A trusty staple of the modern man’s wardrobe is a good-quality leather wallet. They come with us everywhere, suffer a lot of beating up, but will often last for years before giving out. As with anything, you’ll get a much longer lifespan out of your leather wallet if you buy quality, but you can extend that lifespan by magnitudes more by just paying attention to proper care and cleaning rituals.
In this article, we’ll be walking you through the process of safely and properly cleaning dirty leather wallets to increase their lifespan and keep them looking brand new. We’ll take a look at what you need to clean a leather wallet, things to consider, and a step-by-step guide on how to clean leather wallet stains and recondition your wallet for future use.
Before we get started, be sure to take a moment to check out our recommendations of the best leather wallets for men and also the best travel wallets for men. If you start with quality, this process will be a lot easier for you. So grab your favourite wallet, and let’s get started!
Things to consider before Cleaning a leather wallet
There are a few important things to consider before you start cleaning your wallet. This includes numerous factors such as the type of leather your wallet is made from, the type of wallet you’ll be cleaning (we’re focusing mostly on standard leather wallets in this guide, but money clip wallets can often be easier to keep clean and much of the same will still apply), and also how often you should clean it.
What do I Need to Clean a Leather Wallet?
Leather soap/leather cleaner
Leather soap or leather cleaner is a type of soap specially designed for leather to clean away dirt and debris without doing too much damage to the protective outer layer of the material. While using a specially formulated leather cleaning solution will look after your leather wallet best, you can get by with a solution of gentle, unscented dish soap or baby shampoo.
A leather conditioner is usually an oil or wax-based formula designed to add a protective outer layer to the material after cleaning. This helps protect the leather from damage and fading while also decreasing the frequency at which you need to clean it. You’ll typically apply a conditioner after cleaning as the cleaning process can strip some of the protective oils or waxes away, meaning they need to be replaced with each clean.
The best way to clean a leather wallet is by applying your cleaning and conditioning products to a soft cloth to then apply to the leather. We recommend having two or three clean cloths to hand to handle the different parts of the process and easily clean away residual soap or conditioner. If possible, use a clean, debris-free cloth as small particles can cause abrasion and damage the leather while cleaning.
Air blower or straw
This one isn’t entirely necessary, but to get the interior of your wallet completely clean, it can be useful to use some air pressure to blow away the stubborn debris. An air blower or pressurized air can be useful here, but you can also use a simple straw if you don’t have these things available.
Different Types of Leather
Smooth Calfskin Leather
Calfskin leather is a smooth-to-touch and durable form of full-grain leather used frequently for shoes, belts, coats, and wallets. Often considered the most luxurious form of leather, calfskin is easy to clean and care for.
Pebble Grain Leather
Pebble grain leather is full-grain leather typically made from the thickest (and therefore strongest) part of the cowhide and then pebbled for added texture and a different look. Pebble grain leather is highly durable and is a common choice for leather wallets as it can take a lot of heavy daily use.
Napa leather is full-grain leather that takes its name from Napa, California, where the method of leather production first took form. Napa leather is made using a special tanning process to produce a very soft-to-touch finish that’s also resistant to colour fading.
Suede and Nubuck
Suede and Nubuck are two types of leather that use the inverse side of calfskin, which usually has a smooth, soft, almost fabric-like texture to it. Nubuck is a lot smoother than Suede as it is typically sanded to achieve a much finer texture. You’re more likely to find full-grain leather in your wallet than Suede or Nubuck, but they do exist.
How to Clean a Leather Wallet Step-by-Step
Cleaning the interior of a leather wallet
First of all, empty your wallet and remove any loose dust, dirt, and lint by giving it a good shake. Once all the loose dirt has been removed, you’ll want to use a bit of wind power to dislodge the more stubborn debris. If you have a dust blower to hand, you can use one of these. If not, blowing through a straw into the edges of your wallet can work just as well.
Cleaning the exterior of a leather wallet
Wipe down the exterior of the leather with a mix of warm water and a small amount of soap. You can purchase special leather cleaning solutions, but gentle dish soap or baby shampoo will work just fine, too (just be sure to avoid anything that’s heavily fragranced, as these perfumes and fragrances can damage the leather). Apply the warm soapy water or leather cleaner to a soft cloth and gently rub down the leather in soft circular motions. Then, use a dry, soft cloth to wipe off the residue gently.
Conditioning the leather
Before conditioning the whole wallet, be sure to test your conditioner on an inconspicuous spot of leather first to see how it affects the colour of the leather. Once you’re happy, apply the conditioner to a soft clean cloth and gently rub it over all of the leather on the wallet. If you end up with some residue, wipe it off with another dry cloth.
How Often do I Need to Clean My Leather Wallet?
Generally speaking, leather doesn’t need cleaning regularly. So long as you give it a light dusting now and then between cleans, you can probably get away with deep cleaning your leather wallet a couple of times per year. We’d recommend a good clean every couple of months for the best results.
If you clean your leather too often, you may start to see visible cracking and discolouration of the material as it loses its structure and protective finish. For this reason, we wouldn’t recommend cleaning and conditioning your leather wallet more than once a month unless absolutely necessary (this obviously depends on how clean your dirty leather wallet needs to be). This will ensure you get the best lifespan out of your leather wallet.
What Products Should I use to Clean my Leather Wallet?
Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner and Conditioner Kit
To properly clean your leather wallet, you’ll need both leather soap or leather cleaner and a good quality leather conditioner to apply after cleaning. Sure, you can source these independently if you want to shop around, but it’s often more worthwhile to buy a two-part cleaning and conditioning kit that’s designed to work together. We recommend the Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner and Conditioner Kit, which can be used for all kinds of leather care – not just wallets. It’s PH balanced to take good care of your leather wallet and concentrated to give you plenty of use out of each bottle.
Cleaning, Buffing, and Polishing Cloths
To apply your cleaning and conditioning products, you’ll also need some soft cleaning cloths. We recommend purchasing some leather cloths, especially for this purpose, as this will avoid any lint, grit, or dirt getting onto the leather while you clean and causing irreparable damage. This 20 pack of leather cleaning cloths on Amazon are designed specifically for this purpose and will last you for a long time before you need to replace them.
Giottos Rocket Air Blaster
A Rocket Blaster is a really useful tool for cleaning the interior of your leather wallet as it uses pressurized air to remove all the loose dust and other particles that build up in there over time; plus, it’s just a useful tool to have around for cleaning keyboards, cameras, and other gadgets – you’re sure to get plenty of use out of it. You can purchase a Giotto AA1900 Rocket Air Blaster here.
If manual air blasters aren’t your thing, you can also use compressed air canisters to the same effect. They’re often able to apply more pressure and get into the more awkward angles to greater impact so that you might consider them a more precise tool than your standard air blaster. Here’s a link to a three-pack of Falcon Compressed Gas Duster.