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How to Care for a Leather or Wood Cell Phone Case

I’ve always been partial to phone cases with the highest impact resistance, with style as a secondary consideration, but recently a new wave of phone cases seem to combine the benefits of a high-tech case with more natural elements such as wood or leather.

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As I prepared for recent international travel, I decided to up my photography on this trip using a Moment external lens with my google pixel.

Since the lens required a Moment brand case, I made the leap to a travel-friendly leather and plastic case designed for the Moment lens (M-series case for Pixel 3, color Speckled White with Tan Horween Leather) case shown below. Designed for protection while offering the option of securing a professional quality camera lens, the moment case seemed to be the best of both worlds for my 2019 travel. As a bonus, the Moment cases include an anchor point for securing a wrist strap, which, if you’ve read my post on travel essentials, you know is a must-have for travel, in my opinion.

How to care for a leather phone case - tips and tricks

I noticed that many of the reviews for this leather phone case mention discoloration of the leather. Thankfully, my youth spent in horse stables means I have a solution for discolored leather on phone cases – and a method for preventing discolored leather before it ever starts

Why Leather Phone Cases Discolor

When leather is used in the tech industry, unlike in the shoe or fashion industry, often the leather used is raw or near-raw leather – tanned but not conditioned. Think of it like very very very dry skin or paper. Essentially, the leather-equivalent of cardboard –  this type of leather is so dry that any moisture (water, oil, or alcohol based) that touches it will be absorbed into the material, often discoloring it. To prevent this discoloration, you simply need to quench the leather’s thirst by conditioning it.

How to Prevent leather phone cases from Discoloring

It’s easy to prevent this problem and takes only about 3 minutes! You’ll need leather conditioner- ideally, this is a conditioner designed for prolonging the life of leather.

my favorite leather conditioner for boots, bagd, and yes, even leather phone cases!
my favorite leather conditioner for boots, bags, and yes, even leather phone cases!

Bick conditioner is my preferred leather conditioner- it’s worth buying a tin to keep all of your leather goods looking great, but you can also buy individual packets of leather conditioner for smaller applications like this. I like keeping leather conditioner on hand- it’s surprising how often it comes in handy. You can see in the background of these images the Pendleton clutch that also needed an application of conditioner to its leather points. Every time I pop open my leather conditioner to do something like this, or care for my Blundstone boots, I end up finding two or three more things to condition, because it’s so satisfying to see the leather transform!

In a pinch, olive oil can work for oiling leather, but it’s not ideal. Cooking oils won’t be absorbed as fully, so may leave a residue which could lead to your phone case feeling oiling or even staining clothing. To be safe, use a conditioner meant for leather!

To prevent leather from discoloring when it comes in contact with moisture or hand oils, we just need to deeply condition the leather so that all those thirsty fibers will be conditioned and able to resist stains.

Take a bit of the conditioner and put it on your fingers (or over gloves or covered fingers, if you don’t want to condition your own skin!) And begin to massage it into the leather. You will immediately see the leather darken slightly- this means it’s working!

Slowly work your way around the entire case, using your fingers to spread a very thin layer of conditioner over the leather.

Continue to massage until the slightly darker shade is uniform- indicating the conditioner is being evenly absorbed into the leather. Next, allow the leather panel on your phone case to sit for 5-10 minutes, preferably in a warm but not hot location to help the conditioner soak in.

Continue to massage the leather until the darkened color is uniform

After 5 to 10 minutes, you can wipe the excess leather conditioner off of your phone case with a soft cloth. Be sure and remove all excess (not absorbed) oil. The case might still feel slightly oily, but as the leather sits overnight, the remaining oil will be more deeply absorbed – leaving a rich looking- and stain resistant- leather surface for your phone case.

How to fix Discolored Leather on a Leather Panel Phone case

If your leather phone case is showing water spots or discoloration from the oil in your hands, it’s an indication that the leather is too dry.

Although these discolored spots cannot typically be removed, deep conditioning of the leather can significantly decrease the visibility of stains, and in some cases may remove the stains entirely. Simply follow the instructions in the section above for conditioning a leather phone case. Because this method darkens the leather, often existing discolorations disappear into the darker shade.

In extreme situations, for serious discoloration (from, for example, errant ink or sharpie markers) leather can be dyed and this often hides even the worst stains. Though it requires care, you can dye a leather phone case at home. Just remove your phone from the case, use masking tape to protect non-leather parts, and carefully apply leather dye with a paintbrush.

Caring for Wood or Wood-paneled Phone Cases

Although leather phone cases are often shipped untreated, the manufacturers of wood phone cases usually provide adequate protection for the wood surfaces during manufacturing (in most cases a polyurethane type coating is applied that prevents moisture damage and hardens the wood)

If you have a wood phone case that is damaged, or in which the woods seems to be drying out – you don’t have to throw your case away. In a way very similar to caring for leather phone cases, wood can be restored with simple care. A coating of linseed oil applied with the same method as described above can prolong the life of wood phone cases.