Is Leather Waterproof? How to Waterproof Leather?
Want to carry your favorite leather bag to enjoy those rainy days? Well, leather can never be a good friend with water. As we know leather is a natural material and highly porous and because of that, it is naturally water-resistant but it can never be 100% waterproof. But there are certain ways to protect the leather from water, enhancing its natural water resistance quality and making it almost waterproofed.
Let’s see some DIY methods for waterproofing and making your favourite leather products ready for the monsoon.
Is Leather Waterproof or Water-Resistant?
Yes, leather has some water resistance, but too much water contact will cause it to become wet – due to the material's permeable nature. Before moving to waterproof methods let’s see how water affects real leather. Besides being naturally water-resistant, it is a highly porous material and hence it cannot be completely waterproof.
When leather gets excessively wet, the water mixes with the oil molecules of leather and it dries up, with water it also loses the natural oils. This loss of oil results in losing leathers moisture, suppleness, and flexibility and makes it stiff and hard. Also if the leather stays wet for long enough then it might start to rot.
If you ask "is leather waterproof?" The answer will also depend on the types of leather you are talking about. Each type of leather has different levels of water resistance. For instance, Faux leather is made from a plastic base that is naturally waterproof, hence faux leather is already waterproofed without any further coating required.
Unlike faux leather, full-grain leather and top grain leather are the most durable and premium but they are not waterproof in their raw form. They are water-resistant to some extent but they need to be treated with waterproof coating and spray to make them resist water as much as possible.
What are some methods for Waterproofing Leather?
As we know some types of leather such as synthetic leather and faux leather are waterproof but real leather is naturally water-resistant to some extent but it can never be completely waterproofed but still, there are certain methods in the market for protecting your leather goods from water and making it closest to waterproofing. The two most common methods are waxing and conditioning. Let’s see these methods one by one in easy steps.
It is the most popular and easy method. You can use any leather wax available on the market or you can simply make a wax cream at home by double boiling colourless beeswax mixed with any oil.
Step 1 – Cleaning the leather
For ensuring that the wax sets properly on the surface of the leather, it is very important to start with a clean surface. Wipe the leather item with a clean cloth to remove any dirt or dust particles on the surface. If it is not properly cleaned then the dirt will get trapped in the wax and removing them after the process will be a tough task.
Make sure that the leather is completely dry before starting to apply wax.
Step 2 – Apply the Wax
Take a small amount of wax on a clean cloth and start applying the wax evenly on the leather. Do not pour the wax directly on the leather. Ensure that the wax is at the right temperature to apply it easily on leather, you can heat the wax if needed to make it workable.
Repeat the process as per the requirement to build up a nice protective coating on the leather.
Step 3 – Let it dry
After applying the wax, allow the leather to dry naturally in a cool and well-ventilated area. It would take around an hour or less. Do not tempt to speed up this process by using any artificial means or by exposing it to direct sunlight as it might damage the leather and make it uneven and distorted.
Step 4 – Buff off the excess wax
Once the wax dries up, buff off the excess wax with a clean cloth to get a nice shine and protective layer to repel water, oil, and even dirt.
Waxing is an easy and convenient method to do waterproofing but it is also important to take good care of leather and condition the leather to restore its suppleness and avoid cracking of leather when it gets old. Conditioning not only renews the look of a leather item but also helps to maintain its waterproofness.
Although, conditioning is a very simple process but remember not to overdo it as leather is known and used for its strength and conditioning makes the leather soft. Overdoing can result in losing the leather articles' shape and strength, which we do not want to happen.
Step 1 – Prepare the leather
Unlike waxing, conditioning is done on wet leather. As the water will evaporate from the leather and which will allow the conditioning material to absorb more deeply into the leather. It does not mean you need to sink leather into the water, but only ensure that leather is damp before applying conditioner.
Step 2 – Apply the conditioner
Gently start applying the conditioner on leather by using either a piece of cloth or your fingers. Ensure that it reaches into all edges and folds.
Step 3 – Let it dry
Clean any excess material from the surface and then let it dry naturally in a well-ventilated space and avoid using any artificial means to speed up the drying process.
Waxing and conditioning only work for certain types of leather. If you have something in suede leather, waxing and conditioning will not be a good idea in that case. You can use waterproofing sprays made especially for suede leather and other this types of leather.
What happens to leather when it gets wet?
It is not an ideal situation but leather is only water-resistant to some extent but it can get wet when it comes in contact with excessive water and it is very important to stop the penetration of water into the leather hide as soon as possible to protect it from further damage.
So what exactly happens when leather soaks up water? The oils present in a natural leather bind with the water molecules and when the surface of the leather dries and evaporates, it also draws out the oils with it. This loss of natural oils causes it to lose suppleness and become stiff and brittle. Water can also cause stains on the surface of the leather by moving dyes and leaving spots. Hence, the key to deal with wet leather is speedy action.
What to do if the leather gets wet?
Well to your relief, it’s not a complete loss if you address the situation right away. Let’s see what you need to do to avoid leather from becoming brittle in such a case.
1. Dry the leather
Gently wipe off any water from the leather with a dry cloth and allow it to dry naturally to the point where it is damp and not completely dry. Do not use any artificial heat like a blow dryer to dry it quickly. For leather bags or shoes, stuff them with newspapers to retain their shape.
While the leather is still damp, apply a coat of leather conditioner and allow it to dry for a few hours. The conditioner will replenish the oils lost from the leather with evaporating water and retain the leather's softness and suppleness.
Repeat the process of applying the conditioner if any areas feel dry and brittle. Clean any excess material from the surface. To avoid any future damage from water, consider applying a waterproof coating on your leather products such as waterproofing wax, sprays, etc.
In the end, we would still say leather and water are not good friends and it’s advisable to always take good care of leather and avoid the contact of any leather accessories with water. But as it is not always possible to do so, leather waterproofing is a great idea to avoid extreme damages to your favourite leather goods.
While applying any waterproofing agent, it’s best to do a patch test on less visible areas to make sure there is no unwanted impact on the leather color.
So now that you know how to waterproof leather, give it a try on your leather items and enjoy the rain without worries!