Owning—and actually using—leather care products is one of the surest way to feel like a Responsible Grown-Up—even if the reason you’re doing it is because you blew an entire paycheck on a pair of Saint Laurent boots. But if you’re a beginner at at-home maintenance, you may have some questions—like, for instance, what is leather conditioner, anyways? How do you use it? And how do you know which one’s the best?
Essentially, leather conditioner acts much like the oils and creams we use to hydrate our own skin, replenishing the moisture needed to keep it supple and smooth, while helping protect it from the elements and daily wear and tear.
As VEDA‘s Jess Cambronero explained in our leather-jacket-cleaning guide, brand-new, super-supple leather won’t need conditioning—but for vintage garments and stiffer pieces such as shoes and handbags, applying it every few months should help soften and strengthen the leather for a better look and a more comfortable fit.
At the very least, I like to do it at the beginning of the season to give even my well-worn fall boots a refresh—and while I’ll stop short of saying it’s something I look forward to doing, it is immensely satisfying to see results right away.
As for which you should be buying, here are a few of the best-reviewed products online:
Leather Honey Leather Conditioner Since 1968, $17.95; at Amazon
Chamberlain’s Leather Milk Leather Conditioner and Cleaner, $16.95; at Amazon
Obenhauf’s Heavy Duty Leather Preservative, $11.95; at Amazon (this beeswax-based formula is indeed “heavy duty,” so reserve it for sturdy boots that see plenty of weather exposure)
Frye Leather Conditioning Cream, $10; at Zappos