Leather is a precious material that requires regular cleaning and maintenance to keep its attractive appearance and durability. Though all sorts of specialty products may be purchased for cleaning your favorite pair of wingtips or a shelf of leather-bound books, these substances often consist of simple chemicals such as isopropyl alcohol, more commonly referred to as rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol has a number of positive effects on leather, depending on its use and the object under treatment.
Rubbing alcohol is very good for removing ink stains. Dip a cotton swab into a solution of isopropyl and rub it against the blotted area until the mark disappears, then use a hair dryer at low heat to dry the application so it does not leave a stain of its own. Isopropyl alcohol diluted with water also removes mildew and mold from leather. Spray the alcohol-water solution onto a lint-free cloth and clean the affected area. This process may also carry the added benefit of softening and swelling the leather.
Isopropyl alcohol may also be used as an element in compounds to conserve leather. For instance, book preservationists have used a blend of waxes and acrylic resin emulsified in rubbing alcohol for treating leather book bindings. The furniture industry also uses similar compounds as surface coatings for their leather products. Additionally, book preservationists use an isopropyl-soluble compound to maintain the pH level in leather, which increases its durability.
Be it leather or many other substances, rubbing alcohol may be used as a disinfectant. For instance, if you have a well-worn pair of leather shoes that smell horrible, some rubbing alcohol in their interior may kill off the offending fungi. Other neglected leather goods may also need to be sanitized, not just for their sake, but your own.
Consolidation may be used to restore badly degraded leather. For instance, a compound of Klucel G and rubbing alcohol penetrates the fibrous structure of the material and give it a semi-matte natural appearance.
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Noel Lawrence has written on cultural affairs and cinema for Release Print and OtherZine since 2000. He holds a graduate degree in Russian literature from Stanford University and currently lives in Los Angeles.