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Conditioning Leather

Johnny deadlifts

Familiar Face
Messages
97
Hi folks, I recently was chatting with our local leather shop owners about conditioning dry, older leather jackets. I've always used Picard's with good results but they suggested UV3 Leather Cleaner and Conditioner. The couple have been in the leather repair and restoration business in this area for over 30 years so I gave it a go. It did make a difference but I've noticed some surface cracking that I don't think was there previously. It started a few weeks after using the product, but I'm not sure if it's from the conditioner or that I've barely taken the jacket off for like a month. Anyone have any experience with this product? Thanks in advance.
 

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JurassicUtility

One of the Regulars
Messages
127
No experiences with the product, but I did locate the following SDS datasheet. Listed hazardous ingredients are glutaraldehyde and 2-Butoxyethanol. Glutaraldehyde is a disinfectant, and 2-Butoxyethanol is a common solvent in cleaning products. I think this is unlikely to be the only active ingredients in this product, but neither of those compounds are things that I would expect to add "fat liquoring" or help moisturize the leather. TBH, I think It's possible the leather was already compromised in some way, and wetting it with the product just made the preexisting damage more apparent. Bick 4 is usually my go-to leather conditioner when I'm in doubt about vintage leather - it's a very light conditioner, but you can do multiple applications as needed, and kind of evaluate how well it is working without overdoing things.
 

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Johnny deadlifts

Familiar Face
Messages
97
No experiences with the product, but I did locate the following SDS datasheet. Listed hazardous ingredients are glutaraldehyde and 2-Butoxyethanol. Glutaraldehyde is a disinfectant, and 2-Butoxyethanol is a common solvent in cleaning products. I think this is unlikely to be the only active ingredients in this product, but neither of those compounds are things that I would expect to add "fat liquoring" or help moisturize the leather. TBH, I think It's possible the leather was already compromised in some way, and wetting it with the product just made the preexisting damage more apparent. Bick 4 is usually my go-to leather conditioner when I'm in doubt about vintage leather - it's a very light conditioner, but you can do multiple applications as needed, and kind of evaluate how well it is working without overdoing things.
Thanks for the info. It's also likely I overdid it on trying to " break in" the leather. I was pretty rough with it trying to get it to soften but I guess sixty year old HH should probably be accepted for what it is and treated more gently.
 

Chevalier

One of the Regulars
Messages
147
I had a pair of riding/driving gloves that cracked like this after I conditioned them. I thought possibly in my case it was because I got the leather wet with water when it was too depleted of oils and waxes. It seems like the leather can tear more easily when it cracks like this. My gloves tore away from the sleeve gauntlet when putting them on. You may be ok as long as you do not mind the look of the cracks or subject the leather to a lot of pulling force. I am coming to the conclusion that vintage leather is either structurally sound when it gets to me, or it isn’t. There is very little I can do either way to affect it, without specialty training ;)
 

Johnny deadlifts

Familiar Face
Messages
97
I had a pair of riding/driving gloves that cracked like this after I conditioned them. I thought possibly in my case it was because I got the leather wet with water when it was too depleted of oils and waxes. It seems like the leather can tear more easily when it cracks like this. My gloves tore away from the sleeve gauntlet when putting them on. You may be ok as long as you do not mind the look of the cracks or subject the leather to a lot of pulling force. I am coming to the conclusion that vintage leather is either structurally sound when it gets to me, or it isn’t. There is very little I can do either way to affect it, without specialty training ;)
Thanks, a hard lesson learned for me.
 
Messages
15,216
Do you think it was the conditioner that ruined it or that I was to hard on it? When you say ruined do you mean unwearable?

Upon closer inspection, I don't think that the weird conditioner is to be blamed entirely for the cracks and they might've been there earlier without you noticing it but if they indeed weren't, the stuff that's in that conditioner definitely accelerated the degradation of the top coat. Often happens during conditioning that we first notice stuff like that.

But if the jacket is as old as you say, while many other members may disagree, I personally feel that it is advisable to go easy on it. Old leather dries out no matter how hard you baby it. Stitching is all cotton and cotton degrades.

