How to Care for Leather Guitar Straps
Ever thought of leather instead of webbing for your guitar straps?
It's no secret leather is more expensive but also keep in mind it's a durable material that has a lot of applications. You'll find it on furniture pieces, on watch straps, and clothing items.
Aside from that, it also looks sophisticated and fashionable. This is why leather guitar straps are a thing. Musicians also want something that looks nice and durable at the same time.
With all these advantages, you'd think that it's hard to care for it, but that's not the case. The main disadvantage of real leather is the price. Caring for it is easy, doesn't take much time, and doesn't need a wide array of products.
If you want to learn how to take care of your leather straps, whether for electric guitars or acoustic, keep reading. We'll show you the proper ways to clean it, condition it, and then store it.
Caring for Your Leather Guitar Straps
Caring for your guitar strap, whether it's a handmade leather guitar strap or a polyester strap, begins with cleaning the dirt and sweat off. We'll begin with the underside, the side with the lining.
It's especially vulnerable to sweat because it's on continuous contact with your body. For this reason, it also gathers dirt and grime without too much effort.
1. Clean with Warm Soapy Water
First, get a clean bowl and put in some mild soap (just a drop) and hot water. You'll be using this solution to clean the underside of your guitar strap using a clean soft bristle brush. This should be hard enough to get the dirt out but gentle enough to not cause any damage.
Soak the brush into the water and then begin scrubbing. This will remove the dirt and odor that may have accumulated into the underside.
After you've cleaned the strap, get a rag and wipe it off to dry it. At this point, it should already be clean and free of grime.
In most cases, you won't need to clean the leather side at all. You risk discoloration when you use the soapy water and the brush to clean it, although you could still try it if there's no lining that will prevent dirt and sweat from reaching the leather part.
If there's a little dirt, get a damp cloth and wipe it down; even a paper towel works. You may do this step every week to prevent grime from accumulating.
2. Use a Conditioner
Once it has dried off, grab a leather conditioner of your choice and begin with the underside. The conditioner has a consistency of a lotion, so you can use your hands here to distribute the product.
Squeeze some of the product on the guitar strap and rub it on every inch of your strap like you would a lotion on your body. Continue rubbing until the strap has absorbed the product. It shouldn't stain.
Then, flip it over and put conditioner on the top side as well. Do the same; rub the product until the leather has absorbed it. Then, get the rag you used earlier and wipe down both sides of the strap.
DO NOT USE CONDITIONER ON THE TOP SIDE OF A CUSTOM PRINTED GUITAR STRAP
The only consideration here would be if there's a suede material on your guitar. Although the conditioner won't hurt it, it will take out the matte of the suede.
In that case, get a sandpaper with medium grit and then rub the suede parts with it. If you have an air compressor, it will do a better job of raising the matte back.
3. Make Your Leather Shiny
If you like that new, shiny look of leather, get some polish; it will give your leather strap a nice sheen. You only need to put it on the leather itself and not on the underside.
A leather spray can also protect it from moisture and the sun. Both of which are leather's greatest enemies. Spraying some product on the leather forms a protective film that also helps it to stay clean.
You might want to take a look at the ingredients as the polish might contain lanolin. You may or may not want this on your leather.
Some people like it for its moisturizing properties that help soften the material. However, other people don't like their leather to be too soft.
Whichever stance you have, make sure to give the ingredients list a proper look before you buy a polish.
Something to Consider
Before using any product on your leather, especially polish items, you might want to test it first. It may alter the color of the leather, which you may find to be not suitable for your taste.
To make sure that you'll be happy with the finish, test the product on a small area first. Let it stay there for 24 hours and then see what it looks like. If you like it, then go ahead and apply it to the rest of your guitar strap.
How Often Should You Clean Your Straps?
The steps above won't take you an hour, but they can be a hassle if you're touring every day. Don't worry, though, you don't need to do these cleaning steps each day.
In fact, doing it too often might cause more harm than good. Some experts recommend cleaning your guitar straps once a week at most, but you don't have to condition it every time. You can use a conditioner every 1 to 6 months depending on several factors.
One, it depends on how much you use the strap; if you often use it for performances where you sweat a lot, you might have to clean and condition it more often. The season is a factor, too, as well as the climate and the environment.
In the end, though, your preferences might matter more than the other factors. Some prefer that beaten up look, while others like their equipment clean at all times. How you like it will determine how often you clean your guitar straps.
As we've stated above, you may only have to use a damp cloth if there's not much dirt and if you're not using it too much that week. Most of the time, less is more when it comes to proper care.
What Happens if It Gets Wet?
Caught in the rain? Let your leather strap dry out in a natural manner by hanging it somewhere with good ventilation. Once it dries out, put some conditioner and it's good to go.
Proper Storage of Your Leather Straps
Caring for your leather straps doesn't end with the cleaning; you also have to store it the proper way.
When storing it, you only need to roll it and then place it in a bag. Don't put other items inside; they may scratch the leather or damage it in any way.
Aside from that, here are some other tips for storing your leather guitar straps.
Make Sure It Has Proper Ventilation
Leather needs to "breathe;" as we've said above, moisture is one of its enemies. If moisture gets a chance to stay on the leather, mold and mildew might develop on your strap.
This usually isn't a problem since air can pass through leather without much hindrance, evaporating any moisture. However, this can't happen if you store it in a non-breathable space, such as inside a plastic bag.
It's worth buying a travel bag for your leather strap, which should have a breathable fabric to provide air flow. Most of the time, though, the strap comes with a bag. If that's not the case and you're on a tight budget, a pillowcase would work, too.
Keep It Away from Direct Heat
Whatever happens to your leather, don't let direct sunlight or heat touch your leather.
Any type of leather is susceptible to drastic fading when exposed to sunlight, which is why you'll often find that homeowners with a leather couch need to have their curtains closed in the mornings. Not only that, but sunlight can also dry out the material and cause some cracks.
That's why we recommended earlier that you let it dry out without intervention if you happen to get it wet. Heat is also a no-no so you shouldn't use hair dryers to accelerate the drying process.
With these tips in mind, store your leather straps in a cool, dry place. It should be somewhere the sun can't reach and with proper ventilation.
Proper Care May Be Different for Everybody
While proper care is important for lengthening the lifespan of your leather guitar straps, many advise against cleaning them too often.
For most people, leather looks best with some scuffs and blemishes, which give it character. They like the wear and tear look of leather, which speaks of all the gigs and tours it ever went to.
It all comes down to preference because many people also like their leather clean and shiny. Whichever it is for you, we hope the tips above will help you enjoy your leather strap for decades to come.For more tips or if you're looking for a strap, visit our website today. We specialize in custom guitar straps, including a personalized leather guitar strap. Find the perfect one for you and contact us if you have any questions.