How To Clean A Leather Wallet? [Without Damaging It!]

Cleaning a leather wallet can be a very straightforward process if you know what you are doing. It is important to learn how to properly clean your leather wallet so that you don’t damage it and prolong its lifespan.

Everything you need to know about leather wallets

Bellroy Travel cover

There are a lot of things that differentiate one leather wallet from another. Wallets are an item that we use every day on many occasions, that’s why it’s a good idea to do your research so that you know how to properly care for your own. These are the most important things to know about leather wallets.

Types of leather used in wallets

Not all leather wallets are made from the same type of leather. When leather wallets first appeared, they were primarily made from cow or horse leather. Today there are a lot more different types of leathers that are used to manufacture these wallets. The leather itself can basically be made from any animal, such as goats, pigs, crocodiles, and sheep. Even so, the animal leather which is most commonly used is that of a cow.

There are 5 major types of leather used in wallets. This type of grouping refers to the way that the leather gets split and how the surface is treated.

Full grain leather

The only thing that is removed from the hide in this type of leather is the hair. After this, the hide goes directly to the tanning process. This procedure is most commonly used for blemish-free hide to maintain the leather’s original characteristics. Full-grain leather isn’t sanded or buffed, and it usually comes at a higher price, since it is one of the most durable types of leather you can find.

As full-grain leather is the top leather available, it doesn’t take much effort to maintain it. Even so, it is still susceptible to scratches or dirt. The best way to clean it is to use warm water, mild hand soap, and a microfiber cloth.

Top-grain leather

Right after full-grain leather, one of the most high-quality leathers you can currently find is top-grain leather.

The top layer of this type of leather is buffed, sanded, or shaved off. Splitting the leather means shaving it off, which might be a phrase you’ve already read in a couple of wallet descriptions. When the leather is split, it gets thinner and it’s easier to work with.

This process does make the lather look more beautiful, but it also removes important properties that full-grain leather otherwise possesses. If not for this process, the leather would be stronger and have better water resistance.

Top-grain leather has a smooth consistency, so due to its quality, it’s one of the easiest leathers to clean. You should get quality leather soap for it, preferably one that doesn’t leave any residue. Apart from that, you can get a nubuck cleaning cloth, after which the cleaning process is the same as with other leathers.

Genuine leather

Compared to top-grain and full-grain leather, this type of leather has lower quality. It can come from any layer of the hide which is afterward treated to get a more corrected aesthetic. Genuine leather is made out of the leftovers of higher quality leather, which is why some of the great qualities of the leather are stripped away.

Mild soap and warm weather should be enough for you to clean your genuine leather wallet. Make sure to use good cloth as well for this process, so that you don’t end up damaging it.

Split grain leather

The original hide is thick enough to undergo a process of splitting. Split-grain leather is exactly what you get after this process. This type of leather isn’t as dense and tight as full-grain and top-grain leather, therefore it is less durable.

You can clean items made from split-grain leather by using a damp cloth. Make sure to let the wallet air dry and then buff it with a cloth that has leather cleaner on it.

Bonded leather

Simply put, bonded leather is a mixture of real leather and fake leather. It is made from the scraps that are leftover from the manufacturing process of real leather, and it is mixed with a polyurethane binder. Since most bonded leather has only 10-20% genuine leather inside it, it isn’t that durable or flexible.

All you will need to clean a bonded leather wallet is a bowl with lukewarm water and a cloth. Use the cloth to wipe any dust or dirt you might notice on your wallet. An extra step you could take is conditioning it, just make sure to choose a good leather conditioner.

Animal leather types for wallets

These are the different types of leather used to make leather wallets as well as some tips on how to clean them.

Cow leather

This is the most commonly used type of leather in the industry. It isn’t that expensive and it is easily obtainable. The cow’s skin has tight-packed fibers which makes this type of leather one of the strongest types out there.

If the only thing that is making the wallet dirty is some dirt and dust, you can just use a soft brush to brush it away. To deep clean this type of leather, you can use two bowls of lukewarm water and a cloth. One of the bowls is used for cleaning in which you can add some dish soap in. The other bowl will be used for rinsing. Cleaning the leather is easy, just use a cloth on one part with the soap water, and then rins that part out with the water from the second bowl.

Sheep leather

Luxury wallets tend to use sheep leather because of its softness and attractiveness. It has a delicate aesthetic and it’s very comfortable as well. Texture and appearance in this type of leather tend to improve over the years if the item is taken care of properly.

For this leather you can use leather conditioner to clean non-permanent marks. This type of leather is a bit more delicate than the others, so if by any chance you need to clean a stubborn stain, I would suggest taking it to a professional cleaner.

Pig leather

One of the main traits of pig leather is that it is water-resistant. Even as a dense leather it has flexibility and it is very comfortable. Pigskin leather is stronger than cow leather and way easier to clean.

