Leather goods are a luxurious and expensive investment, and proper storage is essential to ensure that they remain in pristine condition for years to come. To ensure that your leather goods remain in the best possible condition, it is important to follow some simple rules. Leather should be stored in a light proof or low-light environment, protected from direct light at all costs, and kept away from moisture, insects, and rodents. Additionally, leather should never be folded, wrapped in PVC, or stored on bare cement floors. By following these simple rules, you can ensure that your leather goods look as good as new for years to come.
Lightproof or Low-Light Environment
Leather goods should be stored in a light proof or low-light environment. Direct light can permeate protective wrapping paper, so it is important to avoid it at all costs. To keep ambient light at bay, wrap the leather item in thick dark-colored protective tape.
Maintain Humidity Levels
It is also important to maintain a humidity level of 50% – 55%. Basements or closets that are wet can never be used. Leather should never be wrapped in PVC, as it cannot breathe and the tightly sealed plastic wrapping can lead to mold growth. Mold damage is often permanent, so it is important to use paper to help leather to breathe while still keeping it clean. To keep dust at bay, drape wrapped leather with a freshly laundered white bed sheet.
Avoid Cement Floors
Leather should never be stored on bare cement floors, or even cement flooring with carpeting on it. Cement acts like a water magnet, releasing considerable moisture at will! To prevent moisture from creeping up into the leather, keep it off the floor and place it on elevated shelving high enough off the floor.
Leather should never be folded, as this can cause creases and damage its smooth look. Leather can be rolled up either inside out or outside out. It is best to roll it the way it came from the shipper, as it has most likely already developed a "pack" by the time you receive it. Roll it from the neck to the butt because the butt is the stiffest part of the hide and may not survive a sharp bend to begin the rolling process. Alternative leathers (such as faux leather) should be wrapped around a clean cardboard tube in the same way as carpets or paper are. Then wrap the roll in protective paper, tucking the ends in around the leather edges. Tie firmly but gently to avoid leaving a mark with a soft string or a thin colorfast feather thread/cord/lace/strip that will not bleed through the paper wrap, as oils or colors will bleed through and leave a permanent stain.
Roll saddle woolskins with the wool on the inside, starting at the neck and working your way down to the butt. Tie the knot gently with a gentle string. Paper wrapping woolskins is unnecessary for short-term storage since any light burns on the non-wool leather side will be covered when the saddle is made. Prolonged exposure to any form of light (direct or indirect) should be avoided for longer-term storage by using safe paper wrapping.
Separate Oily Leathers
Oily leather products (such as belt, bridle, or latigo) should be separated from non-oily leathers with an impenetrable barrier to avoid the oils from staining the non-oily leather irreversibly. Colored leather that can bleed its color (e.g., some Latigo leathers) should also be separated with an impenetrable barrier.
Insects, Livestock, and Rodents
Insects, livestock (including pets), and rodents should be kept away from leather. Nesting, bug and animal droppings, and urine may all be damaging to leather. Additionally, careless people, especially bothersome children, should be kept away from leather at all costs, as their fingers can leave permanent fingerprint stains.
Metal contact with leather should also be avoided; tanning agents used in both vegetable and chrome leather often react with most metals, especially ferrous metals such as (iron and steel), brass, nickel, silver, copper, and bronze. Metal stains are often permanent, reducing both the aesthetic and commercial value of leather.
Rawhides can never be stored on their own. The salted surfaces discolor all around them and attract rodents. Before storing it, always make sure it's completely dry. Never roll up wet rawhide; instead, wait until it is completely dry. Form them into a big loose roll when they are still reasonably flexible. Keep an eye on the rawhide as it dries to ensure it shapes into the shape you need for storage. Maintain low humidity and moisture levels so that rawhide does not smell like rotting flesh. Rawhide has not yet been tanned and can putrefy in a moist climate.
Separate Leather Types
Different types of leather should never be stored in the same bin, shelf, or area. The same types of leather should always be kept together: same tannages, same color(s), same levels of oiliness, and so on. This also applies to the handling of leather
scraps. Keep them in their own boxes or containers. Wet leather or rawhide should never be placed in scrap boxes because it can stain or mold other valuable scraps. First, allow it to dry. Sorting scraps by size and leather style is good housekeeping practice.
Heavy Commercial Steel Shelves
Construct a heavy commercial steel shelf frame with large wooden shelves that can support a lot of weight. Leather is extremely heavy, particularly when there are several rolls on the same structure. The top shelf should be no higher than you can comfortably reach with a 25-pound item. Side of leather above your head (the top shelf would be between 5-6 ft tall for most people). Bridle, belt, and latigo may also be stored on different shelves in this manner.
Leather is a high-priced product with many applications. Proper storage is key to prolonging the life of your leather and keeping it as good as the day you purchased it from the tannery or shipper, allowing you to make the most of it and maximize your income. By following the recommended rules for leather storage, you can ensure that your leather goods remain in the best possible condition for years to come.