A natural oil used as a moisturizer for skin, shea butter also works well to soften and maintain moisture in leather products. It contains enough water to hydrate the leather and then seal moisture in, keeping it soft and supple and resistant to water and dirt.
Clean the Leather
Make sure the leather has been cleaned before you apply the shea butter. A damp rag removes most dust and dirt or warm (not hot) soapy water can be used if needed. Use a gentle soap, such as a mild dish soap or hair shampoo. Allow the leather to air dry before applying the shea butter. Avoid using heat, which can damage leather.
Apply the Shea Butter
Use a chamios cloth or clean, dye-free white rag to apply a thick coating of the shea butter and allow it to penetrate the leather for at least 24 hours. If the leather is hard and stiff, it may take a little longer. Cutting the shea butter with coconut oil, flaxseed oil or olive oil makes it easier to work with. The shea butter needs to penetrate into the surface so the leather fibers can slide against each other, reducing the friction and making it supple again. If your leather piece seems exceptionally stiff, leave the shea butter on for 3 or 4 days.
After the leather appears soft and pliable, use a clean cloth to wipe off any excess shea butter. If the cloth becomes too greasy, set it aside for washing and use another clean cloth, Buff the leather with a circular motion until there is no greasy residue left.
Maryland resident Heide Braley is a professional writer who contributes to a variety of websites. She has focused more than 10 years of research on botanical and garden articles and was awarded a membership to the Society of Professional Journalists. Braley has studied at Pennsylvania State University and Villanova University.