Jump to content

conditioner for leather flight jackets?

Recommended Posts

Thanks for the info. I have always been the kind of collector who never tries to clean or mess with any original items anyway, but I can understand why people might want to try in order to keep their stuff looking great.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 5 months later...
  • 8 months later...
  • 8 months later...

I used to think conditioning a 75 year old jacket was a great idea but after collecting hundreds of flight jackets I came to the realization that it is better to leave the jackets alone. Adding conditioner doesn't help in the long run and probably makes things worse. In the short term it does make the jacket a bit more presentable in some cases but it also can create a wet mess prone to mold and rot.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

OK, it seems like quite a few people are opposed to leather conditioners, but what about something to clean leather? The reason I ask is I recently bought a couple of Vietnam era G-1's & they have some mildew on them (they had been siting in a basement for about 20 years). Is it best to just wipe them off with a moist cloth?



Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting thread with good points made from both sides of the "coin".


I wanted to comment on this statement: "Historic leather artifacts in a collection no longer need to be flexible, since they are no longer functional objects."


Does that mean let the item become stiff?If so,would'nt that possibly produce brittleness and cracking when the item was handled?

High Flight

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silver wings;

Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hovering there

I've chased the shouting wind along and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long delirious, burning blue

I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,

where never lark, or even eagle flew;

and while, with silent, lifting mind I've trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.


John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

June 9, 1922 – December 11, 1941




" And each man stands with his face in the light of his own drawn sword. Ready to do what a hero can." - Elizabeth Barrett Browning



Don't let the B@stards wear you down -"Vinegar" Joe Stillwell



Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world.Unreasonable

people attempt to adapt the world to themselves.All progress,

therefore, depends on unreasonable people.

George Bernard Shaw



" Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining" , Fletcher,from the movie "The outlaw Josey Wales"

Link to post
Share on other sites

These guys make awesome stuff



But, this is a treatment for modern leather, it is not a renewal or preservationist type of treatment for old collectible leather. Remember, leather is an animal skin, while tanning leather slows the rotting process associated with organic material, it is still going to rot. Once the original oils are gone from the leather, they can not be put back in. Treatments only serve to hasten the rotting process, not slow it. Sad as it may be for many here to accept, your leather is slowly rotting and will one day be powder(thankfully not in your lifetime). I could go on and on as to why you should not use treatments but, we covered that on the first page.

"There is no such thing as an expert, only students with different levels of education."

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have used Pecards Antique Leather Dressing on some of my leather items, including a 100+ year old pickelhaube with success.

I have also used it on leather helmet liner chinstraps.

I think it depends on the particular item as to whether Pecards will work for you.

If you decide to use it, I would start on a small not noticeable area in case things go awry.

Link to post
Share on other sites

from reading this thread..it seems the concern is not the immediate future of the leather, when using conditioners...it seems the concern is the long term preservation///


the x factor is what is considered long term...and how is the leather utilized...if conditioned and put in museum storage/display, then it seems what folks are saying the conditioner could/ will harden, or likely to harden and ruin the leather many years down the road...unless.....


the leather is conditioned AND utilized, worn, stretched, exercised, then the conditioner should not/might not harm the leather, until the item is put away for long term storage display...so what is long term?? 10 years, 30 years 100 years.....

Link to post
Share on other sites

What I was trying to say in too many words is, the preservationist want the object to be preserved for as long as possible, for generations to come, and thus no conditioners allowed, stored in ideal conditions with ideal storage bins


then there are the users...folks who use conditioners to be able to use their leather for as long as they can, and maybe pass on to the next generation to enjoy

Two side's of the fence.. I have a small amount of AAF leather items some for over 30 + years..and have used mink oil, saddle soap, and Pecards, and several more..and all the leather is doing fine...I can't say what will happen in another 30 years..


the only leather I have seen disintegrate are the shearling jackets, pants, and other pieces of shearling flight gear...and those where without any conditioners...but shearling is another story all together

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

Sad as it may be for many here to accept, your leather is slowly rotting and will one day be powder(thankfully not in your lifetime).

I agree, that's why I use anhydrous lanolin in pieces that need it. I want them to be supple and not stiff disintegrating cardboard. If they fall apart in 100 years, that's just the way it is. I've never been one to take an item I've spent my money on and hermetically seal it away. Where is the enjoyment in that?

