Leather and soot

What are different things you have used to clean the soot from your leather projects?

I normally wipe my items clean with a damp rag, but I’m embarking on a large and complex project utilizing multiple OZs of leather and some of the soot is going to be too much for just a simple dust off.

I’m hoping people have good advice on household (not too chemical ladended) things that work really well.

Thanks so much!


Here is one thread with some useful tips. There are lots of others if you use the search function. Leather edge smudge marks


By mistake, I found that if I soak the leather (all mine is random non-PG) in plain water, the soot lifts out of the nooks & crannies, and the surface. I’ve seen pronounced soot deposit just get left in the water after a soak. Offhand, I can’t say how long it took; less than an hour.

Although it’s nice to see the unwanted stuff go away, it will leave your design with less contrast against the untouched leather.


My go to is the orange industrial hand soap…


I take a few wood skewers and soak them in water for 5 minutes. Shake off the extra water, I also have a damp thin towel.

I pull the skewers through the holes. The dampness of the skewer picks up much of the soot. After every sewing hole—I wipe off the skewers with the damp towel.


I just use water and a sponge, it usually does the job. Some of the thicker leathers require a bit more scrubbing.


I have done very little leather but have found hand sanitizer to be a good universal solvent of soot and crud. I figured that good for hands should be ok for leather, though I use Weiman leather polish on it afterwards.


I use KIWI saddle soap to clean and condition the leather after engraves.


That stuff is epic, but I used it too much in under grad/grad school with printmaking and now my hands always have a reaction to it. >____<


I like this - thanks for the advice!


I was about to ask “what about the alcohol drying out the leather?” but then you end with the polish which counters that. Nice :slight_smile:

The hand sanitizer I have has other things in it to not over dry my hands, so I worry about it’s cleaning effectiveness. Is there a brand of sanitizer you recommend? Or is the cheapest most generic the best bet?

I use that to work some miracles on restoring antique items. I don’t know why I never thought about using it after engraving. >_< Thanks!

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Not drying your hands badly is one reason for thinking of not drying the leather badly. However I have had issues first with cheap industrial hand cleaner. As it turns out acrylic is very vulnerable to some forms of alcohol so it has been the canary for testing and putting the acrylic in industrial cleaner caused it to break into hundreds of pieces. Another very surprising case was Spectrum Alcohol that had no thickener, and left a white scum on the acrylic when it dried, However, the thickened Spectrum hand sanitizer has no such issues. Purell seems like the most common brand and has had no problems.

Ultimately the real answer is Test-test-test. Every time you cut something you also cut a piece of scrap, so you should not lack for something to test.


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