How to Care for Leather Gear
Leather armors and accessories are a staple of LARP costumes, and while leather makes for very sturdy items, it remains an organic material that is vulnerable to weathering and degradation if not taken care of adequately. In this blog, we aim to share some care tips with you so you can keep your leather items in good condition for years and years to come. With good care, your leather goods will follow you for all of your LARPing life.
➸ Before LARP - Maintenance
Leather is skin, and is thus not entirely waterproof. Water exposure creates a vicious circle for leather, drying it once it evaporates, and making it less and less waterproof, until your leather cracks and dries out from this repeated process. A good way to avoid that kind of problem is to keep your leather in good condition with a maintenance fat-based salve like Dubbin, which can be applied after you get your leather out of storage.
Any leather product is also vulnerable to molds, and even when stored perfectly, some surface mold may be visible on your goods, without involving real damage to the item. You can simply wipe these off with a cloth and soapy water, then let everything dry slowly before applying your grease. That will work for surface molds and mildew.
If you are wearing vegetable leather, manufactured with natural oils, these products will often have a varnish layer on top of the leather, to protect the dye that has been added post-manufacturing, often by hand. This varnish is sensible to chemicals and should always be cleaned only using specialized leather cleaning products or soft soapy water.
➸ After LARP - Storage
After your event, you will want to clean your leather goods and let them dry slowly. Extreme temperature is harmful for leather, so do not expose your leather to high heat (like using an hair dryer), or let them cook in your sunbathing car for days! Let them dry indoor, at room temperature, until they are no longer wet.
You will them want to store them in a well ventilated, dry, and temperate place to avoid molds. Do not leave your leather armor in an unheated cabin in winter, or store it inside a sealed plastic bag. These are recipes for disaster!
You may also want to avoid exposing your leather to the sun, like hanging your armor near a window. Storing leather that way will accelerate the weathering of your gear and damage the dye over time. Don't shy away to wear your armor in the sun, but do not let it sunbathe when it's not needed.
Sometimes, mistakes are made, or bad luck occurs. Some leather goods will degrade over time and may break, rip, or decay in a way that requires more than simple maintenance. Here are a few examples of typical leather issues with LARP gear, and how to solve them.
❧ Broken Strap
Straps are often the parts of your armor or accessory that are under the most stress, and if they dry out or get damaged, they can break. If that happen to one of our Artisans d'Azure product, it is very likely to be covered by our warranty and repaired if you bring the product back in store.
Otherwise, you can easily swap a strap for a new one. We even sale strap kits to make it as easy as it can for you to achieve it at home.
❧ Extreme Mold
Sometimes, you will open your storage at the beginning of a LARP season and be welcomed by a disaster in the form of extensive mold. Bad storage is often the cause, and it is likely to leave damage to your product if it was deep, but despair not! You don't have to throw that armor away, you can recover from this mishap. You simply need to clean it thoroughly:
- In a clean container, mix equal parts cool water and rubbing alcohol
- Rub every surface of the leather with a cloth dipped in the mixture or a soft brush
- Wipe with a clean cloth dipped in clean water
- Let the leather dry slowly at room temperature
- Coat the leather with leather conditioner like the aforementioned Dubbin grease.
❧ Severe Drying
Maybe you left your armor in the sun for days, or stored it 3 inches away from your heater in winter. No matter the reason, now your leather is all dried and cracked, and it feels like it could break if you try to bend it. Fear not! Leather can recover from this with some help, even if the cracks will likely remain.
With very dry leather, you need more potent leather conditioner like Neatsfoot oil to be applied. This is not a maintenance oil, but a leather softener and moisturizer for heavy duty leather gear.