Car shoppers are often willing to pay extra for leather interiors: they’re comfortable, great-looking, long-lasting, and easy to clean. However, while a leather interior might be luxurious and durable, it isn’t maintenance-free. Leather seats, door trim, and other surfaces need proper conditioning to stay soft, supple, and eye-catching.
The best leather conditioner will soak into a leather surface—whether it be a leather jacket, wallet, boots, or vehicle interior—and rejuvenate it from within. Leather conditioners will replenish a leather’s strength, protect it from damage, and keep it looking amazing for years to come. Keep reading to learn more about how to choose the best leather conditioner for your needs.
- BEST OVERALL: Leather Honey Leather Conditioner
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Lexol Conditioner Cleaner Kit
- BEST NATURAL CONDITIONER: Chamberlain’s Leather Milk Conditioner and Cleaner
- BEST CONDITIONER SPRAY: Meguiar’s Gold Class Rich Leather Conditioning Spray
- BEST CLEANER/CONDITIONER: Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner and Conditioner Kit
- BEST DEEP CONDITIONER: Weiman 3 in 1 Deep Leather Conditioner Cream
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Leather Conditioner
Knowing how to keep those leather surfaces looking tip-top and feeling luxurious requires a bit of background. The following sections will outline details of types, features, and applications to know before shopping for the best leather conditioner. With these factors in mind, choosing the best product becomes a simpler process.
Leather care products are available in a few different styles, as well as in combinations or kits. Shoppers can purchase conditioners alone, all-in-one cleaners with conditioners, or cleaning kits with separate products.
A leather conditioner alone might work for leather that is already in top-notch condition. For leather interiors that might’ve seen their fair share of miles underneath blue jeans, furry friends, or children’s car seats, a cleaner with conditioner might be best. Just one step can give a car’s interior a thorough treatment.
When purchasing, say, a vintage leather sofa or a used car, perhaps a classic car, it can be tough to say what those seats have been through. Restoring the leather to its original glory might require a cleaning and conditioning kit. Spend the time needed for cleaning the leather seats as well as possible, and then apply just the right amount of conditioner.
Leather conditioners come in different kits and in various forms. Leather lovers will have a choice between oil, cream, and spray, and choosing the best option depends on a factor or two:
- Oils: Leather-conditioning oils typically contain lanolin or neatsfoot oil, and workers have used them for centuries. These oils penetrate deeply. For particularly dry-rotted or weather-beaten leather, a coat or two of leather oil might soften up the fibers and make the surface more pliable. However, oils can darken the material and leave behind a sticky feeling. Also, if the seats aren’t completely dry, neatsfoot and lanolin will stain clothing.
- Cream: Leather-conditioning creams work like hand creams for dry skin. These creams rub directly into the leather, moisturizing and softening the surface for added pliability and comfort. The downside is they don’t always last as long as other conditioner types.
- Wax: Waxes, particularly natural waxes, do an excellent job of conditioning leathers when tanneries stuff them into leather surfaces. As a vehicle leather treatment, it’s challenging to get the same type of penetration, but the liquid resistance they offer is second to none.
- Spray: For lots of leather, like what might be in a luxury SUV or limousine, a spray might be the only way to go. It can cover a large area quickly. These sprays are usually a combination of oils and waxes, but they typically offer more in the way of convenience than penetration.
Chemical vs. Natural
When choosing a leather conditioner, there’s a choice between a chemical conditioner and conditioners of more natural origins. Most creams are chemical-based products, and they do an excellent job of penetrating the leather to protect it from within. Though these products might not be available in nature, most are safe for contact with human skin.
Natural conditioners, such as beeswax and neatsfoot oil, take a more earth-friendly approach. Many conditioners actually consist of a combination of waxes and oils. The oil can penetrate the surface, and the wax ingredient protects the outside of the leather. Natural leather conditioners might have a more pleasant smell than chemical conditioners, but makers of top-quality products keep the scent in mind while creating the formula, so it might not be a significant factor.
Depending on the leather’s needs, certain products offer better features than others. For instance, some leather conditioners have color-restoring properties that will reinvigorate the dyes used to change the color of the leather. Others can create a glossy shine on the surface, brightening the interior a bit and leaving a high-end finish.
Waxes aren’t the only conditioners that offer water-repellent features. Some cream conditioners also help leather resist the effects of water, offering an added bonus beyond softening and conditioning. Ultimately, if leather seats have a particularly troublesome characteristic—like dry-rot, color fade, or seeing more moisture than they should—finding a product to address specific issues shouldn’t be a problem.
In most cases, conditioning leather is a simple process, and some products even come with applicator pads or cloths to speed things up. In general, application requires either spraying the surface or dumping a bit onto a cloth or applicator pad and spreading the conditioner over the surface. Most products will then require the conditioner to soak into the surface over a period of time.
When it’s ready (exactly how long should be outlined on the back of the bottle, but usually in the ballpark of 30 to 60 minutes), the surface needs a good buffing with a microfiber cloth. The buffing removes excess conditioner and leaves the surface clean and shiny.
Some of the best leather conditioners for refreshing a car’s interior aren’t purpose-specific. Many of them work just as well for leather upholstery, jackets, boots, and bags as they do for a typical leather interior. This versatility might make the difference when choosing a specific product over others, especially for anyone possessing several leather goods already.
With that said, many leather conditioners meant specifically for vehicles offer a bit more protection from sun and heat than do general-purpose conditioners. These vehicle-specific products are worth considering, even if they don’t work for other leather surfaces.
