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What is the best leather cleaner and conditioner?

What is the best leather cleaner and conditioner?

As you go through life, you’ll collect various leather articles in the form of furniture, apparel, tools and even automobile interiors that will, from time to time, need to be cleaned and conditioned.  There are a lot of leather cleaners and leather conditioners on the market and they all have different ingredients, make different claims and perform differently on different types of leather.  This article intends to clear this up for you and make some solid recommendations for the best leather cleaner and conditioner for whatever it is you are trying to protect.   The key question asked above, what is the best, is best answered by that all-to-familiar response of “it depends”.  What works on your leather jacket may not work well on your leather boots or your leather interior.  It really does depend on the leather itself, what it is being used for, and what kind of presentation do you want from it.  Smooth?  Scarred? Shiny?  Again, it depends on these things and the first thing is to know what kind of leather you are working with.

Know your leather

We dive into this in detail here – it’s a good read and will give you a lot of background on the various types of leather you will encounter.  We believe that knowing your leather is the first step in understanding the best way to clean, condition and care for it.  Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to leather care can result in expensive and practically unresolvable problems.  Use the wrong kind of cleaner on Nubuck, for example…or Suede…and you may well create more of a problem than you are solving.  So, know your leather before you start and decided up front that, most likely, you will need a few different approaches to cleaning your leather based on a number of variables such as the type of leather and how it is used.

Brush clean your leather first

In almost all cases, using a brush before actually cleaning your leather is a good idea.  This disrupts and removes the dirt and grime that can be embedded into the pore of the leather (it is skin, after all) that is common if not cleaned in awhile.  For items that have prolonged neglect, a good brushing is even more important.  Choosing the correct brush is important – you want to ensure you are using a leather cleaning brush that is targeted for the type of leather you are working with.

The best leather cleaner and conditioner

Ok, so you know what type of leather you are working with, you’ve given some consideration as to how you want your leather to work, you’ve taken a brush to it to remove the surface dirt and grime so now you’re ready for some deeper cleaning and conditioning…maybe a little water proofing as well.  What works well?

The 3 best leather cleaners

  • Leather Honey
    • Leather Honey products top the list for both leather cleaners and leather conditioners.  You’ll see (below) mention of the Leather Honey conditioner which is often marketed as a cleaner and conditioner.  However, we strongly suggest you use the actual Leather Honey Cleaner separately from the conditioner for a truer and deeper clean.
  • TriNova Leather Cleaner
    • TriNova Leather Cleaner works not only on leather but also vinyl and other leather like surfaces.   This spray on, wipe off cleaner is easy to use and removes dirt, grime, stain without using harsh chemicals.  Many customers report that TriNova leather cleaner is quite good at removing stains, which is not an easy task on leather.
  • Guardsman
    • Guardsman Clean and Renew works well on many different types of leather, including analine and semi-aniline.  Offering top of the line leather care products since 1915, Guardsman’s long history and excellent products create a compelling offering.
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Leather Honey Leather Cleaner - Amazon metrics
TriNova Leather Cleaner
Guardsman Leather Cleaner

