How to clean and condition exotic leather

POV: You just bought an exotic leather item and you realized it needs more care than your teeth.

Some of the most common concerns that come up when someone gets new exotic leather shoes, boots, belts, or even purses, are often about how to properly take care of them. Some question if the type of cleaner or conditioner changes depending on the leather they bought. Another one is if they have to find the best exotic leather conditioner for it to work or not. Or if they need a conditioner specifically for Ostrich leather, or for Crocodile leather, Stingray, Lizard, etc

Also, we get "Should I use wax, paste, cream, or polish, and how often? How do I keep the creases smooth? What should I avoid if I want to keep the leather nice and supple for a long time?  Will the leather dry out if I don't condition it? What should I be buying? Can it get more complicated?" a lot.

It does not get more complicated than that to give you some relief. Exotic leathers have special membranes that can be less durable than regular cow leather, they need proper care for them to last but that does not mean you’re going to take an unnecessary amount of time doing so. 

Today, we will mention specific things to be aware of when caring for leathers like Stingray, Ostrich, Crocodile, and Lizards after going through the step-by-step guide on cleaning and conditioning exotic leather items. 

Leather is skin and skin has pores.

It will absorb dirt, therefore it needs to be cleaned and moisturized to stay supple and shiny. Just as someone's dry skin might need different products than an oily one would, the same happens with exotic leather. 

The two most important things that will make your exotic item last longer are;

  • Exotic Leather Cleaner.
  • Exotic Leather Conditioner. 

Yes, there are cleaners and conditioners designed for exotic leather. Just keep in mind that some of them can change the color of the leather due to the pores on the type of leather you have.  Our suggestion is to avoid cleaners that are alcohol-based. Alcohol dries out the leather and will reduce the quality and time of use by 50%. 

To avoid discoloration of the leather you need to test both the cleaner and conditioner before you apply it to the entire thing. You do so by:

  1. 1.- Using a cotton cloth.
  2. 2.- Dab a small part of the item
  3. 3.- Let it sit for up to an hour or two.
  4. 4.- If you use a change of color on the cloth or the color of the leather changes, do not use the cleaner. 

If the cleaner passes the test and there is no change in colors. Go ahead and rub the leather in circular motions until you clean it completely. After that, use a clean cloth and rub it again to remove the excess.  

We need the leather to be moisturized, not oily. So a gentle leather conditioner that is made specifically for exotic leather will help to protect that fragile skin. You would follow the same steps mentioned above to test it, and the following to condition the item.

  1. 1.- Use a clean cloth.
  2. 2.- Apply a small amount.
  3. 3.- Rub in circular motions until the entire product is shiny.
  4. 4.- Let it dry for at least 1 hour.
  5. 5.- Remove the excess with a dry cloth.
  6. 6.- Store the item in a dry and cool place the majority of the time.

Some extra tips that will help extend the life of your exotic leather item:

  • Clean the item every time you use it and if you stop using them for a long period of time, make sure you do the process mentioned above at least once a month. 
  • If the item is a pair of exotic leather boots or shoes. Shoe trees will keep creases from being formed and will maintain the fresh look for a lot longer. They can be around $20 USD per pair and unless you have 10 exotic pairs, it's worth the investment.
  • If you opt for the use of a shoe cream instead of a liquid conditioner, understand that over the course of time, the leather will absorb and take on the color of the cream. So it is recommended to use a neutral cream or a cream that is very close to the color of the leather. 
  • If you do not have cotton cloth, you can certainly use a cotton t-shirt. 

To care for Shark leather keep in mind that:

You will need to clean the leather on a regular basis to keep the dust off of it. When using a leather cleaner, you can apply thin layers and brush gently. After this is done, take off the excess with a clean cloth and let it dry in a place away from the sun or heat.

  • Do not over moisturize the leather. If this type of leather has too much conditioner or moisturizer it will dry it out. Condition 2 times a year with reptile leather conditioner and maybe more often if the item gets exposed a lot. Remember to always test your products before using them.

If it got grease on it, use cornstarch and let it absorb the grease. Then wipe gently with a slightly wet cloth.

As for the specifics of Stingray leather care with cleaners and conditioners:

Do not use commercial cleaners or any of the standard leather soaps because they can deteriorate the stingray leather very quickly. 

To clean this type of leather you have to be very gentle:

  1. 1.- Wipe the surface with a just ever so slightly moist cotton cloth.  (Avoid rubbing too roughly, since this type of leather is often dyed and painted).
  2. 2.- Use a conditioner that is beeswax-based to get better results but remember to test as we explained before.
  3. 3.- Apply with a soft cloth or even an applicator pad in circular motions.
  4. 4.- Then let it dry for a bit then remove the excess with a dry cloth.

Now, to take better care of your Ostrich leather item:

Clean the leather every other week, avoiding solvents and soaps.

  • First, make sure to wipe any dust and clean any dirt spots with a soft cloth.
  • After this use a damped cloth to keep it clean. (If you cleaned it and there are still spots, consider getting a cleaner for exotic leather or reptile leather).
  • Wipe the cleaner evenly and with a dry cloth take off the excess.
  • Let it dry somewhere cool and dry, avoiding the sun or heat. 

For the conditioning process... after you apply the conditioner, give it around 15 minutes to absorb. Then just wipe gently with a clean cloth and you're good. 

Tips for Crocodile leather care:

Try your best to not get the leather wet because it can dry it out quickly and eventually create cracks, but since accidents and weather happen... if it does get wet, make sure to move fast and dry it out with a cloth then let it sit somewhere dry.

  • Opt for a reptile cleaner and conditioner.
  • In case you deal with grease on a regular basis, you can try either a cleaner with a lanolin base or putting cornstarch to absorb the grease.
  • Do not use paper or brushes to clean the leather because it will end up scratching the skin.
  • To condition, use a small amount of conditioner and let it absorb for at least 15 minutes. Then rub with a clean and dry cloth until it is as shiny as you want it to be.

Last but not least is Lizard:

Make sure to go with a reptile cleaner and conditioner that are not alcohol-based and wax-free. This is important because, once you use a cleaner, the oils and lubricants that help hold the leather together are gone. If they do not receive them again the leather will dry out. 

  • You can clean and condition only two times a year. 

The bottom line...

Yes, the care of leather depends on the type that it is. But we hope you noticed that there are a few things that can be applied to all of them. Such as the use of cotton cloths or cotton t-shirts, the use of products specifically for exotic leather, and storing them in a cool and dark place that does not expose them to the sun, if they are not in use. It is very important to test each and every product you buy before using them on the entire item.