The first thing you need to do when cleaning this leather is to ensure that the cleaning product you are using is compatible with it. After you have purchased a proper cleaning product, you should gently apply ita ross the leather surface. Make sure not to scrub to hard in one single area, as this might damage the leather.

Goat leather

Goat skin leather has a fine grain that is a little bit softer and stronger than that of a cow. A lot of manufacturers use it to make all sorts of items, including wallets. Not only is it relatively cheap, but it is also durable and lightweight.

Goat leather is thought and pretty water resistant, but it still needs some cleaning. the best way to clean it would be to use a damp cloth to wipe it and then leave it to dry naturally.

Deer leather

If we are looking for toughness in leather, then one of the toughest out there is deer leather. Deer leather is more expensive than others, so it is more commonly used for luxury items.

If you want to remove oils or greace stains from your deer leather, you can use baby powder or cronstarch on the blemish and just leave it in for a couple of hours. When this is done you can use a damp cloth to wipe the leather. For most stains it is better to use a damp cloth and wipe it gently.

Ostrich leather

Ostrich leather wallets tend to cost less. This leather is full of natural oil which gives it some resistance to drying, stiffness, and damage. You will immediately notice this type of leather since it has small characteristic bumps.

I would recommend using a damp textured microfiber cloth for this type of leather. All you will need to do is to gently rub the stain in order to get it out safely.

Buffalo leather

Leather that comes from a buffalo is one of the strongest ones available, due to the epidermal layer it has which is three times thicker than cowhide. Thickness like this makes a wallet made from this material much more resistant to tearing than others. Surprisingly, it is also soft, and flexible, and it offers a beautiful aesthetic.

Using a damp cloth for this type of leather will suffice as well, or you can just use commercial leather clean for it.

Kangaroo leather

When it comes to abrasion resistance and strength, kangaroo leather wins. It comes in a very thin layer which is ideal for making wallets and it offers durability and flexibility.

The first thing you need to do for kangaroo leather is to use a moist lint-free cloth to gently rub a soiled area. If this doesn’t work on a stain you can always try using a dedicated leather cleaner.

Snake leather

Snakeskin isn’t that common, so the leather made from it comes at a higher price. The leather always comes in unique patterns and it’s available in different colors. This leather is stretchy, supple, durable, and soft to the touch.

Snake leather can be best cleaned if you first you a dapm cloth on it’s surface and condition it with a good leather conditioner afterwards.

Eel leather

Eel leather is lightweight, smooth, and up to three times stronger than regular leather. You can instantly recognize it because of its pinstripe pattern that looks sort of wet.

This is one of the more delicate leathers you will come across, so you should avoid any harsh chemicals or materials that could damage it. It is best to prepare mild soap with warm water and to use a good cloth to clean it.

Stingray leather

Stingray leather is so durable that it is estimated to be 25 times more durable than cowhide leather. Best of all, this leather can be painted in a wide range of colors and it can even be textured to look bumpy.

When handling stingray leather you should use a barely dampened cloth to gently clean it. It is important not to scrub too hard since this type of leather is dyed and painted on the surface, so you could easily damage its color with vigorous scrubbing.

Crocodile leather

One of the world’s best leathers is undoubtedly crocodile leather, so the high price it comes at is often very high. Famous brands such as Versace, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci all use it in their highest-priced items.

For crocodile leather, using a clean white damped cotton rag is the best choice. It’s easy to clean, you should just gently wipe the surface until it’s done.

Do different leathers have different qualities?

The final products which are made out of leather can have a significantly different quality. Surprisingly, the type of animal that the leather comes from isn’t the most important thing that separates quality leather from lesser quality one. In fact, the most important thing that affects quality is the way that the hide is treated in the manufacturing process.

Full-grain leather is the leather that has the highest quality since it goes through a very straightforward manufacturing process that doesn’t compromise the leather’s original qualities.

Leather wallets and cleaning

BSWolf wallet held on finger

Before you clean your leather wallet, you need to know a couple of things.

Can a leather wallet get dirty?

Stains can be difficult to remove from the surface of your leather wallet. Most frequently, the cause of stains is sweat, which can be cleaned if you act quickly.

Should you clean your leather wallet?

You should definitely clean your leather wallet as often as you can. You don’t have to deep clean it every time it gets a little dirty, but you should clean a stain right away when it becomes visible, and you should regularly clean out the clutter in your wallet.

Can you wash a leather wallet?

Washing a leather wallet is a great way to clean it properly, but you should never put it in the washing machine. The best way to wash your wallet is by hand, by using a leather cleaner or soap, and water.

Can you clean a leather wallet with alcohol?

Never try to clean your leather wallet by using alcohol. Acetone and alcohol are two chemicals that are regularly used, but few people know that they can cause great damage to a leather wallet.