The 3 best leather conditioners

  • Leather Honey
    • Leather Honey is widely acclaimed as one of the best leather conditioners you can buy.  It’s often marketed (incorrectly in my opinion) as a combination cleaner and conditioner.  In truth, it works great as a conditioner but not great as a cleaner.  You’ll do well to clean the leather thoroughly before using Leather Honey.  A key point about Leather Honey is that it will darken lighter colored leather.  This has been a cause of much disdain from users who either didn’t read the full instructions or didn’t test it on a small area.  If you are using Leather Honey on light colored leather, there is a very good chance it will darken the leather.  In many cases, this is fine…in others, not so much.  The darker the leather you are working with, the less this darkening will be obvious.  This also means that for lighter leather, you should plan on using Leather Honey on the entire item.   And, it may take more than one coat.
    • Quick points
      • Should be used by leather enthusiasts that don’t mind putting in the extra effort.  This is not “spray on, wipe off” conditioning.  There will be some effort involved.
      • Multiple coats should be considered until the conditioner is fully soaked into the leather. When the leather stops soaking it in, then you can consider it done.
    •  Pro
      • Excellent conditioning properties, deep penetration of the leather pores for long term, and therefore less often conditioning.
      • A good application will last at least six months
      • Does a great job of removing, blurring, or reducing the visibility of scuff marks and other blemishes.  Again, multiple applications or coats may be required to see the best result.  Also, remember, you can’t “fix” broken leather…if the leather is cut or scuffed deeply, we can make it less obvious but no product and actually fix it.
    • Con
      • Good chance lighter colored leather will be darkened
      • Leaves a tacky residue on non-leather items.  Shoe soles, for example, need to be thoroughly wiped off.
      • May not be the best choice for automobile interiors due to the lengthy soak in process and possible tacky feel (short term) after application
  • TriNova Leather Conditioner and Restorer
    • TriNova makes a number of products targeted at caring for leather – they are among the very best products you can buy.  You’ll see their leather cleaner is in our top 3 above as well as their waterproofing in our top 3 below.  You cannot go wrong when choosing a TriNova product.  TriNova leather conditioner is a more of a wipe on, wipe off application that can be done fairly quickly and without much mess.  If you are the type of person that doesn’t want to spend a lot of time conditioning leather, but don’t mind doing it more often, then this is a great choice for you.  You may need to reapply this conditioner on a monthly basis to maintain the protective properties.
    • Quick Points
    • Pros
      • Not as likely to darken the leather – but of course, you’ll want to test it out on a small area first.
      • Does a very good job of blending or  reducing the visibility of scratches or scuffs.  Remember our caveat, you cannot “fix” broken leather, you can only make it less noticeable.
      • Does a great job of recovering those neglected leather items you have, from old chairs to old leather jackets.  A few applications of this and you can stop feeling guilty for neglecting them for so long and you can, once again, start enjoying them.
    • Cons
      • Will require fairly regular reapplication.  A good application will last about a month after which you will see that the leather requires another treatment.  I list this as a “con” only because of the extra work required but if you, like me, love this sort of process…caring for your leather, this may well be a “pro” instead.
  • Bick 4 Leather Conditioner
    • Bick 4 products are long time favorite among leather enthusiasts.  With a solid history of great products, there is almost a kind of cult following of Bick 4 products, and one that is well deserved.  These products are absolutely top notch…definitely among the very best around.  The Bick 4 Leather Conditioner is an excellent choice for bringing old leather back to life as well as maintaining new leather to ensure longevity.  This conditioner is good for use on all types of leather articles to include jackets, boots, handbags, automobile interiors, hats, etc.
    • Quick Points
      • As with the other recommendations, depending on the state of the leather you are treating, multiple applications may be needed.  The usual advice of applying coats until the leather stops soaking it in applies.
    • Pros
      • Will not darken leather
      • Wax free – will not block the leather pores
      • Easy to apply
    • Cons
      • There is a strong smell associated with it probably…probably tallow…that may persist for a day or so depending on how much you use.  The smell will go away.  Some folks don’t like the smell while others feel the smell is normal and brings back the natural smell of the leather.
      • May need to reapply more often than the other products, depending on the type of leather you are working with.

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Leather Honey Leather Conditioner
TriNova Leather Conditioner
Bick4 Leather Conditioner


The 3 best leather waterproofing

Water proofing your leather goods is essential if they will be exposed to the elements.  Leather that is repeatedly subjected to rain will not last as long and be subject to premature cracking and degradation.  Keep in mind that “waterproofing” usually also protects from things like coffee, perspiration, etc…so it’s not just water.  Leather boots are often subjected to extreme work conditions including mud and water and whatever other muck the user may be walking through or working in.  Protecting those boots from absorbing that muck is critical.

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SofSole Mink Oil Leather Waterproofing
Sno Seal Leather Waterproofing
Apple Brand Garde Leather Waterproofing

The top 3 all-in-one best leather cleaner and conditioner (and waterproofing)

We are definitely partial to putting in time and effort to care for your leather.  However, we understand everybody is different and some folks want a quicker, more expedient method of caring for their leather.  For this need, there a number of reputable products to choose from.  Again, we prefer to do this separately but any of the below products will still do a fantastic job on your leathers.

  • KevianClean Leather Cleaner and Conditioner
    • Mainly targeted at automotive interiors, KevianClean does a great job of cleaning and conditioning without leaving a sticky or oily residue.  Of particular note, customers report success with removing “blue jean dye transfer”.
  • Chamberlain’s Leather Milk
    • Chamberlain’s Leather Milk is specially designed to revive old, dried out, cracked leather. Easy to apply, there is no sticky or oily look to the leather.
  • Chemical Guys Sprayable Leather Cleaner and Conditioner
    • Enriched with Vitamin E and Aloe, Chemical Guy’s provide a fantastic product to not only clean and condition your leather, but also provide solid waterproofing as well.

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KevianClean Leather Cleaner and Conditioner
Chamberlain's Leather Milk Leather Cleaner and Conditioner
Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner and Conditioner

Leather Care products – summary

I hope you found value in this review.  We have tried to present only the best products that we ourselves have tried and have seen the results. We appreciate you taking the time to read through this.