Leather Patina: All You Need To Know
Patina is the term that refers to the thin layer on the surface of a material that develops over time. A patina is unique to any material and reflects the way it was used and exposed to the elements.
What Causes Patina To Form On Leather?
Patina is formed from a combination of factors that work together to promote the aging of leather. The following are the main causes of patina formation on the surface of leather:
Leather has high water resistance, but constant exposure to water or humid environments allows for leather cells to absorb too much water. This results in changes to the surface structure and appearance of leather over time.
Water weakens the leather’s protection against physical damage, giving you a leather surface that gets easily scratched or punctured. Water also promotes bacterial growth, making it easy for microorganisms to stain or discolor the leather’s patina. It also speeds up the deterioration of the leather product.
Loss of water from the leather surface can also happen, resulting in a dry and brittle leather. This happens when a wet leather dries too fast and too much, or when the leather’s surrounding air is too dry that the water inside the leather cells evaporates. A dry and cracked patina leather has a rough texture and is prone to tearing.
Exposure to direct sunlight for extended periods is damaging to leather. Much like how human skin gets discolored and sunburnt from too much sun exposure, leather is just as vulnerable to the sun’s harsh ultraviolet rays.
Sunlight acts as a natural bleaching agent for leather. It makes the leather’s natural tan or brown color fade faster and causes other damages like cracking and drying of the leather surface. But occasional exposure to sunlight, along with proper cleaning and conditioning, can give a natural color and shine to the patina of any leather product.
The fibers and components that make up the leather’s structure respond to temperature changes in their surroundings. Cold environments make the leather contract, while hot surroundings make leather fibers relax and expand.
Extreme temperature changes, however, can damage the fibers faster. If you are used to keeping your leather bag inside an air-conditioned room, refrain from taking it out often to use outdoors where it is hot and humid. The leather will fail to expand and contract naturally, leading to unevenness, cracking, or bumps forming on its surface.
Dirt & Debris
The air is full of dust-sized particles that attach to the leather surface and alter its color and texture. Fibers and debris from clothes and other textiles also have dyes or chemicals that promote the breakdown of leather.
Oils from your skin and hands also contribute to the formation of patina on the leather surface. Oil dissolves the dust and debris that attach to the leather surface. As oil seeps into the porous leather surface, it takes the dissolved particles deep into the leather, staining it and adding depth to its color.
Is Patina Leather Good Or Bad?
Depending on the look of the leather product you are aiming for, a patina can be good or bad. Leather lovers, in general, love the rustic and vintage aesthetic, thus desiring the distressed patina look that forms over time. The patina on a leather product also showcases its durability, proving that it could stand the test of time.
But some owners of leather products want to keep their leather looking clean and flawless. Leather items with sleek black or bright colors may not benefit from a patina that makes them look old and worn. People who want to keep their leathers looking new rely on professional cleaners and leather restoration experts for this goal.
Whether you want an aged or flawless patina on your leather products, regular maintenance and conditioning are essential to keep them looking the way you like them. As you’ve learned above, patina formation involves some degree of damage to the leather. You need to ensure that the patina you desire for your items does not make them weak and prone to damage.