Five Plus One is our weekly series of buyer’s guides. We pick a specific category and dig up five great options along with one that’s a little outside the norm.
Whether you recently picked up a new wallet, belt, or a pair of boots, it’s important to keep the leather well-conditioned. There are a ton of quality leather conditioners out there, and most of them will work just fine, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, leather conditioners aren’t wax-based, and products that are will generally darken leather and decrease breathability. Such products are better for waterproofing leather, but are almost always overkill. Second, it’s important to not over-condition leather; generally, a pair of regularly worn boots will need conditioning about every six weeks. Third, if you ever clean your leather goods with any type of saddle soap, make sure to condition them after they dry, as the leather will be extra dehydrated afterwards. And fourth, when you do condition them, consider using the products available below.
1) Zoes: Venetian Leather Balm in Neutral
Zoes Venetian Leather Balm in Neutral is one of the most recommended leather products on the market. Sometimes referred to as Venetian Shoe Cream (as the difference between the two is mainly their packaging), this product is part conditioner and part neutral shoe polish. While the polish portion of the formula does contain some wax, it’s a different type of wax (and in a much smaller quantity) than the stuff put in boot leather protectors. Applying a small, half-pea size dollop of this conditioner will properly hydrate your boots and leave them with a healthy glow after light buffing.
Available for $7.50 from Rancourt.
2) Bickmore: Bick 4
Bickmore’s Bick 4 is another great—and might I add, inexpensive—leather conditioner. It’s slightly runnier than VSC, so you should be careful to not over apply it, but the results of proper application are a well-nourished leather with an ever-so-slight shine to it. One way to apply this product is to spread a very small amount through the bristles of a horsehair brush and then buff it into the leather, although applying with a rag or your fingers will work just fine as well.
Available for $7.50 from Truman Boot.
3) Lexol: Leather Conditioner in Spray Bottle 16.9Oz.
Lexol’s Leather Conditioner in a spray bottle is a fantastic choice if you’re conditioning a larger product, such as a leather jacket or car upholstery. It’s also good for conditioning nappy leathers, such as suedes, roughouts or nubucks, as you can lightly mist the leather from afar and are less likely to create uneven discoloration across the leathers. You should always apply a new leather conditioner to a small, non-visible part of your leather goods first to make sure you like the appearance afterwards, and that goes doubly for conditioning nappy leather. Some people never condition their suedes and roughouts, although these types of leather will dry out just like smooth-grain leathers.
Available for $13 from Amazon.
4) Saphir: Renovateur
Saphir Renovateur is another serviceable, all-around conditioner, and many people swear by it. It’s a fair bit pricier than most of the competition, but leather conditioners last a long time. And if you’re buying a high-end wallet or pair of shoes, is spending a bit more to keep them in tip-top shape really that big of a deal? Like Venetian, Renovateur contains a small amount of polish, so it’s important to get the neutral/colorless version if you plan to use it on a range of leather goods, but it will leave your shoes both conditioned and a touch shiny.
Available for $23 from Hanger Project.
5) John Lobb: Shoe Cream
John Lobb is known for producing some of the finest pieces of footwear available, so it should come as no surprise that their Shoe Cream is about as good as it gets also. It’s another one of those conditioners that comes in a range of colors, these one’s specifically designed to match John Lobb’s leather colors, but the neutral option should work well for most leathers.
Available for $20 from Skoaktiebolaget.
Plus One – Siegol (formerly Burgol): Special Cuir in Colorless
Siegol, formerly known as Burgol, has earned a reputation as a quality leather care company, but their products were traditionally difficult to get stateside. Luckily, their wares have become easier to buy over the last few years, and their wide range of products are now easier to get than ever. Their Special Cuir in Colorless is formulated for cloth application, and though that makes for more effective use on larger pieces, it’ll work just fine on small leather goods and shoes as well. They have one of the widest ranges of leather products around, so if their Special Cuir doesn’t seem like the right choice for you one of their other products just might be.
Available for €16 from Die Schuhanzieher.