Leather Restoration at Home

Old-but-loved leather coats, belts, or shoes can often be restored with Neatsfoot Oil as the first step. Neatsfoot has long been used by saddlery shops and horsemen to maintain or restore leather. These days it generally sold in small, overpriced containers or formulated into a disgusting white emulsion that's not suitable for big projects. TreeHuggers can buy the real thing in bulk to extend the lives of great old products like heirloom jackets and belts.Neatsfoot oil is is a natural preservative that repels water and protects against the stiffening of repeated wetting-drying. Soaking dried, scratched, or stiffened leathers in neatsfoot fully restores them to original softness.

Caveats: neatsfoot oil is not for suede and should not be put on textiles as it will stain. It will permanently darken light colored leathers. During and for a period of up to a week after application, neatsfoot imparts a characteristic, not unpleasant odor. As time passes the odor dissipates completely and the tone will again lighten somewhat.

Laquered leathers:if your coat has a shiny surface, it likely has been laquered. On older coats the laquer has often worn off from the elbows and under the cuffs. Neatsfoot oil will work on such a coat if the laquer is a dark color; but repeated applications are needed to penetrate the tiny wrinkles. After the neatsfoot has completely dried, and the odor no longer in evidence, you can (optionally) pay an outside service for re-laquering. For laquered belts, you have to apply from the reverse side and wait for the odor to dissipate before wearging.

Technique Suggestions: Have lots of old newspaper at hand, whether you are working on a belt, shoes, or coat. Rubber gloves are recommended but not critical. Use old paint brushes to apply.

To treat a jacket or coat, put on it hangar and stuff the sleeves and body with lots of newspaper to open up the folds and provide access to where the sun don't shine. Manage it like you were painting. Put paper on the floor and hang the coat up so it is convenient to reach all around. Apply lots of neatsfoot with an old paint brush, top to bottom.

Leave for a day and examine for areas where penetration is incomplete. Re-apply in those areas for up to four times until all leather has been penetrated. A week or two later you'll find the entire coat is very soft and pliable. If needed, you can take it to a cleaners or specialty shop to replace buttons, zippers, cuff linings etc. When done it will be just like new.

Works spectacularly on shoes or boots that have been dried out by road salt.

by: John Laumer

2014 Gift Guide

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