No matter the type or form, when using a new conditioner on a leather surface, it’s best to use it in a small section first to ensure that the product won’t discolor the finish.
Our Top Picks
With a bit of background on what goes into choosing the best leather conditioner, selecting the ideal product for revitalizing a vehicle’s interior becomes a little easier. To streamline the process even more, check the following list of leather conditioners, which includes products for both automotive interiors and other leather surfaces.
Those looking for an all-natural approach to leather conditioning should check out Leather Honey’s Leather Conditioner. This all-natural conditioner consists of nontoxic, nonsolvent, and nonsticky ingredients, producing a soft, clean leather surface when the job is done. It also leaves behind a mild scent or no scent, helping to keep vehicle interiors from overwhelming occupants with perfumes. The conditioning effects should last at least 6 months.
Applying Leather Honey is straightforward, though the company states that a little goes a long way. Simply dribble a small amount onto a lint-free cloth and rub it over the surface of the leather. Leather Honey suggests the conditioner should sit on the surface for at least 2 hours before the user wipes off any excess conditioner. This oil-type conditioner is suitable for vehicles, small leather goods, boots, and other leather surfaces as well.
Whether a leather vehicle interior just needs a quick refresh or there’s some heavy-duty cleaning on the docket, the Lexol Conditioner Cleaner Kit is worth a look. This cleaner and conditioner combination also comes with application pads, making it an affordable leather-care kit. Lexol is suitable for all leather surfaces, including car interiors, bags, jackets, belts, and more.
Lexol’s cleaner works by lifting dirt and stains out of the surface of the leather, making them easy to wipe away. The conditioner contains small oil droplets that work their way into the leather to replenish from within. Each treatment lasts for up to 6 months, though the harsher conditions of a vehicle interior might require more frequent application.
All-natural, all-in-one leather cleaners and conditioners can be hard to find, but Chamberlain’s Leather Milk can take care of most leather goods in one step. This all-natural, water-based cream contains droplets of vital oils that soak into the surface of the leather and provide a soft and supple finish.
Chamberlain’s Leather Milk comes with a premium pad for applying it to vehicle interiors, leather bags, boots, and other goods. It soaks into the leather, repairing faded areas, scratches, and other use-related imperfections, without removing the patina. The natural scent is pleasant, though it only lasts until the conditioner soaks into the leather entirely.
Large leather interiors are luxurious, but they can require a high-quality product to condition thoroughly. Meguiar’s Gold Class Rich Leather Conditioning Spray can cover lots of surface area with its 3-in-1 spray formula. This product cleans and conditions leather surfaces and protects against UV damage—thanks to its vehicle-specific formula.
This nongreasy, chemical-based formula contains aloe vera, which helps soften and restore aging leather. The formula gently but effectively removes dirt and grime without leaving a sticky residue behind. Though it doesn’t come with an applicator, all it takes to apply is a lint-free microfiber cloth. Spray the cloth, rub it over the surface, and remove the excess with a clean cloth.
For cleaning deeply soiled interiors, a two-step product like Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner and Conditioner might be necessary to get the job done. This kit comes with separate bottles of cleaner and conditioner, so the user can focus on getting their leather surfaces truly clean before conditioning. It’s suitable for luxury interiors, as well as boots, bags, belts, and other leather products.
This kit doesn’t come with any applicator pads or cloths, but it works well with both. The products are simple to use, requiring a spray of the leather surface with the cleaner and rubbing the surface with an applicator before wiping clean. Once clean, use a fresh pad to rub the conditioning cream into the surface before wiping off the excess conditioner.
On thicker or older leather surfaces, deep penetration is important for optimal conditioning. Weiman’s 3-in-1 Deep Leather Conditioner Cream does just that, soaking deeply into the leather to moisturize the fibers. While it’s penetrating, it’s also loosening dirt and grime, allowing it to rise to the surface for easy wiping away. This cream also features a protectant coat, thwarting damage caused by water or sunlight.
To apply this conditioning cream, squeeze a generous amount from the bottle onto a microfiber cloth or pad and massage it into the surface. Allow it to dry, and then buff the surface clean with a fresh cloth or pad. It’s suitable for bags, shoes, couches, and other leather surfaces, including plush leather vehicle interiors.
FAQs About Leather Conditioners
There might still be some lingering questions about leather conditioners that need answers. The following section answers some of the most common questions about these products.
Q. What is the best natural leather conditioner?
Chamberlain’s Leather Milk Conditioner and Cleaner is a water-based natural product that replenishes vital oils back into the leather, making it one of the best natural leather conditioners available.
Q. What is the best leather cleaner and conditioner?
When it comes to a cleaner and conditioner kit, Chemical Guys Leather Cleaner and Conditioner Kit is an excellent and convenient combo.
Q. How do I apply my leather conditioner?
Every manufacturer will have different directions, but the following are general guidelines:
- For sprays, just spray the surface of the leather evenly and rub it into the leather with a microfiber cloth or pad. Allow it to soak in (according to the directions), and wipe off any excess with a clean cloth.
- For creams and oils, apply the conditioner to a microfiber pad or cloth and rub it into the leather surface. After waiting (again, according to the manufacturer’s directions), wipe off any excess and buff it with a clean cloth.
Q. How often should I use my leather conditioner?
Most leather conditioners recommend conditioning leather every 6 months, though leather vehicle interiors, boots, and high-use items like briefcases could benefit from quarterly treatments.