The tanning methods of 60 years ago also different to a lesser or a greater extend and you can't ever be 100% sure how some old leather jacket will react to a contemporary leather conditioner. I am strongly against overuse of conditioners - Or simply use in general - As I have yet to see a concrete effect that isn't simply cosmetical that one has on leather.

Anyway, as @Chevalier stated, leather can tear more easily at places where the top coat cracked open like this and eventually, this is where it'll start degrading first.
 

dannyk

One Too Many
Messages
1,812
Upon closer inspection, I don't think that the weird conditioner is to be blamed entirely for the cracks and they might've been there earlier without you noticing it but if they indeed weren't, the stuff that's in that conditioner definitely accelerated the degradation of the top coat. Often happens during conditioning that we first notice stuff like that.

But if the jacket is as old as you say, while many other members may disagree, I personally feel that it is advisable to go easy on it. Old leather dries out no matter how hard you baby it. Stitching is all cotton and cotton degrades.

The tanning methods of 60 years ago also different to a lesser or a greater extend and you can't ever be 100% sure how some old leather jacket will react to a contemporary leather conditioner. I am strongly against overuse of conditioners - Or simply use in general - As I have yet to see a concrete effect that isn't simply cosmetical that one has on leather.

Anyway, as @Chevalier stated, leather can tear more easily at places where the top coat cracked open like this and eventually, this is where it'll start degrading first.
I think its important for new members or new to vintage leather garments folks to keep the first part of what you said in mind for sure. No amount of product or tlc can really bring a 60 year old jacket back to life. If it wasnt kept in great condition or given some periodic tlc to begin with theres a strong possibility it has hidden unseen flaws or has run out of natural internal oils or protectant. Pecards can help a thirsty young jacket restock it oils and waxes. A 60 year old jacket, it wont hurt and will make it look a lot better. But its really surface level stuff going on. If it really really makes a difference its probably because internally that jackets was doing just fine and the Pecards gave it a boost. But most of the time it will make it feel smoother or give it a shine but if the leathers cracking, dry and rough yea just helped the surface; the inside layers of the leather are donezo.
 

photo2u

One Too Many
Messages
1,222
Location
claremont california
I do not use pecards because it is not a good conditioner. Also, I believe it is bad for cotton thread. Remember, pecards is mainly a Waterproofer. Most leather conditioners use beef fat (tallow). I also used it in my formula. Skidmore's is basically the same combination of products I use. When the leather cracks, it is almost impossible to repair.
Quality grain leather is at the very top surface of the hide. Sometimes garments do not use top grain leather to produce their garments. Damage to leather happens often when the leather is not taken care of rather than the lack of conditioning.

Good luck and hope you properly address the damage on your leather and slowed down it's deterioration.
 
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dannyk

One Too Many
Messages
1,812
I do not use pecards because it is not a good conditioner also, I believe it is bad for cotton thread. Remember, pecards is mainly a Waterproofer. Most leather conditioners use beef fat. I also used it in my formula. Skidmore's is basically the same combination of products I use. When the leather cracks, it is almost impossible to repair.
I included an image of leather and how is marketed. Quality leather grain leather is at the very top surface of the hide. Damage to leather happens often when the leather is not taken care of rather then the lack of conditioning.

Good luck and hope you properly address the damage on your leather and slowed down it's deterioration.
This is an age old debate. op if you like you can use the search to see all the years of back and forth on which conditioner, what kind, what its made out of etc..... there is literally no consensus on the matter. Silicone isnt the greatest and shouldnt be used unless its to really waterproof something but other than the debated of which waxes, which fats, what oils....yeah its wide open
 

JurassicUtility

One of the Regulars
Messages
127
Upon closer inspection, I don't think that the weird conditioner is to be blamed entirely for the cracks and they might've been there earlier without you noticing it but if they indeed weren't, the stuff that's in that conditioner definitely accelerated the degradation of the top coat. Often happens during conditioning that we first notice stuff like that.

But if the jacket is as old as you say, while many other members may disagree, I personally feel that it is advisable to go easy on it. Old leather dries out no matter how hard you baby it. Stitching is all cotton and cotton degrades.

