Often we start off with a pair of raw denim jeans.
The idea of watching something change & evolve over time is quite appealing, and usually one thing leads to another…denim, leather, duck, brass, etc.
It’s a pretty stress free hobby mostly.
Though, just as many beginners to raw denim fuss over soaking/washing/drying their jeans and the general maintenance of indigo, beginners to raw leather sometimes fuss over the staining of natural vegetable tanned leathers.
Internet wisdom encourages wabi sabi, a “let it be” attitude, towards the upkeep of raw leather – my point of view is just a little different.
My opinion is that your leathers should age in a way that reflects your lifestyle and, to an extent, personality and aesthetic preferences.
That means a chair-sitting city crawler like me really can’t go around with a roughed up toe-cap or a scratched riddled wallet.
My preference is for a balance between the evolution of the grain, the darkening of the colour, and the development of patina – a combination of surface abrasions, staining and other cosmetic “damage” that has grown into the grain.
This is where indigo and natural leather can clash.
While a small amount of indigo staining adds character to the grain and contributes to the development of patina, too much staining detracts from the appearance of the leather and shifts the attention away from what’s happening on the grain of the leather.
The same concept applies to oil stain and water stains, though these are harder to prevent and mostly irreversible once done.
So here are 7 hot tips for the reduction of indigo staining on your vegetable tanned leather goods:
1. Beware the new raw denim + new raw natural vegetable tanned leather combination:
You’re kinda asking for indigo staining if you do this…
2. Use older (more evolved) natural leather goods or dark-coloured leather goods to break in new denim:
As these are much less susceptible to indigo staining, and any dye that does end up on the grain is more easily removed.
3. Hot soak or wash your raw denim jeans before first wear:
By getting rid of excess indigo and tightening the weave of the denim, staining is usually less likely to occur.
4. Applying leather feed to the grain of the leather before first use:
Raw natural vegetable tanned leather is like bluestone – anything that gets stuck onto its surface eventually becomes incorporated into its structure. Once indigo sits on raw natural veg. tanned leathers for too long, the dye may be hard to remove even with leather cleaning agents like saddle soap. Adding oils and waxes into and between the fibres of the leather makes its structure less permeable, both to water and dyes.
5. Wipe off any indigo stains as soon as you notice it with a damp cloth:
Yep, if you have taken on board the advice in tip #4, indigo molecules sitting right at the surface of the grain is easily removed with a bit of water & friction. As indigo isn’t water soluble, wiping with a damp cloth won’t cause the dye to sink deeper into the leather.
6. Avoid excess moisture or heat:
Denim bleeds when wet. Leather is more porous when warmed. It follows then to minimise indigo staining, avoid using susceptible leathers (raw, new, natural colour, etc) during inclement weather, in hot environemnts or when you’re likely to sweat excessively.
7. Protect the leather grain:
The grain can absorb and disperse stains; but if the grain is broken down, the leather will loose this evolution ability. Take care of the grain and the rest of the leather will take care of itself!