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How to waterproof and extend the lifetime of your leather goods

One of the benefits of real leather is its hardwearing nature. Especially premium full grain leather such as our goatskin products here at Billy Tannery.

If you treat them well, our vegetable tanned goat leather bags and accessories can last you a lifetime, and be passed down through generations.

A question we’re often asked at Billy Tannery is whether leather is waterproof. Ensuring your leather pieces are ready to withstand the great British weather is crucial for keeping your pieces looking their best and giving them longevity. 

Read on to find out how to make your leather waterproof.

Billy Tannery How To Waterproof Leather Goods | Brown Leather

Is leather naturally waterproof or resistant?

Many people wrongly believe that all leather is naturally waterproof.

Leather does have an element of natural water resistance, it is skin after all, but leather is also porous and permeable. This is another way of saying that liquid is able to travel through leather, due to lots of tiny holes, or pores.

So while leather is able to withstand some exposure to water, it’s not fully protected and is susceptible to damage if soaked. It can become stiff and inflexible when it dries, and lose its special supple nature. In worst case scenarios, leather can even begin to rot if it takes too long to dry.

But the good news is that full grain goat leather (like we use here at Billy Tannery) is one of the most durable and water resistant forms of leather. And if you regularly clean and treat your leather goods, you can keep them as waterproof as possible. 

To do this, you need to use a leather wax and conditioner, or a mixture of the two.

Begin the leather waterproofing process with a clean slate

Before you do anything, it’s essential to begin with spotlessly clean leather.

To clean your leather goods, all you need is fresh room temperature water and a clean sponge:

  1. Gently wipe and dab your pieces, taking care not to get them too wet - regularly wring out your sponge and clean a soft cloth to hand.
  2. Allow your leather to dry naturally, away from direct sunlight and heat sources. You could pack your leather bags with clean, plain packing paper to help them keep their shape as they dry.
  3. Now you're ready to wax and condition your leather to make it water resistant.

How to make leather waterproof with a leather care kit

The easiest way to make leather water resistant is to wax and condition your bags, shoes and accessories. You can do so separately, or do both with one product.

One option is beeswax cream. It’s relatively simple to make your own by carefully heating and combining olive oil and beeswax, and then letting it cool and stiffen.

However, we recommend our handy Leather Care Kit which contains everything you need to make your leather waterproof. In the kit you will find: 

  • Collonil Wax Leather premium waterproofing cream (containing beeswax and conditioning oils)
  • a quality cotton cloth - to remove excess wax and polish
  • and a polishing cloth - ideal for polishing any fittings

Collonil Wax Leather | Billy Tannery Leather Waterproofing Kit

How to wax and condition your leather

Simply add a small amount of wax to a clean, lint free cloth and rub it into your leather items in a massaging, circular motion. If using our Leather Care Kit, you can use the sponge head to apply the waterproofing cream directly.

It’s important that whatever product you’re using is pliable, so make sure it’s room temperature or slightly warm.

Be careful not to get any product onto the stitching of your bag or accessory, as it can be tricky to clean it off. And if you’re feeling anxious about the whole process, do a patch test before you apply the wax all over.

Repeat application a few times to build up a waterproof layer. But remember when using conditioning and waxing products such as the Collonil wax cream, less is more. You don’t want your leather bags to become too saturated with the product.

The final touches to waterproofing your leather 

If you are using our Leather Care Kit, use the clean cotton cloth to remove any excess product and give your item a good polish. 

You could also use a horse hair brush on grained leather, such as our vegetable tanned goat leather. (Remember, the more you polish, the shinier your leather will be.) 

Lastly, use the polishing cloth on the copper and brass fittings on your Billy Tannery bags and accessories.

Always let your leather bags and accessories dry naturally at room temperature after treating them with any waterproofing product (never with a hair dryer or artificial heat!). And it goes without saying to always read the instructions carefully. This is how we do it, but different products may be used differently. For example, some waxes should be allowed to dry before you polish.

Prioritise a leather care routine

A regular leather care routine will waterproof your leather, keep it supple and extend its lifetime. And with leather accessories as stunning as ours, you’ll want to keep them forever.

Discover our range of premium goat leather goods

Billy Tannery Premium Leather Goods | Handmade in England


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