I have an old leather suitcase that’s got worn around the edges. Should I rub some oil into it?
We don’t recommend using anything greasy on the leather. Excess grease on the surface will cause more deterioration. Grease will be absorbed into the leather, making it discoloured and brittle. Grease will also bond dirt to the surface and could also damage the beautiful labels.
If you want to remove dust from the suitcase regularly, you should use a dry microfibre cloth or a soft brush (and a vacuum cleaner). Using water to clean the case could cause a number of problems if the leather is worn. Water can cause stains and mould, as well as degrading the leather and damaging the labels.
If the leather is flaking off along the edges, you can reattach the flakes using a special-purpose glue and Japanese tissue. But it’s difficult to give any specific advice without inspecting the actual object.
The best way to prevent further damage is to keep the suitcase in a place where it’s not exposed to wear, sunlight, high humidity or heat. Unless you want to have it out on display, you could cover it with a cotton cloth, so that it’s less exposed to dust.
If the case smells mouldy, it could be a good idea to get a conservator to look at it and eradicate the mould safely. It’s important not to store the case in humid surroundings, as this could activate mould spores.
Kind regards from Maren, objects conservator
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- I have an old leather suitcase that’s got worn around the edges. Should I rub some oil into it?