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Is Leather Waterproof?

April 20, 2020

Say you've worn your new leather shoes or carried a leather handbag out and, despite the forecast, it begins to rain. How will these items fare in inclement weather? Real leather is porous and because of that, it cannot be 100% waterproof. Instead, think of leather as water-resistant. While your shoes or handbag will fare well while quickly stepping into the rain to get to your car, this isn't the same as submerging leather. Some types of leather are more water-resistant than others, and most leathers can be made more resistant with the right treatments. Your choice of leather will ultimately determine the resistance. Let's break down the different types of leather available to you and the best treatment methods for each.

Types of Leather

Synthetic Leather

Synthetic leather is extremely common, as it's very cheap and light. However, the quality of it is inferior to that of genuine leather. This type of leather is porous, so water and other liquid can cause damage. For greater water resistance, it must be treated with a quality wax or conditioner.

Suede Leather

As you likely know, suede is a soft type of leather made from the underside of the skin. It's rubbed to soften the fibers, producing the velvet-like texture we know and love. However, suede leather is extremely sensitive. If you have suede leather goods, they must constantly be conditioned and protected to preventing cracking, discoloration, and water damage. Leather wax absolutely cannot be used on suede, as it will ruin this delicate leather. Instead, use a spray conditioner that is oil-repellent and water-resistant.

Nubuck Leather

Nubuck leather is a type of full-grain leather buffed down to feel like suede, but more durable. It offers some water resistance, so walking in the rain or snow won't cause irreversible damage. Should you need a higher degree of water protection, nubuck leather will need to be treated with a protectant spray, wax, or conditioner.

Full and Top Grain Leather

Full and Top Grain leathers are the toughest and highest quality of this group, as they're taken from the toughest parts of the hide. They're more water-resistant than the above, but still aren't entirely waterproof. While Top Grain leather isn't truly top tier, Full-Grain is the best leather that you can buy. It patinas beautifully, has superior durability, and overall is the type of leather most want in top-of-the-line leather goods. Wax and conditioner may be used on Full and Top Grain leathers.

Treatments for Water Resistance

Unless you have faux leather, water-resistance treatments will be necessary to protect your genuine leather goods. You may choose to either condition or wax your leather. Popular waxes, likes those from Nikwax, are very easy to apply and will keep your leather protected from moisture. However, wax cannot be used on all types of genuine leather. With its fibers, suede can be destroyed with wax. Below are the step-by-step directions for each of these methods.

Leather Waxing

Applying leather wax is quick, easy, and effective so long as you follow the proper steps. First, clean your leather. Wax must be able to penetrate the material, so it must be free of dirt and dried-on stains. Then, place a small amount of wax onto a dry cloth. Warm it up by rubbing the cloth together and then spread it on the leather in small areas. It must be spread as evenly as possible all around the leather. Once you've done this, place the leather in a cool area to naturally dry. After an hour, buff off any excess wax to get that fantastic leather shine.

Note that waxing is different than conditioning. While wax acts as a protective layer, conditioner is what will keep your leather from cracking. As your leather goods age, they will appear more and more dried out without the use of conditioner. While wax is great for monthly application, don't forget to take time to condition your leather to extend its lifespan.

Leathering Conditioning

Conditioning your leather is easy and can be done with just a few items. First, the leather must be cleaned and dampened for the conditioner to do its job. This is not to say you should submerge it, but rather, spray it with water or take a cloth to dampen it. Then, using your fingertips or a dry cloth, spread the conditioner over the leather, making sure to get it massaged in everywhere you can. Wipe off excess conditioner and place in a cool area to allow the leather to naturally dry. Keep in mind that over conditioning is not a good thing! Too much conditioner will make the leather too soft, which sounds great, but isn't in terms of durability. Don't place it in direct sunlight either, as it could warp the leather's natural color.

While there are many types of leather, we only use artisan leathers. Our goods are crafted from Old Leather, Correspondent, and Old Washed leather with little or no finish. Because of our commitment to authentic leather goods crafted by hand, they do not offer much in the way of water resistance. Depending on your personal preference, you can treat your Bosca leather with a quality wax and conditioner, which will make the material softer, more resistant to water damage, and restore it to its original look. Always be sure to test waxes and conditioners on inconspicuous areas to see how it impacts the color.

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