The Leather Milk website evokes the spirit of the old west. Homilies and witticisms abound. The old adage “A little bit will do ya” could be the one that “saves your hide”. Aaron, from Leather Milk, recommends testing Leather Milk products on an inconspicuous place.
When my samples arrived, I was immediately impressed. The packaging and raised writing on the bottles are reminiscent of an old-time elixir. The mild, curious odors requires the reminder to not use as a beverage. The pour cap, which allows for proper dispensing, without pouring the product all over the place, is a nice, modern touch.
I wanted to see the difference between the two conditioners, the No. 6, Boot and Shoe Cream “Conditions and Rejuvenates Fine Leather Footwear” and the Healing Balm. I grabbed a twenty-year old piece of dried-out, dull brown alligator scrap and wondered why anyone would dye this beautiful leather the color of dried mud. No. 6 and Healing Balm were applied side-by-side. The No. 6, a thick liquid, absorbed in quickly, did not darken the leather, and added life to the dull color. Its mild smell reminded me of maraschino cherries. The Healing Balm is a thick salve, noticeably darkened the leather, and brought back the deep, rich color. After one week, the difference in color was less noticeable, and they both looked much better than the untreated leather.
To demo the No. 3, Water Protectant, “Penetrating Oils and Waxes that Protect Leather”, I lovingly picked out a pair of black, Dan Post Milwaukees, my favorite boots twenty-five years ago. The most important thing to know about No. 3, a teeny, tiny, little bit will do ya. The Leather Milk products should always be applied in smooth, thin layers, to avoid tackiness. The included cotton pad allows for easy application on the whole boot. No. 3 is very shiny and has a pleasing balsam fir odor and can be applied over shoe polish or other Leather Milk products. I also applied No. 3 to a pair of deerskin gloves that get regular wear. It absorbed into the gloves in a few minutes and the odor faded quickly.
Everything seemed to be going fine, so I pulled out a pair of Ariat Rambler work boots that got daily wear in a factory for two years. They needed conditioning to rejuvenate the leather uppers. No. 6 was selected and rubbed in thoroughly. The quarters (the tall part of the boot) are suede, and didn’t require conditioning. These were my first square-toe boots.
Holding my leather boots while I gently rub in protectant is satisfying feeling. The pleasant odors in the Leather Milk products help. I wasn’t ready to call it a night, things were going pretty smooth, so I made the big move and reached for a pair of Lucchese boots with no name, only a number, N1556. These were my first Lucchese boots, they have a seven toe (medium square), a four heel (1 ½ inches), and are made from burnished chocolate, mad dog goat. If you’re not familiar with the Lucchese “mad dog” finish, it’s made by dragging your beautiful, new (expensive) boots over rocks and rusty nails. I told the salesman, “I don’t want a pair of boots that look like I can’t cross a ba’b-wire fence!” He assured me it wasn’t as bad as all that. My boots got scuffed on the sides and heel counters changing the tire on my truck, on interstate I-95, in the rain. This was a job for Healing Balm! The leather uppers greedily sucked up Balm and turned very dark brown and dull. The black burnish marks were barely visible. Obviously, I used too much.
That was enough balming for one night. These boots and gloves were left to dry.
With the dawn of a new day gleaming bright, I surveyed my previous night’s work. The gloves had a very slight sheen and were waterproof after one application of No. 3 Water Proofer. The Dan Post Milwaukee boots had a sheen from the waterproofer and looked good. The tackiness, probably due to high humidity, dried in a day or two. The Ariat work boots looked nicer, refreshed, with no noticeable color change.
The Lucchese 1556 boots absorbed the excess Leather Balm in about five days and returned to their normal look, after buffing. The scrapes and damage to the heal counters were muted and blended into the rest of the mad dog finish. The rough, damaged areas looked much, much better, almost invisible. Amazing.
Since I was on a roll with the Leather Balm, I decided my new glossy, green alligator wallet could use the Balm, too. Oops! The high gloss finish on my wallet was reduced to a dull sheen. The color was not affected, of course. When I checked with Aaron about this, he reminded me that high-gloss finishes are not what Leather Milk products were designed for. Leather Milk was designed for leather with a natural, not glossy or painted, look. Their goal is to not add shine unnecessarily, but also to not remove any shine. I had to re-finish the wallet, to restore the gloss. The good news from Aaron and Leather Milk, is that they have some new products on-the-way specifically designed for glossy exotic shoes and boots. I look forward to trying out these new products.
Leather Milk breaks leather down into three categories, based on the dying technique. These types are aniline, semi-aniline, and painted. A drop of water is used to determine which type of leather you have. The drop of water will be immediately absorbed by the aniline dyed leather, sit on the surface briefly before being absorbed for semi-aniline leather, and bead-up on the surface and not be absorbed at all for painted leather. Since Formulas No. One, Four, and Five are water-based conditioners, you can expect the same results with them as with the drop of water. For an excellent leather finish-cupcake analogy, complete with a picture of a rainbow cupcake, please refer to the “Identifying Leather Types: Leather Finish” blog post on the Leather Milk website.
To properly use the Leather Milk family of products, first determine the kind of leather you have. This may sound simple, and it very well may be, but Leather Milk does not recommend its product be used on “Genuine Leather.” Sounds kind of funny for a leather conditioner to not be recommended for “Genuine Leather”, until you hear Leather Milk’s Aaron explain this type of leather is often made with leather dust, fillers, and glue. What he calls “junk”. When used properly, the Leather Milk products perform like no other.