So why does leather have that strong leather smell? Should it smell at all? Is there a bad smell you should be careful of? Well I’ll try to answer those questions in a short and sweet way! Anyone who has gone into a leather store has noticed the smell of leather. For most people it’s a pleasant smell.
Leather is organic, it use to be living, as it was the skin of an animal. Anytime you take a hide from an animal it starts to break down. Now, if you just let a hide rot in the air, it would smell, but not in a good way! It would smell just like a dead animal, maybe not quite as bad. When they make leather they start treating it as soon as the hide is off the animal.
There are many steps in treating a leather hide. You need to preserve the hide so it does not start to rot, like it naturally would. You also break down the fibers a bit so it is not really stiff. All the dyes, treatments, leather bathes and chemicals most leather goes through all have their own smell.
Because all these liquids soak into the hide, they leave their own smell, mixing in with the leather smell. So some leather may smell stronger than others, depending on how it was treated. Some leather has almost no smell at all, while others always seem to have a strong odor. Leather also breathes, and always is letting out a little bit of the animal hide smell.
Now, sometimes how a leather jacket or other leather apparel smells can tip you off that it is cheap. If it has a sharp, oily smell, or a dead animal smell, that’s a sign that the hide was not treated right. Cheap jackets and leather gets processed half-ass, and often has not been fully tanned. What that means is the inside of the leather is slowly rotting.
So down the road it will smell horrible, ooze a smelly fat like liquid and fall apart. If your the only one in the biker bunch that has flies always around him, you may have a bad leather jacket! Some cheap leather jackets are also treated and cleaned with gasoline or other petroleum based liquids.
So if it has a gasoline smell, or maybe a tar, oil or lighter fluid type of smell, stay away from it. Some cheap leathers have a coating sprayed on the surface much like a coat of paint. I had a leather jacket once that smelled like paint and gas. When I wore it once outside, all the brown color washed off the top!! That was before I knew what to look for in a leather jacket.
Leather should have a mild, easy on the nose smell, or none at all. Your leather jacket can even get different smells depending on what type of conditioner, water proofing and cleaner you put on it. If you try a leather conditioner and don’t like the smell, try another brand.
Leather can collect mildew, and that also will make a smell. So check the corners and hardware for mildew buildup. A good, quality leather jacket treated with good products will just have an easy, leather smell to it. So if you smell anything like gas, paint, rubber, rot or any sharp smell, stay away from it. That pretty much goes for anything else too!!! 😉