Other things that could ruin your leather and are commonly referred to as ”remedies” are:

  • window cleaner
  • markers
  • shoe polish
  • hair spray
  • disinfectant wipes
  • pre-wet sponges

Best ways to clean a leather wallet

There are so many different recommendations on how to clean your wallet online, but unfortunately, not all of them are safe for your leather wallet. When it comes to leather items, you have to be extra cautious when taking care of them, so these are the things you should know before you go and clean your leather wallet.

Regularly clean out the clutter

Rogue Front Pocket open pocket with cash bills

From time to time you need to sit down and remove all the unnecessary things from your wallet. It’s ok, you aren’t going to need that receipt from 1 year ago.

Clutter only makes your wallet bulky and harder to use. Not only that, but massive clutter can even strain a leather wallet to the point of damaging it. I bet nobody wants to end up with a card slot that is too stretched out to properly hold their cards. Because of all this, it is necessary to declutter your wallet every once in a while.

Stain identification

Not all stains can be easily managed and cleaned from leather wallets, since some are permanent. This is why it is important to take your time to try to identify the types of stains on your wallet.

One of the most common types of stains is one caused by dirt which is absorbed in the oily fibers. These types of stains are nothing to worry about since they are one of the easiest to clean. A stain from ink or something similar could be hard to remove, but if you are determined enough you might be able to do it.

Be sure not to mistake the leather’s patina for a stain. If you aren’t familiar with this term, a leather patina is a dark-colored layer that appears on the leather surface as it ages.

Cleaning stains

Dirt stains can be easily cleaned by simply using soap and water. Apart from unscented soap and water, you will also need to get two microfiber cloths or at least soft fiber cloths. You need two because one of them will be used for cleaning and the other one for drying the wallet.

First, you will need to mix the soap and water in a bowl. The best way to clean a leather wallet is to clean one side at a time. Take the cloth in your hand and dip it in the bowl then start cleaning your wallet in circular motions. Make sure not to put too much pressure on the wallet surface while you do this. Repeat this for both sides of the wallet and for the wallet’s interior.

After cleaning the wallet, take the second cloth and tap the wallet gently everywhere, so that you dry it well.

Don’t leave your wallet wet

This is a very important step.

First off, water can damage your leather wallet, so you should always dry it off if it gets wet. Water affects the leather’s oils which can make it become stiff and brittle.

Now, water isn’t the only thing that can damage your leather wallet. The sun is also an enemy. Make sure to never dry your wallet in direct sunlight, as this is one of the things that could cause the biggest harm to the leather.

The best way to go about drying your wallet is to use a hand towel or a tissue. Both methods are done the same way. Wrap the wallet inside the towel or tissue, without putting pressure on it. Afterward, leave the wallet in a well-ventilated area for around 12 hours.


Conditioner is used to restore the wallet’s shine. Make sure to choose the right type of conditioner for the specific type of leather your wallet is made of.

The conditioner is applied after you have cleaned your wallet. You can put conditioner on the leather and leave it in for at least 10 minutes, after which you should polish it with a clean cloth and see the leather shine.

Leather wallet maintenance

Harber London Leather Bi-fold Wallet Open

Besides regular cleaning, leather is a material that will always need some maintenance, even if you get the highest quality products. Make sure to learn how to properly care for your leather wallet by following the tips outlined in this section.

Why you should take care of your leather wallet

If you take the proper steps to maintain your wallet’s leather it will last you a lot longer. Knowing how to care for leather wallets can also save your wallet from significant damage and premature aging. Leather as a material is very elegant, but a lot more demanding than others, so you will need to take proper steps in order to maintain its good form.

What to do if the wallet gets wet?

As I mentioned above, never ever leave your wallet wet. The second your wallet gets splashed or soaked in water, grab a towel or tissue that you can dry it off with.

What to do if the wallet gets too dry?

When your wallet stays out in the sun for too long, you will notice that it will get quite dry. I would suggest never letting this happen in the first place and keeping your wallet out of the sun.

Restoring leather that has been dried from the sun is tricky. People have tried using lanolin or coconut oil with some levels of success, and that is considered the go-to solution to this problem.

Properly choosing and using a leather wallet

Travando Austin hand feel

One of the most important steps you can take which is related to leather wallet maintenance is to choose a leather wallet that is compatible with your lifestyle.

Someone who usually carries more than 10 cards with them daily won’t be able to use a small-capacity leather wallet properly. If they have this type of wallet, they will just end up overstuffing it and straining the leather to the point of damage.

This is why you need to make sure to define what you need out of your wallet so that you can buy one that you can use correctly and easily take care of.

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I love all things tech, so I decided to make a blog about technology, electronics, gadgets, accessories, and all the various items we use every day that make our lives easier. I like doing a lot of research on various models and brands, looking for great value and performance, both through data and experience.