Wallets and purses are a popular Christmas or birthday gift. Shiny, soft, easily pushed into pockets and small handbags, the styles available in department stores are hard wearing and often look sophisticated without being overly pricy. Of course, top brand designer leather goods are much more expensive, but they will often come with their own specialist leather cleaning kit, which should be used in preference to any DIY options.

The average leather wallet tends to have a hard life though. Left in a beer puddle on the Friday after payday, picked up with dirty or greasy hands, shoved in a locker at work or the gym, pushed into a handbag or briefcase, tossed on the side in the kitchen or bedroom. Given enough time, they will inevitably pick up stains, smells and wear. Some owners like it that way, others prefer to keep their leather wallet looking good for as long as possible.

So how can they be cleaned properly? Owners can hardly throw them in the washing machine, after all. Some items have particular leather cleaners recommended, but if a well-used wallet doesn’t, what other options are there?

These surface cleaning solutions are suitable for use on leather, not suede or nubuck. They assume a totally empty wallet: no coins, photos, paper money, receipts or cards left inside. The wallet should be socially clean, wiped down with anti-bacterial wipes.

Saddle soap

Horse owners often swear by saddle soap. It is designed for use on leather saddles after all, and they reckon it works just as well on wallets (and even boots). A leather wallet will only require a small amount to look good again as it is quite a strong cleaner.

Leather shoe cleaner

Talking of boots, ordinary shoe polish can also be used on wallets. Wax-based cleaners often have a dispenser for easy application.

Olive oil

The kitchen staple has another use, as a leather cleaner and polish restorer. An alternative is walnut oil. These oils will also restore the suppleness of the leather, making it soft as well as glossy.

Washing up liquid

Another all-purpose cleaner is washing up liquid. Before starting the washing up, dunk a clean dishcloth in the hot soapy water, wring out and wipe the outside of the wallet thoroughly. Dry with a clean tea-towel and polish gently to restore the shine.

On safety grounds, before use, any of these cleaners should be tested on an inconspicuous part of the wallet first. Some cleaning guides advise against using oils, saddle soap or household cleaners, whereas others swear by them. The decision is down to the owner. Those who have multiple leather items will probably have their own tried and tested hacks to clean them; the options above are only some of the choices available.