Caring for leather: How to preserve the pleasant feel and unique look of natural leather

Kutche, an der verschiedene Ledertaschen hängen

Situations like this are sure to sound familiar to you: You've bought a beautiful leather jacket or leather shoes, but the material is too stiff and uncomfortable to wear? Don't worry: Softening hard natural leather is not rocket science. With the right measures and the right care products, you can do it yourself. In the following article, we'll show you how to treat leather and make old leather shine again. We'll also give you a few tips on how to make your favorite leather pieces soft and supple again and how to prevent leather shrinkage.

Softening hard leather: 5 tips for better comfort

Hard, stubborn leather is a common problem that doesn't just affect new clothes and shoes. Fortunately, as you'll soon see, there are various methods to soften hard leather and thus significantly improve comfort.

1. Natural leather care products for excellent results

There are a variety of products that have been specially developed to make leather supple. Leather balms and natural waxes or emulsions penetrate deep into the pores of the leather, nourish it and make it softer. But proper cleaning also contributes to a pleasant feel and to maintaining the appearance. Depending on the type of leather, you can use various leather care products and do something good for your leather products.

2. Soften old leather: First clean, then treat

If you want to breathe new life into an older leather item, the first thing you should do is give it a thorough clean. To remove all dirt and debris, we recommend using a natural cleaner such as Emma Grün's Leather Cleaner and a soft cloth. Once you have cleaned the leather of dust and dirt, you can start to optimise the feel of the material and soften it again with the right care measure, such as treating it with a natural wax or emulsion.

3. Caring for brittle leather: Natural waxes nourish to perfection

For leather that is already brittle or fragile, leather care products based on beeswax or wool fat work wonders. The natural ingredients of sustainable care products such as those from the Emma Grün product range provide your leather with everything it needs, are gentle on the material and not as aggressive as chemically produced products . To allow your brittle leather to breathe again, apply the wax sparingly with a cloth and allow it to soak in overnight.

4. Soften leather: Get instant results with mechanical processing

If you want to achieve quick results, mechanical processing (fulling) in the form of rolling, bending and stretching the leather may be an option.

Elegant brown men's shoe with shoe tree from Barker

Image source: Pixabay

However, make sure that you provide the material with nourishing moisture beforehand and do not put too much strain on it during the process. If you go about it too aggressively, you will achieve a counterproductive effect and provoke unsightly cracks .

5. Prevent leather shrinkage: Proper storage is key

Inappropriate storage conditions can dry out the leather and make it harder. To avoid leather shrinkage and related problems, make sure to store your leather items in a temperature-controlled room and avoid direct sunlight .

Leather shrinkage: How does it happen and how can this unsightly effect be prevented?

Leather shrinkage occurs when the material is exposed to water or moisture and then dries quickly , especially at high temperatures. This process strips leather of its natural oils that keep it supple and causes the leather fibers to constrict . The result is a harder, shrunken and often warped leather product . Leather shrinkage can affect not only the aesthetics but also the function and durability of the material. The following tips will help you prevent leather shrinkage.

  • Avoid water and humidity: Although leather needs a certain level of moisture to remain supple, too much water or high humidity is harmful . Therefore, avoid using leather products in the rain or in humid environments unless they are designed for that purpose.

Person with wool socks and wet leather shoes hiking in nature

Image source: Pixabay

  • Slow drying: If your leather product gets wet, you should let it dry slowly in the air. Avoid radiators, a hair dryer or direct sunlight, as these external influences can lead to rapid water dilution and thus shrinkage.
  • Use leather care products: To maintain or replace the natural oils in the leather, it is recommended to use leather care products . These products provide a protective layer that protects the leather from moisture loss.
  • Make sure the storage temperature is correct: Extreme cold or heat can also cause leather shrinkage. Therefore, store your leather products in a room with a stable temperature .
  • Regular care: Regular care with suitable products helps maintain the suppleness of the leather and reduces the likelihood of shrinkage.

