A key part of leather care is conditioning it to keep the leather from drying out and cracking. So really, the first step to fix cracking leather is: condition it so you don’t have cracked leather in the first place. But if you’ve found yourself in the possession of a cracked or cracking leather bag, you’ll need to decide if you want to replace it or repair it. Here’s how to repair cracked leather if you’re up for the challenge:
Clean the surface of the cracks and surrounding leather with a soft, dry brush or cloth to remove any dirt or dust. Next, use a shoe dauber (or any small, fine-bristled brush) to apply leather cleaner or saddle soap to the leather cracks, cleaning them more deeply. Saddle soap includes mild soap and softeners, and when you’ve finished cleaning the cracked leather surface, it should be soft and flexible in order to move onto the next step.
You can apply a leather repair compound for this step, but we recommend dabbing the cracking areas with mink oil or neatsfoot oil. Use gentle pressure to smooth the oil into and over the cracks. A cloth or even the back of a spoon works well for this. Continue applying to the cracked surface until the appearance of the cracks is less pronounced. Gently wipe off extra oil with your cloth. (Be sure to spot test the oil in an inconspicuous area first so you can see any effect it may have on the coloring of the leather.)
You may be pleased with the softer look and texture of the cracking areas by this point, but do not forget to use a soft cloth to apply a leather conditioner to the treated surface area and the surrounding leather surface as well. Moving forward, continue to apply conditioner to the entire leather bag once a month to keep it in good condition and prevent further drying and cracking.
Reading about how to repair cracked leather is much simpler than doing it. Please be sure to spot test any cleaner, repair compound, oils, or conditioner you plan to use. And kudos to you for working to bring that cracked leather back to life.