The tanning methods of 60 years ago also different to a lesser or a greater extend and you can't ever be 100% sure how some old leather jacket will react to a contemporary leather conditioner. I am strongly against overuse of conditioners - Or simply use in general - As I have yet to see a concrete effect that isn't simply cosmetical that one has on leather.

Anyway, as @Chevalier stated, leather can tear more easily at places where the top coat cracked open like this and eventually, this is where it'll start degrading first.
I agree that the "do no harm" should be a priority for vintage leather, but conditioning leather with the "correct" conditioner for its age and leather type can definitely have benefits. Figuring out what that "correct" conditioner is a source of much debate and really just depends on a lot of variables. I sometimes see the opinion that leather conditioners don't really do anything, or can only do harm to leather, but I think this is incorrect since pretty much all leather manufactures use some sort of conditioning or fat liquoring as the final step in the tanning process. There would be no point in doing this if leather conditioner had no positive effects in leather.

Another comment I would make is that a while ago, I attempted to do a literature search of scientific journals and articles to see if I could find a body of research on how conditioning, pH, and chemistry affects the long-term stability of either chrome tanned or vegetable tanned leather, and I did not really find very much. This isn't too surprising to me, since I don't think there is a lot of funding for a topic that would mainly be of interest only to the leather industry, and I suspect that most of the useful knowledge about the subject is basically insider knowledge in the industry, and not widely shared or published. Two big takeaways I took when I was researching it was that long term stability of leather depends mainly on:

1) Maintaining the proper pH value, which is 4.5-5.5. If conditioners are used, they should be pH neutral, and alkaline products like saddle soap are generally not a good idea, because they will perturb the pH balance.

2) Maintaining essential water content in the collagen fibers of the leather. This is where I think a lot of debate and uncertainty comes in regarding the value of leather conditioners, since eventual desiccation of leather is more or less unavoidable, and most conditioners or conditioning methods cannot reverse this process. Some conditioners might slow this process down - very little term data, remember. The most convincing method I have seen for reversing desiccation is using a water and glycol mixture to help sequester water in stiff, dried out leather and restore some flexibility. The website Vcleat explains a method for use of this of leather shoes which might be of interest: https://vcleat.com/glycerin-leather-conditioning/

I will say that this is something that should only be attempted on leather that is already clearly dried out or compromised, and results may vary. It is a method for restoring vintage leather which is used by museums and institutions like the Smithsonian to restore ancient leather, but it is definitely not compatible with leather that has has been tanned or colored with water soluble dyes, and I cannot say it is a great fit for many vintage leather jackets.
 

Peacoat

Bartender
Bartender
Messages
5,739
Location
South of Nashville
In the 16+ years I have been here, this is the most frequently debated topic. Although this thread didn't start out as a question about the best conditioner, I knew it would head in that direction. After all, it has been awhile since we discussed the subject.

Here is a link to a search I did on conditioners. It is in the "Start Here: Links to Important Threads" at the top of the Outerwear section.

 

photo2u

One Too Many
Messages
1,222
Location
claremont california
This is an age old debate. op if you like you can use the search to see all the years of back and forth on which conditioner, what kind, what its made out of etc..... there is literally no consensus on the matter. Silicone isnt the greatest and shouldnt be used unless its to really waterproof something but other than the debated of which waxes, which fats, what oils....yeah its wide open

There is so much leather conditioning experiences in this forum. I always try to read such experiences and comments when ever I have a chance. Also have read similar pecard and conditioner products in other similar forums. However, I only write about MY EXPERIENCES using a particular product. I used to use Pecards back in the early 80s when it was very popular to me. However, I have seen it's effects on my leather items and I do not longer use it. I have replicated a leather conditioning formula given to me by a master craftsman with many years of expertise in leather tanning and industrial garment production. I did shared such formula here but some members had some doubts regarding it's principal ingredient tallow (beef lard). Many people over condition their leather rather than properly cleaning it. Brushing with a horse hair brush does wonders in keeping the leather clean and healthy.
 

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