Cleaning old leather: Dos & Don'ts

Old leather requires special treatment. It is often brittle and prone to cracking. Avoid aggressive cleaning agents as they can cause additional damage to the material. Instead, use special leather cleaners and work them into the natural leather with gentle movements. This is what you should pay attention to when caring for leather:

  • Caring for brittle leather: Moisture is the key to soft, beautiful leather. If your leather has already become brittle, it is of utmost importance that you care for it properly. Using natural leather care products can work wonders here. This is because the products contain natural oils that penetrate deep into the leather and nourish it from within .
  • Make leather soft again: Long-term care is essential to keep your leather supple. Regularly applying care products ensures that the material does not dry out and therefore remains soft.
  • Making leather supple: Another aspect that should not be neglected is temperature. Extreme temperatures can cause leather to shrink, which puts additional strain on the material. Therefore, avoid storing leather items in rooms that are too cold or too warm.

Leather care: Natural care products for soft leather

The right leather care is crucial to maintaining the quality, feel and appearance of your leather in the long term. With the help of natural leather care products, your favorite pieces are always perfectly cared for and they are also more environmentally friendly. Whether you should use a cream, balm or wax depends on the leather in question and the stresses the material is exposed to. The following tips will help you with your selection:

  • Leather Cleaner: Removes dirt, stains and buildup from leather without stripping away the natural oils. Cleaning is the first step in the care routine and prepares the leather to receive nourishing care products.
  • Leather care lotion: Lotions are quickly absorbed into the leather and are ideal for the regular care of leather items that are used frequently . A lotion is usually lighter than a cream or balm and is therefore ideal for quickly refreshing the leather. 
  • Leather care cream: Leather care creams provide a deep supply of nutrients and are particularly suitable for dry or brittle leather . Creams usually have a richer consistency and guarantee more intensive care than fluids, but are lighter than a balm.
  • Leather care balm: A balm is suitable for the care of everyday objects and offers excellent protection against external influences such as water or dirt . If your leather product is exposed to extreme conditions or is already showing signs of dryness and wear, a balm is the best choice.
  • Impregnating agent: Forms a protective layer on the leather surface that protects against water, dirt and other external influences. An impregnating agent is particularly recommended for leather items that are regularly exposed to heavy wear and tear and for outdoor items as well as clothing and shoes .

Emma Grün Tip: Natural products for leather care are always the better choice than artificially manufactured products. Not only are they more environmentally friendly, they also offer all-round protection for every type of leather.

Chemical products can dry out the leather in the long term or change its color and structure due to harmful solvents and silicones. Natural products, on the other hand, maintain the breathability of the material and nourish it with the help of natural ingredients right down to the deepest layers. Your leather will thank you for this with a longer lifespan and a pleasant feel and unique look . By choosing the right care product, you can ensure that your leather always remains soft, supple and visually appealing.


Making hard leather soft takes some time and regular care. Whether you use mechanical treatment for this is up to you. However, it is important that you give your favorite leather items the attention and care they need to feel good and look great. This will not only make them more comfortable to wear, but will also extend the lifespan of your leather.

FAQ: Questions & Answers

Why does leather become hard over time?

Leather can be hard for a variety of reasons, including environmental influences such as heat and cold, lack of care, and natural aging. These factors cause the natural material to lose its natural oils and become brittle.

How can I clean old leather?

Natural leather cleaners are suitable for cleaning old leather. Aggressive cleaning agents should be avoided as they can dry out the leather further.

What can I do to care for brittle leather?

Brittle leather requires particularly intensive care. Natural leather care products help to make the leather soft and supple again.

How can I prevent leather shrinkage?

Proper storage is crucial to prevent leather shrinkage. Extreme temperatures and direct sunlight should be avoided. Using leather care products also helps to keep the material supple.

Can I soften my leather products in the washing machine?

This is generally not a good idea as the water and mechanical friction in the machine can damage the leather. Instead, special leather care products should be used.


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