Leather Care Guide: How to Care for Your Leather Watch Strap

Hook+Gaff watches have a well-earned reputation for their strong build and long-lasting durability. And that’s not by accident — our watches are purposefully built to withstand the harsh conditions of a blustery day deep-sea fishing, the brutal sun out on the golf course, and the inevitable wear and tear brought by salt and humidity. Our watches can handle it all.

Your Hook+Gaff can hang tough no matter what you put it through. And if cared for properly, your genuine leather watch strap can last a long time, too.

Here are some of our top tips and recommendations for caring for your leather watch strap.

leather watch strap


Are Leather Watch Straps Waterproof?

Although our actual watches are watertight, Hook+Gaff’s hand-stitched leather watch straps are not waterproof — and neither are any other genuine leather straps. Genuine leather watch straps are a natural product that acts like skin, meaning it is incredibly porous and will never be completely waterproof. Water can damage a leather watch strap and cause it to stain, discolor or deteriorate prematurely.

If you do get your leather strap wet, the first step is to gently brush off the water. Use a soft, absorbent cloth to pat the strap, and then let it dry naturally — never try to speed up the process with a hair dryer! Although it is hard to totally protect leather from water, you can use a leather protectant or beeswax cream and lightly apply it to your watch strap for added protection.


Do Leather Watch Straps Stretch?

Because leather is a natural material, yes, it stretches a bit on its own. Over time, the warmth from your wrist and the oils in your skin will stretch the leather so that it moves more comfortably.

leather strap

Do Leather Watch Straps Smell?

Leather naturally has a fresh, rich, earthy smell — but it does not smell bad. However, if you wear a leather watch strap daily, the pores in the leather can trap odors over time. This means that occasionally you'll need to clean it.


How to Stop Leather Watch Straps from Smelling

If you’re wondering how to stop your leather watch strap from smelling, your first step is to probably give it a break. Because it is so skin-like, leather absorbs the sweat and dirt that are inevitable when you wear it regularly. And like your skin, leather watch straps need to breathe. If you don’t let it breathe, the pores in the leather may trap odors. Sometimes, all your band needs is a little time to chill out. Leaving it on your nightstand overnight should do the trick. It's also a good idea to take your watch off when bathing. You can also of course clean your strap to remove trapped dirt and odors.


How to Clean a Leather Watch Strap

If letting your watch strap breathe doesn’t eliminate the odor, it may be time to clean your strap. To clean your leather watch strap, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the strap from your watch and use a dry microfiber cloth to wipe off both sides. Doing this will ensure any trapped dirt will not scratch the leather in the next step.
  2. Then, dampen — do not soak — a jewelry cloth and apply a tiny drop of mild hand soap or saddle soap to the cloth (about the size of half a dime). Do not aggressively rub the leather back and forth; instead, use tapping movements and move in a gentle circles, applying light pressure and paying attention to spots with dirt. Gentle soap is best, because harsher soaps can strip the leather.
  3. With another damp cloth, gently wipe the leather clean. Don’t use too much water, as it can cause damage to the leather.
  4. Give the strap plenty of time to fully dry before wearing it again.
  5. Condition the leather with your favorite leather oil or conditioner to soften and protect it if you want to. Follow the conditioner product's instructions.


How to Condition and Soften Leather Watch Straps

Though the strap may start out somewhat stiff like all leather products, it will soften over time. Again, because leather is porous, it will absorb oils over time and become more flexible.

You can also apply a leather oil or conditioner to your watch strap, but don’t do so too frequently and don’t use a large quantity. Less is more when it comes to conditioning your leather. In addition to making your strap nice and supple, this softening process can be beneficial in preventing cracking in the leather — something that occurs when the leather losses its natural lubricant. Note that using a leather oil may darken the leather color slightly, so check to see what your conditioner product says about darkening, and then spot test on the underside of the strap first. Follow the instructions of the particular leather conditioning product you purchase for best results.


Take care of your leather strap, and it will maintain a classic look for years to come. View all of Hook+Gaff’s leather strap options now, and choose the one that suits you best!


Kevin Dupre

When I am not wearing my watch should I lay it flat or wrap it around something?


Hey Zach. It won’t hurt you to sleep with a leather strap on, but it may obviously contribute to increased wear and tear on the strap from any potential movement or sweating during sleep.


Would it hurt to sleep with a leather strap on?

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