Leather Lingerie Care 101
Leather apparel, and especially leather lingerie, is a bold option that many people would love to wear. Too often, however, the prospect of maintaining these garments can seem daunting, thus causing some to shy away from making the purchase. The price of quality leather lingerie makes it seem like too big a risk to mess up its care and maintenance. But if you consider that leather is merely a type of skin, requiring the same general care and maintenance as your facial skin, you will understand that it's actually not that complicated to take care of it. With a little diligence, there is no reason that your leather delicates can't retain their suppleness, pliability, and resilience indefinitely.
If you've taken the plunge and made an investment in the leather lingerie you've been craving, taking care of it properly is vital if you want it to look and feel its best. There is no reason that your leather delicates can't enjoy a long and beautiful life, as long as you care for them the way you should. Always remember to follow the manufacturer's instructions when treating or cleaning these items.
Treating the Leather
If you've ever owned a pair of leather shoes or a leather pocketbook - and what woman hasn't? - you know the importance of treating the leather prior to use. Protection is probably the single most important step in keeping your leather garments in like-new condition.
You should always apply leather conditioners with a soft cloth; these products help with the cleaning process and repel moisture. Treating the leather properly will also guard against drying and cracking.
Here are some things to look for when choosing a product for treating your lingerie:
Do not choose products that contain mineral oil or petroleum/petrolatum.
These ingredients will dry out the leather over time, causing it to crack and drastically shortening its life.
Look for products that soak into and penetrate the leather's surface.
As you would with facial cleansing products, avoid any conditioner that leaves a thick, greasy film or residue; these products will damage the leather and cause it to break down more quickly.
Condition your leather lingerie prior to first use, then every few months.
It is not necessary to treat them more frequently as they won't likely be exposed to excess heat or sun. However, if moisture is an issue due to sweating, it is advisable to treat the garments more often.
If your leather gets damp, you can help it regain its flexibility by applying leather conditioner just before it dries out completely. There are several good conditioners available in stores and online.
Polishing the Leather
Once you've properly treated your leather garment, it's time to polish it to achieve that clean, glossy finish that makes this lingerie so appealing.
Use a fine polishing agent. Use care when applying; some of these products contain dyes or other coloring agents that could stain the leather.
Wax- and silicone-based products have a tendency to clog leather's pores, which causes permanent damage. As with any product, test polish on a small, less visible area before applying to the rest of the garment. Animal fats, including mink oil, tend to darken the leather, so try to avoid them unless that's the result you want.
When you've finished applying the polishing agent, use a soft cloth to buff.
Now that you've conditioned and polished your new leather lingerie, it's time to wear it! Of course, this means that, eventually, you're going to have to clean it. Continuous exposure to moisture like rain, sweat, urine, and alcohol will cause stiffness. While you can always choose to use a dry cleaner that offers leather cleaning services, you can launder your leather lingerie at home.
The most common method of at-home cleaning for leather garments is a leather cleaner applied with a damp cloth. There is a wide variety of leather cleaners available in stores and online, one of which will most likely fit your needs and budget. These cleaners remove surface dirt and dust; be careful to exactly follow the manufacturer's instructions when using these products. Before you apply it to the whole garment, test the product on a small area that is less noticeable. If there is no color distortion, you can proceed.
After you've treated the leather to remove any stains, follow these steps:
1) Hand wash in warm soapy water with a gentle cleanser such as baby shampoo, unscented soap, or soap flakes. Avoid cleaning products that leave any residue; this can make the leather vulnerable to bacteria, causing the leather to tarnish and the stitching to degrade.
2) Produce a lather in the area you want to clean by rubbing with a soft cloth. Remove extra lather with a clean cloth.
3) Rinse thoroughly, either by running through warm water or wiping several times with a clean damp cloth. Make sure all traces of soap are removed.
4) Remove any excess cleaner around the stitching with a damp cloth. You can also use a small brush for this purpose.
5) Gently squeeze excess water from the garment and pat dry with a clean towel to remove excess moisture. Twisting or wringing the garment will distort its shape, as well as cause wrinkles and creases, so be very gentle when squeezing the wet garment.
6) Be sure to that all metal clasps and fittings are completely dry to avoid rust.
7) Shape and dry flat on an absorbent bath towel in a warm place, out of direct sunlight or other heat sources (like an oven, fireplace, or heater). Direct sunlight and heat will damage the leather.
