Best Leather Conditioners

Updated October 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

28 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
274 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best leather conditioners

Last Updated October 2019

If you’ve ever been impressed by the rich color or supple condition of a well-cared-for leather sofa, chances are its owner has kept the leather in top shape by regularly applying a leather conditioner. Whether you’re investing in a new leather sofa or caring for a favorite pair of shoes, a leather conditioner is essential to renewing and prolonging the life of leather goods.

However, not all leather conditioners are the same. Some are expressly designed to be used with leather furniture, while other conditioners are best for shoes, and still others for leather coats. Leather conditioners keep these expensive goods supple and can protect against water damage and mildew while imparting an attractive patina to the leather. Some conditioning products are combined with leather cleaners or leather protectants, too.

At BestReviews, we want to make sure you know the differences between leather conditioners, and which types are best for the leather items that you want to protect. Keep reading for the information you need to know to narrow down your search for the best leather conditioner for your valuable leather goods. If you’re ready to buy, we’ve included several of our favorites, too.

If you don’t want to use a combination leather cleaner/conditioner on protected or pigmented leather, clean the surface first using a solution of saddle soap and lukewarm water applied with a soft cloth. Rinse with a clean, damp cloth.

Key considerations


Match the conditioner to the leather

The type of leather conditioner you choose should be formulated specifically for the leather goods you will use it on. A leather conditioner for a sofa might contain very different ingredients than one made to condition leather shoes. And even the correct conditioner can have an undesired effect on the item it’s used on – it might darken the leather or leave an unwelcome sheen.

This can be very pronounced on nubuck and aniline leather, which absorb liquid much more easily than other types of leather. Pigmented or protected leather, on the other hand, is more water repellent and less likely to change color when a conditioner is used.

Furthermore, leather conditioners can darken your leather item – and you won’t know to what degree until you apply the conditioner to it. With some leather, this darker hue only lasts a few months, but if you apply conditioner regularly, eventually the color change will be permanent. Some owners love this effect, while others will be disappointed.

​​​​​​​Conditioner plus cleaner

Some leather conditioners include a leather-cleaning component as well, which can save a step when protecting your leather goods. Just make sure the cleaning chemicals in the product are safe to use on your leather item.


Frequency of application

Leather conditioners should be applied every three to six months, depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations. It’s a long enough period that you’ll have trouble remembering when the next application is due, so you might want to add a reminder in your calendar.

Waterproofing​​​​​​​

While leather conditioners offer some protection to leather, they don’t make a leather item waterproof. You’ll still need to protect the leather against water, and the degree to which you do this depends on how the item is used and how often it’s exposed to the elements.

CAUTION

Use caution if you’re trying a two-in-one cleaner/conditioner or three-in-one cleaner/conditioner/protectant. The chemicals and waxes in some of these products might not be right for your leather goods.

Leather conditioner features

Just as not all leather goods are alike, not all leather conditioners are the same. Their ingredients can have very different effects; for example, a conditioner that contains lanolin might soften a leather item too much.

Leather types

Pigmented or protected: These types of leather have an exterior coating of either silicone or polyurethane. “All-around” leather conditioners are just fine for these because they’ll work well without damaging or discoloring the leather.

Aniline: This rich and supple leather is very susceptible to staining, fading, and wear if not conditioned regularly with a product designed specifically for it.

Nubuck: With a “distressed” or suede-like finish, nubuck is somewhat easier to maintain than aniline, but it is essential that you use a leather conditioner specifically formulated for this type of leather.


Leather products

Furniture: Conditioners for leather furniture might contain a UV protectant to keep sunlight from fading, drying, or cracking the leather over time.

Bags: Leather purses, briefcases, and other bags are often vegetable-tanned with tannin and can discolor and shrink when they get wet. Higher-end bags often require a specific leather conditioner, so check with the manufacturer or the retailer.

Shoes: Shoe conditioners are often part of a combination cleaner/conditioner solution.

Clothing: Consider using a naturally derived conditioner to keep your leather jacket or other garments supple and soft.


Application

Creams and lotions: These leather conditioners are simply rubbed in with the fingers or with a soft, lint-free cloth. A microfiber cleaning cloth is a good choice for applying the leather conditioner and then buffing the leather.

Spray: These leather conditioners are delivered through either a pump- or trigger-action spray bottle or aerosol spray bottle.

Wipes: Convenient cloth or paper wipes treated with leather conditioner are wiped across the surface of the leather item.

EXPERT TIP

Tackling a large item like leather furniture? Apply conditioner to the biggest surfaces first, like the seat and back cushions, followed by the edges and trim.


Staff  | BestReviews

Leather conditioner prices

Inexpensive: Combination leather cleaner/conditioners are among the lowest-priced products for conditioning leather, starting at around $10.

Mid-range: Easy-application conditioners, such as spray bottles, cost around $12 to $14, but these might not be the best choice for more delicate leather.

Expensive: For more delicate leather, consider conditioners in the premium price range of $18 to $20.

Tips

  • Spot test first. Before using a leather conditioner for the first time, do a spot test on an inconspicuous part of the item to make sure it won’t damage or discolor the leather.
  • Look for a neutral pH. A leather conditioner with a neutral pH is less likely to negatively affect the condition or appearance of the leather.
  • Protect against sun damage. Leather goods that are regularly exposed to sunlight should be treated with a conditioner that offers UV protection.
  • Check the label. Reach the manufacturer’s label for any recommendations or warnings against using specific ingredients on the leather item.
  • Clean the leather before conditioning. Clean the leather item before applying a leather conditioner. Use a damp cloth to wipe down the leather item between conditionings to keep it free of debris and dust buildup.
  • Stick with a neutral color. Choose a leather conditioner with a neutral or natural color to stay as close to the original hue of the leather product as possible.

For small, supple leather items, applying beeswax after conditioning can provide extra protection from rain and sun. But test it first because it can discolor some types of leather.

Other products we considered

We were impressed by the Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner and Conditioner combo for its pH-balanced cleaner that comes in a separate bottle. Both products are colorless and odorless, too. For leather car seats, furniture, and many other items, the Lexol Leather Conditioner caught our eye thanks to its neutral pH and color and generous one-liter size. And efficiency fans will appreciate the two-in-one treatment offered by the Weiman Leather Cleaner and Conditioner that comes in a handy spray bottle. Its UV protectant is a welcome component for protecting any leather furniture that sits near a sunny window.

Keep leather goods out of areas that are either very humid or very dry because these extremes can damage the leather.

FAQ

Q. I heard that lanolin is the best conditioner for any type of leather. Can I safely condition my shoes with it?
A.
Lanolin, a natural secretion found in sheep’s wool, is very good at softening leather – it makes just about any leather more supple and soft. But it’s probably too good because what’s great for leather jackets and some handbags isn’t necessarily a feature you want in a pair of sturdy shoes. In that case, lanolin could weaken the leather.

Q. Does leather conditioner also make leather waterproof?
A.
Leather conditioner doesn’t make leather waterproof, but it can impart some protection to the leather. Conditioners are formulated to penetrate leather and keep it moisturized. Most small leather goods made today, such as shoes, bags and jackets, have a protectant added that offers some waterproofing.

Q. Do I really need to condition leather every three to six months?
A.
That’s a guideline rather than a rule. In dry climates, you might want to condition your leather items every three months. For temperate climates, every six months is fine. Owners who have leather items with a “rugged” look often wait a full year before conditioning.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Samantha
    Samantha
    Writer

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