While leather bracelets boast an impressive level of versatility and look great on pretty much anyone, they don’t last forever.
And even if you’ve had a leather bracelet for as long as you can remember, there is one thing that will put you off about that bracelet, which is the fact your leather bracelet will have an off, the unsavory smell after some time.
But you cannot clean leather as you would other fabrics or metals because this would break it down, so we’ll be sharing some tips on what you should do when your leather bracelet starts smelling. But first, what makes leather bracelets smelly?
Why your leather bracelet smells bad?
After some time, your leather bracelets will start smelling. This applies to both bracelets and, in other cases, the leather straps that make up the watches.
The main reason for the terrible smell associated with leather bracelets comes from the skin-like appearance of the leather, not to mention the fact that the leather straps absorb dirt and sweat, which is all ultimately inevitable, as long as you wear the watch or bracelet regularly.
1. Not waterproof
Leather bracelets and watch straps aren’t waterproof. All genuine leather bracelets and straps are made of natural, skin-like materials, which are significantly porous, so the leather isn’t waterproof.
In most cases, leather will stain and get discolored, and exposure to moisture from sweat or water will deteriorate it quite quickly. One of the signs of deterioration is the annoying smell that comes from the leather strap.
2. Porous material
As mentioned above, these leather bracelets are much like the skin, meaning they have pores. And without any breathing space, these pores will trap in odors, which makes them smelly.
So, if you have a leather bracelet or a watch with leather straps, you should occasionally take off the band or leather strap to allow it to chill and air out, hence a lower risk of smelly straps.
3. Organic material
Moisture may also make your leather bracelets stink, which means that if your strap is exposed to sweat and water, say when you accidentally get it in water in the shower, the bracelet will give off a stinking smell after some time.
Remember that leather is an organic substance that breaks down when moisture, sweat, and the air is exposed. When it starts breaking down, one of the by-products of the emission will be in the form of a putrid smell.
It’s worth noting that in most instances, the debris and dirt on the leather bracelets will also increase the smelliness of the bracelet.
How to clean a leather bracelet that smell
I. Simple wet cloth cleaning solution
The first step for cleaning your leather bracelet is to get rid of all the water it may have come in contact with. Essentially, you first need to brush off the moisture gently.
You could use an absorbent piece of cloth which you’ll use to pat on the leather strap, and after drying it, you should allow it to dry out naturally.
It will take some time, but you shouldn’t fall into the temptation of speeding up the drying process. In other words, you shouldn’t use a hairdryer to dry the leather bracelet or strap.
After wiping it, especially if the bracelet or strap is heavily stained and still smelly, the next thing you should do is to dampen the strap. Don’t soak it, though. Next, apply a drop or two of mild detergent or saddle soap on the damp cloth.
Next, rub the damp cloth on the leather but don’t be aggressive about it. Continue rubbing the leather back and forth, then using a tapping motion, start moving the damp cloth in small, gentle circles, as you apply very light pressure on the leather while paying attention to the extra dirt spots.
Remember that using a gentle soap is ideal because it will clean the leather without causing any stripping. Once you’re sure the bracelet is clean, take another piece of damp cloth to clean the leather gently.
You could use more than one piece of damp cloth to clean the leather. Also, the leather strap/ band/bracelet shouldn’t be sopping wet. Once again, you shouldn’t expose it to water or dip it in water because water damages leather.
Once done, let it air dry and ensure it is completely dry before you wear it again. You could also choose to condition the leather using a conditioner or oil for softening and protecting the leather. Just follow the instructions on the leather conditioner.
In most cases, however, the gentle cleaning detergent and damp cloth solution wouldn’t really get rid of that bad odor. So, you may have to use an odor or an antibacterial cleaner to remove the bad smell from the bracelet effectively.
II. Clean it with a vinegar solution
If water, soap, and the damp cloth don’t get rid of that bad smell, you may want to take things up a notch by using a different cleaning solution, preferably a vinegar solution.
You’d need to rub the vinegar solution on the leather piece by using a cloth dampened by a solution of distilled white vinegar – just mix the vinegar with plain water.
It works because vinegar is acidic, and its low acid content will fight the smell by killing the bacteria that cause the smell. Despite the strong smell of vinegar, the strong leather smell will disappear, and afterward, the vinegar smell will disappear too.
You also need to think about the fact that you should use a clean cloth when applying the vinegar solution to the leather bracelet. And most importantly, you also need to use the vinegar solution very sparingly. For colored leather, go for a spot test first before you go all out.
- An alternative to vinegar solution is the baking soda solution.
- You could also use a store-bought leather cleaning solution if you spot-test it first.
- You could also apply coffee grounds next to the leather strap
Here are some of the tips to protect leather bracelets in the future
- Don’t expose your leather to sunlight
- Avoid wearing your leather bracelet in the shower or the pool
- Take it off during or before your workout to avoid drenching it in sweat
- Avoid exposing it to harsh chemicals and lotions
The leather bracelet or watch strap is naturally porous, and it will smell after some time – this can be after months or weeks, but it often happens when you expose it to water, sweat, and air, a combination that encourages bacterial breeding and the characteristic bad odor.
When it happens, you can clean it using a gentle cleaning/ liquid soap, detergent, or any other solutions recommended above.
Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.