While you can wash leather in a washing machine on the gentlest cycle (such as for wool), it isn't advisable. Hand washing is always your best choice.
The rings, buckles, and other metal fittings on your leather lingerie are usually nickel plated steel (except chain, which is made of steel plated with chrome plated steel, and fittings that are coated with brass). When not kept dry, these fittings will rust. Whenever you use leather conditioner on your garment, remember to apply the conditioner to the fittings to increase their longevity. Should surface rust develop, you can remove it using a chrome cleaner, WD40 (for nickel), or a commercial brass cleaner.
Many manufacturers have stopped using nickel plating, and these are the ones you should seek out. In addition to the rusting issue, a lot of people have a nickel allergy or sensitivity. This can cause painful irritation when the fittings or clasps come in contact with your skin - not something you want with lingerie.
Removing Stains and Smells
All lingerie is apt to become stained or develop an odor, and leather lingerie is no exception. You can deal with some of the more common culprits as follows:
If your leather is stiff and/or itchy, it's probable that the garment has absorbed sweat. To soften the leather and relieve irritation, wash in warm water with baby shampoo or fabric softener.
Most odors can be removed by mixing a teaspoon of baking soda in a quart of warm water and allowing the solution to soak into the garment.
While oil-based products can prove a challenge, it's not impossible to remove them. Mix baby shampoo with three tablespoons of water and slowly work the solution into the spots, then rinse thoroughly. You can also lift oil or grease by grinding up regular blackboard chalk, sprinkling it on the spot, and leaving it to dry for one24 hours.
To remove dried wax, use blotting paper or a brown paper bag (like a grocery bag). Place the paper over the wax, then run a cool or moderately warm iron over it. Repeat with clean paper until no more wax is being visibly absorbed.
The uric acid in urine is extremely damaging to leather, and it's likely to get on your lingerie at least once. If your leather has had contact with urine, wash it out immediately in warm soapy water (again, baby shampoo). Leaving urine on your leather garment overnight will irreparably damage the leather.
If blood gets on a leather garment and is allowed to dry, the leather will develop an unpleasant odor and become stiff. Hand wash blood-stained leather lingerie immediately.
In the event that mold or mildew develops or builds up, you can remove it by dipping a clean, soft cloth in a solution made of one cup rubbing alcohol and one cup water and wiping down the affected area. If the mold or mildew is especially persistent, you can apply a mixture of germicidal soap and water. Be sure to completely remove any excess soap with a clean cloth, then allow to air dry.
Storage and Maintenance
The following practices will help to prolong the life of your leather lingerie and keep it in as-new condition as possible:
If the garment gets wet, dry flat at room temperature, away from direct heat or sunlight.
Should you stain the garment, blot liquid stains gently using a clean, soft cloth.
Regularly apply a water repellant product to your garment.
Do not store leather lingerie in hot or damp areas; these garments need to be stored in a cool, dry place, ideally with temperature control. Hang on a wide padded hanger to maintain shape.
While it is not advisable to cover your leather while storing it, if you must cover it, use a breathable cloth 100% cotton sheets are ideal for this purpose. Or use a paper bag which will absorb any moisture or humidity in the air. Do not cover with plastic! Plastic covering will dry out the leather.
Don't expose the garment to direct heat or sunlight for any length of time.
Get yourself a Nubuck cloth. These are great tools for cleaning leather and maintaining its original look.
For the purpose of general hygiene, you can kill germs by soaking leather lingerie in a solution made by mixing one measured teaspoon of bleach with one gallon of water. Soak for no more than 30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly and hand wash immediately in warm water and baby shampoo. Since bleach can cause permanent damage to leather, this should be done rarely. Better to store the garment in a cool, dry area to prevent the need for treating it in the first place.
Scuffs and scratch marks are a common hazard with any leather garment. You can easily disguise these marks by applying some shoe polish or leather dye (or a marker pen in a pinch) in the same color (or as close as possible). Always test on the inside of the hem to make sure the shade isn't too light or too dark.
If the stitching breaks, it is best to repair it with an industrial-grade sewing machine. If you don't have one (and most people don't), you can easily find a dry cleaner that offers leather cleaning and repair. This is probably a safer alternative unless you're skilled in the use of this type of machine since it is very easy to rip the leather in the process, creating what might be an irreparable tear.
Following these guidelines will reward you with a luxurious garment - or several garments - that will look and feel beautiful for a lifetime. It is well worth the time and a little extra effort when the end result is so phenomenal.