I have a leather wallet which was in my backpack during an unfortunate coffee-thermos incident. Basically, the lid came off the thermos and everything in the backpack became soaked in the coffee. The only item I am not sure how to clean is my leather wallet. Brief googling suggests putting it through a washing cycle is a bad idea but good suggestions on how to clean the entire wallet inside and out were not forthcoming. Any suggestions?
Speaking as one who did inadvertently put his leather wallet through the washing cycle...
It is a very soft black aniline leather, so I feared the worst. A lot of colour came out of it, into everything inside it. My driver's license will forever bear the marks, though oxygen bleach recovered it & the currency notes sufficiently to read/spend. All my bank cards survived, NFC & chip & PIN.
You won't have the same problems, of course, as you can choose to remove everything else first.
The wallet itself, aside from some slight shrinkage in the stitching - cotton rather than artificial fibre I would presume - actually survived the incident reasonably well, & is still in use to this day.
I'd recommend putting it in a zipped patch-type trouser pocket to keep the wallet in shape, & a gentle, cool, short wash. Dry naturally afterwards, of course. [Mine was discovered before it went through the tumble dryer too - I don't think that would have done it much good at all.]
When it comes out, flex & stretch it to preserve the shape & the stitching.
Because of the difference in manufacturing & finishing of different leather types, you may have less success if it is not made of aniline leather. Split leathers have a plastic-like coating, which is likely to strip if it gets too wet & is then subject to mechanical wear.
If it's that type, then I wouldn't do more than give it a quick rinse in warm soapy water.
... it depends...
- leather wallets often are built around a core layer of cardboard for added stability. While this still dries off ok after getting slightly moist, this cardboard does not stand up well to being soaked, tumbled and dried again.
- some wallets have a smooth "verneer"?-like coat applied. Again, this comes off during washing in flakes and does not survive.
- smooth, sturdy leather without additional fancy layers actually fares best. You can usually follow the instructions for cleaning saddle leathers and the like, using a mild detergent (saddle soap), and oiling the leather with a clear product that does not rub off afterwards. If the wallet feels stiff and breakable after washing, rub the oil/wax in gradually and work it gently until it feels smooth and flexible again.
- Speeding up the drying process with a hair dryer or placing the wallet upon a radiator will cause the leather to become stiffwhile drying. It usually works better to let it dry slowly and work it around a bit during the process.
- Caveat: staining shoe polish does give off colour to pockets and hands in everyday use on a wallet.
- split leather, or leather with a rough surface does not like being washed or oiled...