A leather wallet of good quality is not only an accessory to proudly show off but also a style statement. As it is said leather gets better with time and develops character each time you use it.
Leather is everyone’s absolute favorite because of its durability and aesthetics. Leather comes in different types and colors and hence is difficult to clean when it gets smelly. Since it is a porous natural material, it can absorb dirt, oils and can house a number of bacteria over time producing foul smells.
Throwing the wallet in a washing machine is a big no specially if it is made from an expensive full grain leather, and asking a professional to clean it can be overly expensive. That's why removing a bad smell from a wallet that has been around for some time is not an easy job.
So, how to remove smell from leather wallet? To remove smell from your leather wallet, you can clean the surface with a vinegar-water solution. You can also use baking soda or coffee beans to absorb the bad odor. Wrapping your wallet in a newspaper can also absorb the smell. Alternatively, you can use commercial leather cleaning and conditioning products.
I am going to share with you some simple remedies to remove smell from your wallet using common household items. You can apply any of these when your wallet feels smelly. In general, its a good idea to clean and organize your wallet every once in a while.
Why does leather wallet smell?
Your leather wallet can develop smell from multiple reasons. Here are a few common reasons.
Oil in the tanning process
One reason why it feels like leather is smelling like a fish is due to the oil used in the tanning process.
Tanning is the conversion of raw animal skin to leather. During the tanning process, some manufacturers use cheaper fish oils which as a result produce a foul fish-like smell upon reaction with air.
If you are a regular smoker and keep your wallet and pack in the same pocket often, your leather wallet can absorb the smell of tobacco over time.
Cigarette smoke is usually considered to be the most difficult to get rid of because smoke can penetrate the product deeply and mere cleaning of the surface is not helpful.
Even if you do not have any allergies, cigarette smoke from a wallet is not welcoming and can pretty much ruin your precious leather wallet. Since you are immune to the smell, you might not even consider it bad but for a non-smoker, the smell can be very disturbing.
During hot weather, leather can absorb sweat from your palm, and over time it penetrates deeply into the leather surface. After some time, salts start building up and if not cleaned properly and timely. This damp condition is also an ideal situation for bacteria to grow.
The smell can vary based on the type of bacteria growing inside your wallet fibers and what they are feeding on.
Another reason why your wallet smells is because of the glue being used for making the product. Glue is used to assemble these products before stitching them together and contains petroleum byproducts with a very strong oily smell.
Although the smell of the glue will not stay for a long time, but some smells tend to stay even after a prolonged use.
Smell due to bacteria
In some cases when the leather has aged and lived a long lifespan, leather products mostly those which are not being properly cared for and maintained, develop a foul smell mainly due to bacteria and other microorganisms.
Since leather is made from raw animal skin, it needs proper care because otherwise it will start deteriorating and will produce several kinds of defects such as foul smell, mold, mildew, and discoloration.
How to Remove Smell from Leather Wallet?
Following are some ways you can remove smell from your leather wallet by using simple and inexpensive household materials.
Vinegar possesses strong acidic properties, therefore, is very effective for removing smell-producing agents from materials and also kills bacteria.
Take equal volume of vinegar and water and mix them to make a solution. With the help of microfiber cloth soaked in this solution, gently rub your leather wallet surface.
Use the fine circular motion of your hands so that the smallest dust particles also get lifted with the microfibers. Repeat this process a couple of times by re-soaking the cloth in the solution and rubbing the wallet.
Don’t worry about the pungent vinegar smell, it will fade out with cleaning the wallet with water and soap solution. Apart from the smell, this will also remove any dirt from the surface. If you wallet is dirty, you can further read our guide on how to clean leather wallet.
Precaution: If your wallet is surface colored, do a sample test to see if the color is dissolved. If yes, do not use vinegar solution. Also make sure you take out all your cards, cash and other sensitive items like wallet size photos out of your wallet before applying the vinegar solution to avoid damage.
#2 Baking soda
This material is a great deodorizer due to its mildly basic properties. Baking soda works by neutralizing the acidic and alkaline odor-producing particles and bring them into an odorless state.
Cover the leather wallet with a thin layer of baking soda and place it in a sealed plastic bag, fabric bag, or pillow cover for 24 hours. After 24 hours, take out your wallet, remove the backing soda and brush off any remaining surface grains with a soft brush (makeup brush is idea).
The best part about using baking soda is that it is completely harmless for all kind of leather and will not damage it.
Newspaper is made of loose fibers which do not scratch the product and thus can be used for cleaning delicate surfaces.
Due to their structure and printing inks, newspapers possess great absorption properties. If you want to remove odor from your leather wallet, secure it tightly in double layers of newspapers and keep it on your shelf.
Alternatively, you can use packing paper as well. Keep the wrapped wallet aside for 24 to 36 hours. The porous structure of the paper fibers will entrap the odorous molecules making your wallet perfectly smell-free.
#4 Coffee grains
Most of us have only thought of coffee as a refreshing hot drink but coffee beans have deodorizing properties as well especially for cigarette smoke smell.
For removing smoke odor from your leather wallet, fill an old sock or a small fabric bag with freshly ground dry coffee beans or you can use instant coffee granules too. Place your wallet inside the bag and tie the knot. Keep it aside to a minimum of seven days.
You will notice a clear difference in the smoke odor. If the smell is still there, leave it for another few days.
Professional products and services
#1 Leather cleaners
There is a large range of commercial leather cleaning chemicals available out there. Most of them comprise three basic ingredients sodium hydroxide, ammonium chloride, and ethylbenzene.
These are highly effective in removing smell while preserving the color and shine of the leather. However, before buying one for deodorizing your leather wallet check for the items on which it is effective.
#2 Leather conditioners
There is a wide range of conditioning chemicals available which you can use for removing odor and refurbishing your old leather wallet. A good conditional will not only remove the leather smell but will also help your leather wallet last long.
- Natural leather conditioners: Purely extracted linseed oil is a great natural leather shiner that enhances the durability of leather accessories. Take a small amount of this oil on a soft piece of sponge and rub it over the smelly wallet. The oil will absorb foul smell producing molecules while giving strength and shine to the product.
- Synthetic leather conditioners: You can get these from any local shop containing household cleaning supplies. These are composed of strong alkalis and sodium salts as well synthetic waxes. They come usually in the form of a liquid that can be sprayed over the accessory which one wants to refurbish. The chemical easily gets between the pores of leather fibers and remove odorous molecule while bringing out the leather sheen.
#3 Get professional help
If the odor persists in your leather wallet despite trying home remedies and commercial products, you need to call for professional help. You can take your leather accessory to professional cleaning centers, and they would deodorize and clean your wallet for a small cost.
This option will be comparatively expensive, so I suggest you reconsider if your wallet is valuable enough to spend this much of its cleaning and refurbishment.
From where can I get commercial leather odor removing chemicals?
You can find a majority of these products from hardware stores, commercial stores, cobbler shops, or any retailer which are providing a wide range of leather products. You can also order one from Amazon or Walmart.
Do leather cleaners serve as conditioners as well?
Using conditioners is an altogether separate solution. There are many cleaners available commercially that guarantee that not only odor will be removed but will also provide conditioning. However, mostly the best results are obtained by using a specialist cleaner for the removal of odors and then use leather cream separately for conditioning.
Read more: What is a front pocket wallet?