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How To Waterproof Leather: Vegetable Tanned, Bridle or Italian Leather

by Dave Johnson

If you have nice leather shoes or boots, you know the predicament you have when it rains or snows. Now you have to tip-toe through parking lots to get to your car without getting your footwear completely soaked, and you swore there was only supposed to be a ten percent chance of rain that day. And when you get home, you have to assess the damage to see just how wet they got and if you need to shine them up again before you wear them next. Luckily shoes are tough and shoe polish covers a multitude of sins.

If you have any high-quality leather bags, you might have asked yourself how to take care of it. Do you need to polish it? Do you need to waterproof it? Of course, the answer depends on where you live and how you use it. If you live in a particularly arid part of the world, your primary goal needs to be to condition the leather occasionally to keep it from drying out. But if you live in an area that tends to be very rainy (and you plan to take your bag outside), then you need to consider waterproofing your leather.

We’ve mentioned before how vegetable tanned leather has a lot of advantages over chrome tanned leather, such as its durability, being environmentally friendly, and the way it ages—to name a few. But one thing you need to be aware of is that vegetable tanned leather needs to stay away from water. A little here and there isn’t bad, but you don’t want it to get soaked, as it could shrink and damage the leather. The same goes for Bridle leather or most Italian leathers. Thankfully, whether you need to condition or waterproof your leather, there is an easy solution.

If you want to treat your leather bag properly, you need to get something like Jackson Wayne’s Leather Cream—just stay away from shoe polish. As it says on the can, it waterproofs, restores, and protects. The only ingredients in it are beeswax and natural oils, which is important for vegetable tanned leather. Because vegetable tanned leather is a natural product, you want to stay away from chemical agents as much as you can. And with all the great natural leather conditioners on the market, there’s no reason to not use the good stuff. The oils in it are great for conditioning your leather and the beeswax is great for waterproofing the leather without discoloring the leather too much. It’s also easy to apply. Just wipe your leather clean with a dry cloth, take a small amount of the Leather Cream and work it in the leather with a small circular motion. Let it dry and buff it off, and there you have it. For waterproofing leather, I would suggest doing it twice. One thing to note is that you will never be able to get your bag 100% waterproof, but you can still get it resistant to most conditions.

And that’s it! It’s really easy, and if you need to waterproof your bag, it’s very inexpensive and easy to do, and is minimal effort for the protection that it gives.