I have read to use a 50/50 vinegar water solution to clean leather, is this okay to do, or can it damage or darken leather? I have a pair of expensive calfskin leather boots, and want to know before I try it.
I can’t speak for cleaning leather with vinegar, but I did eliminate the odor of cigarettes from a leather jacket (one that’d been in the apartment of a chain smoker for two years!) by spritzing it, inside and out-, with non-diluted vinegar from a spray bottle, and letting it hang in a room with good air circulation. Repeated the process three times, letting the vinegar absorb and evaporate each time. Didn’t harm the jacket any.
I’ve used it to clean salt off winter shoes for years, and had no problems.
Since leather is acidic so vinegar should be less damaging for it than a lot of other cleaners. I don’t know if it will discolor it though. Saddle soap is often recommended for cleaning leather.
Vinegar by itself won’t do anything, but if the boots have ferric metal fittings, it will stain. Steel wool dissolved in vinegar is how I dye reproduction medieval leather items black.
I think I will try cleaning the leather with 50/50 water vinegar, and then apply a leather conditioner oil. Should I rinse off the vinegar with plain water before applying the leather conditioner?
Don’t dilute the vinegar, vinegar already contains water. Use full strength white vinegar like you’d use for cooking. It won’t hurt the leather. You shouldn’t need to rinse, just let it dry thoroughly.
As a general rule, water and leather don’t play nice together. Avoid getting water on/in your leather unless it is already well protected by being oiled or otherwise weatherproofed.