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 year later...
  • 1 year later...

Hello, fellow historians, I will offer my opinion for whatever you feel it's worth...I've used many different conditioners on many different projects and would suggest that when considering whether or not to apply conditioner to leather, use these general observations. I will list them in the order by what I consider most to least important.

#1. or #2 depending on how you feel) What kind of leather is it and when is it from? Tanning methods obviously changed thoughout the years and depending on how the leather was tanned carries a decent amount of weight on how the leather will respond to the conditioner. Cowhide, horsehide, sheepskin and goatskin all react differently simply due to their cellular structure, and then in how they were tanned. Pre-1900 leather is notorious for having "red rot" where the leather can degrade to having a "powdery" substance that usually suggests that the natural and tanned oils are no longer present. Re-introducing conditioning oils, while certainly darkening the leather, will unlikely undo what improper care/storage over time has done. I have had a few cases where the item was kept in a state of "stasis" for display, but never to its original pliable self. In my experience, goatskin seems to stand the test of time better than other leathers and seems to accept conditioner in a more favorable way than the rest. Finding an inconspicouous area to test and waiting a month for results is highly suggested. If the item is not responding well to reconditioning, read no further.

#2. or #1 depending on how you feel) Does it really need conditioning? Yes, having had several conversations over the years with saddle makers, leather suppliers and conservationists alike, the is the argument of what is best for "saving"/"preserving" the item in question has many differing opinions. Leather, linen and cotton are natural in their composition and thus, will want to naturally decompose faster than a synthetic. Some leather goods stored in a dry place will retain their structure, while the cotton thread that stitched it together, has dried and will pop leather pockets off of a cardboard like A-2. I was told by several saddle makers that the best way to preserve leather is to use it. Leather seems to like being massaged and flexed to keep its cellular structure pliable. Since we display our items, this approach seems to be unhelpful. I feel that if the item in question is most certainly going to fall apart anyway, then applying a conditioner is at least giving it a chance to survive a bit longer. While our hopes of making history last forever, Father Time will eventually win out. If I can make something last another 25, 50, 100 years by applying a conditioner and re applying wvery so often, then I'm doing my job as a preservationist.

#3.) Selecting the "right" conditioner. See what I did there? Used quotations around the word right? See #1. Depending on when and how the leather was tanned will help determine what to use. No easy answer, but, having said this, I have had exceptional results with Obenauf's. Their compound is purported to have natural oils and beeswax. I would think that the "natural oil" is a type of mineral oil as it does a superb job of penetrating the leather deep below the surface and the wax will, on polished leathers, allow you to buff it out to a nice shine or sheen if ypu prefer. I have used Pecard and have NOT had lasting results. It is made from duck fat oils. What happens to bacon grease when you let it sit? Becomes hard and rancid. Beeswax, while becoming harder while stationary, actually prevents mold and mildew from forming and can easily be made soft again by putting it in the sun. And...it smells much better than anything else. I don't really rely on saddle soap. The idea of putting water on old leather goes against my thoughts. Using it on a highly polished saddle that gets used everyday? Diffrent story, but using it to help restore old leather, no bueno. Mink oils and neetsfoot again are animal based oils and would advise staying away as they are unstable over time. Mineral oil is more stable in my opinion.

#4.) Lastly, using your best observation skills before using any product should be employed and patience in abundance.



Link to post
Share on other sites

I understand both points of view, but would like to illustrate why I have chosen to use Pecards on leather. Before and after images of a leather USAAF used RAF Type C helmet. It was a wreck before hand. I can see no purpose in leaving it in that state as it looks awful and hardly represents how the helmet would have looked when it was worn 75 years ago. After Pecards it looks the part again. With the other restoration bits I did, the helmet is ready for the pilot that wore it should he never need it again. And as a teaching tool, it shows what it looked like when it was used, not as it did after numerous years clearly sitting in a damp basement somewhere.




Link to post
Share on other sites

So.... what do you think about say putting Brown Kiwi shoe polish on a leather A11?

Has anyone everdone anything like that to a somewhat dried out leather flight helmet?

Or is that unheard of? Im thinking that it helpspreserve shoe leather.

Maybe it would do the same on a flight helmet?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.