Your leather wallet is one of the most used personal items in your pocket. It carries all your daily essentials. You take it out multiple times a day and throw it around carelessly without a second thought. After months or even years of such abusive use, your wallet starts to pick up stains and dirt and is now calling for your attention. Before we discuss how to clean leather wallets, let's see why and how our wallets get so 'dirty' in the first place.
Why wallets get dirty?
Leather is a soft and porous material. It absorbs moisture and oil from whatever surface it comes into contact with. The primary source of oil is our own skin. When we handle our wallet multiple times a day, oil from our palms is absorbed into the surface's porous grains. This isn't a bad thing at all. In fact, this skin oil is what keeps your leather wallet supple for years and years.
But this oil has one side effect too. It attracts dirt particles. When an oily surface of the wallet is placed on another surface like a tabletop or your nightstand, the oil act as a magnet for the dust particles, this process happens slowly over time, and your wallet keeps collecting dirt. After some time, the surface starts getting dull, lose its natural shine and color.
This is the time to clean your wallet and restore its natural shine.
Can you wash a leather wallet?
When something gets dirty, our first instinct is to wash it with water. While water is a great solvent for dirt and, when mixed with a little soap, can get almost all stains, this isn't a good idea for leather items.
So, can you wash a leather wallet? No. Leather is soft and supple due to the presence of natural oils in its fibers. When you thoroughly wash your leather wallet with water, it might get the stains out but will also dissolve most of the oils and leave your wallet dry and brittle. Dry and brittle leather is prone to cracks.
Some leather surfaces are coated with water repellent coating, making it a little easier to clean with a wet cloth or cotton slub, but it is still not recommended to thoroughly wash the entire wallet with water.
What is the best way to clean a leather wallet?
#1 Empty your wallet for cleaning
Before you clean your wallet, make sure you take out everything, including your cards and cash. If your wallet has a coin pocket, empty it as well. You can also take this opportunity to go through the items in your wallet and throw out any old useless receipts, expired coupons, or membership cards that take up extra space. This will make sure your wallet is clean and slim after you are done with the whole process below.
#2 Identify types of stains
Once you have emptied and prepared your wallet for cleaning, the next step is to identify the types of stains on your wallet. This step seems unnecessary, but it will help manage your expectations. Not all stains can be thoroughly cleaned. So you have to compromise on some while giving your leather wallet a newer, cleaner look.
The most common kind of stains on leather are dirt absorbed in oily fibers. Luckily, this is the easiest kind of stain to remove.
If your wallet is made of full grain or top grain leather [[hyperlink]] and is in use for a long time, chances are that it might have developed patina around the hard edges and corners. Patina is a dark-colored layer that develops on full/top grain leather when the leather ages. It is one of the unique characteristics of leather and is considered a symbol of graceful aging. If you are not familiar with leather aging, you might mistake this dark shade as stain or dirt, but it really isn't. Once you clean the outer layer of dirt deposit, the patina layer will be more prominent and will look really beautiful.
Another kind of stain is permanent paint or ink marks from our pockets. These stains are rare but hard to remove, but if you are a little bit persistent with your cleaning efforts, you can completely remove them.
#3 Clean stains with soap water or rubbing alcohol
If the stains you identified are dirt stains, use soap water. For more stubborn stains like paint or ink stains, you can use a stronger solvent like rubbing alcohol. Alcohol is also a great anti-bacterial agent and will kill most of the viruses and bacteria on the leather surface.
Mix unscented shampoo or soap in slightly warm water in a bowl. Take two microfiber clothes - one for cleaning and one for drying. If you can't find a microfiber cloth, any soft fiber cloth will do just fine.
To clean the wallet surface, start with one side of the wallet. Dip the cleaning cloth in the solution (soap water or rubbing alcohol) and gently rub the surface in uniform circular motion without putting too much pressure on the surface. Slowly move from one edge towards the other until you get all the dirt off the surface and see the cleaner underneath.
To the same process with the other side and with all the internal sides and pockets. Once you get off all the dirt and stains, dry the surface with the second cloth.
#4 Air dry the moist surface
Now this is the important part. NEVER EVER dry your wet wallet (or any leather item for that matter) in direct sunlight or head source. It will literally destroy your leather item.
There are two ways to safely and fully dry a leather wallet and both needs your patience.
- Gently wrap your moist wallet in a clean hand towel. Fold the towel to cover the wallet from all sides fully. Make sure you don't apply any pressure so that the wallet is wrapped in its original shape. Keep this wallet in a well-ventilated area for at least 12 hours for the moisture to slowly evaporate.
- The second method is similar but instead of wrapping the wallet in a towel, cover it with a single piece of tissue paper to avoid dust deposition and place the wallet in a well-ventilated area. The overpassing dry air will take out moisture and leave your wallet dry in around 12 hours.
#5 Restore shine with conditioner
The last step to clean your wallet is to restore its original shine and suppleness with a suitable leather conditioner. You can get a suitable leather cleaner from any online store or order it from Amazon. I will recommend this one.
Apply an even thin layer of the conditioner on all the surfaces you cleaned and leave it for up to 10 minutes. Buff the extra layer with a clean cloth till you see the shiny leather surface.
Viola! you have a brand new wallet.
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