in a bag with keys, knives or other sharp objects that can damage the leather surface.
Never overstuff your wallet
Leather can stretch under stress, but if subjected to too much of it, it rarely goes back to its original shape and size. Your wallet is designed to carry a specific volume of cards and cash. If you stuff 3 cards in a pocket designed for 1 card only, you will definitely de-shape your wallet for good. The excessive volume will stretch the fibers, and if you keep the pocket overstuffed for a long time, it might never go back to its original size. That's how you get loose pockets.
To protect your wallet from deformation, make sure to carry the number of cards and cash the designer recommends. If you need to carry a large number of cards, cash, and other items daily, get a wallet accordingly instead of repurposing your current wallet to adjust to your daily need.
Never sit on your wallet
If you have the habit of keeping your wallet in your hip/back pocket and you usually sit without taking out your wallet, it could de-shape your wallet pretty soon. Imagine your entire body crushing on the poor thing from 9 - 5.
Taking your wallet out of your back pocket when you sit on a chair or sofa is the best thing you can do to both your wallet and your spinal alignment. Sitting while one side of your bottom is elevated a few inches more than the other side due to a fat wallet is disastrous for your backbone. It will also cause nerve inflammation as outlined in this article
Summary - How long can leather wallet last?
If you take good care of your leather wallet, it can last up to 10 years or even more. Just make sure the following points:
- Never let your wallet get wet.
- If it gets wet, never dry it in direct sunlight or strong heat.
- Periodically restore the leather oils using good quality conditioner.
- Do not keep your wallet in your back pocket while sitting
- Avoid cuts and bruises that can compromise the leather integrity
If you follow these simple but effective rules, you wallet can be with you for a very long time.