Think of patent leather and you’d be forgiven for thinking of eroticism and fetish. That’s because it’s often used to make skin tight clothing, thigh-length boots and other such items. 

But the high-gloss finish makes patent leather a popular choice generally for shoes, handbags, clothing and other accessories. There are also many similar products made from cheap synthetic patent leather. 

To make patent leather, a special coating is applied to the surface or, more commonly, a film is glued on. Garments made from patent leather will not withstand extensive stretching and are certainly not so easy to wear or put on, so they are not worn that often. However, patent leather bags and shoes can be used daily so they can show signs of wear.

                                         Patent leather bag    Patent leather jacket

Cleaning and maintenance of patent leather

We are often asked why patent leather is more sensitive than others. One of the main reasons is that glossy leather has surfaces that make scratches and abrasions immediately visible. The human eye detects differences on glossy surfaces much faster than on matt surfaces. 

Other types of leather are similarly sensitive, but their softness and the matt surface not only prevent damage, but damages are not so clearly visible. 

Light colour patent leather has a special sensitivity to absorb dyes. It should therefore be stored away from other items that might cause colour contamination. Colour dyes penetrate like a tattoo into the leather and cannot be cleaned. Pen strokes and other similar discolorations can only be removed if treated immediately. 

It often happens that old patent leather becomes sticky with time due to decay. Unfortunately there is no solution to this problem. The leather can be cleaned with a mild leather cleaner and wiped with mineral spirits. This might diminish the stickiness temporarily as long as the condition is not too bad.  

Using a classic furniture polish to clean and maintain patent leather works well as these products are good for caring for high gloss surfaces. Nevertheless: always test first on a hidden area to observe changes. This method should not be used if the leather is scratched. Deep scratches can’t be removed from patent leather. 

This material is particularly sensitive to solvents. Solvents contained in some cleaners, leather care products and aerosol products will dull the surface and leave ugly spots. Such stains can rarely be removed. 

Another typical damage to patent leather are scratches that look as if the upper colour layer of the leather has been removed, making a brighter background (usually white) visible. This is simply a loss of dye from the surface. The scratches then look like bright stripes. The colour in these scratches can be removed by Colourlock Leather Cleaning Spirit.


                                   Louie Vuitton damaged patent bag     Damaged patent leather jacket



Top tips

  • Avoid scratching your patent leather goods 
  • For regular cleaning of patent leather just use a damp cloth
  • Traditional leather care products will harm the colour layer on patent leather
  • Do not apply oil or fat. The leather is covered by a layer of paint, so the products won’t sink in because a patent leather is not porous.