Watch Education How To Clean Leather and Rubber Watch Straps

Just as it is important to maintain metal bracelets on your watch, you should continue to conserve your leather and rubber straps to help extend the life.  Rubber straps can withstand similar cleaning to a metal bracelet as they are very durable.  Leather straps need a more tailored approach to cleaning due to the ability to stain easily or be damaged by moisture.  If a leather strap is too damaged, it may be uncomfortable to wear.

Luckily, straps are easy to replace when the time is right.  Many different strap options are available, from branded to non-branded options.  We carry an assortment of colors and sizes on our eBay store if your strap or bracelet needs to be replaced.  Leather watch straps typically last between six and nine months depending on the quality, wear and maintenance.  If you wear a NATO strap, they are easy to maintain and can be hand washed in warm water and gentle soap with an air-dry.  Some people even recommend using a mesh laundry bag and machine washing it on a gentle cycle and air-drying.

Removing a strap from your watch

Maintaining The Straps

As with cleaning a metal bracelet, you will want to make sure to remove the strap from the case, if possible.  This will avoid accidentally scratching the case with a brush or causing water damage to the movement or dial.  If you are unable to remove the strap or don’t have the right tools, clean very carefully by using a cloth to wipe down the strap.  This is especially important if you don’t know the water resistance of the case.  When the strap needs a deeper clean or replacing, you can take it to a repair center where they can use the right tools to safely remove the strap.

Leather Strap Care

Depending on how often you wear your leather strap, you might begin to notice it looking dull, spotty or even start to carry an odor.  It is recommended to avoid contact with water or liquids that may damage the strap to keep it in good condition.  Moisture is easily trapped between the leather strap and your wrist due to everyday wear.  The easiest way to clean a leather strap is by using a simple soft cloth can help remove some of the daily oils and elements that the strap can be exposed to.

This soft cloth will help avoid scratching the leather with any dirt that has accumulated.  You may also notice some white spots appearing on your strap after a while, this is typically fat from the leather emerging on the top.  Remove these white spots the same way you would typically clean your leather strap, with a soft cloth.  While leather doesn’t like water, you can apply leather oils, conditioner or waterproofing products to extend the life.

Be sure to double check with the strap manufacturer what their official recommendations are before applying products.  Some products, including vinegar based products, can be safe to use on leathers but can cause fading.  Limiting the exposure to direct, intense, light can help add life to, and preserve the leather.  Excessive light can cause discoloration in the leather and dry it out causing it to break or crack.

Cleaning a Leather Strap On a Watch

Suede straps are treated like leather straps when you are cleaning.  They can damage easily and should be protected by a suede protection spray.  There are specific cleaners designed for suede rather than typical leather cleaners to avoid causing damage to the suede.  A dry towel or soft bristle brush can be used to scrub away some dirt and stains but should be used gently to not cause damage.

Rubber Straps

The two primary types of rubber used in straps are natural rubber and silicone, both of these can be cleaned and sustained using the same methods.  While they are typically found on sport watches, they are becoming more popular on other styles.  Rubber straps can be damaged by prolonged exposure to the sun but are designed for outdoor conditions.  Just like leather, the sun will dry out the rubber over time and eventually cause it to crack and become unwearable.

Certain other products such a bug spray, cologne and sunscreen should all be rinsed or wiped off of the strap after using.  These, along with other alcohol based products, have the same effect as the sun and can fade or crack the strap.  Be sure to check for tears around the buckle and spring bars for tears and other damage. These areas receive the most amount of stress and typically are damaged first.

How to clean a rubber watch strap

If you notice your watch leaving a black residue on your wrist, it is due to a build up of material from day to day wear.  Periodic cleaning by using a soft brush and mild soap and water is ideal to avoid this backup of residue.  You should clean the entire inside and outside of the strap before rinsing with fresh water and using a soft towel to dry completely.

When To Replace A Watch Strap

If you are wearing a NATO strap they can be easily interchanged to suit different styles or outfits.  Luckily with a NATO strap, the nylon they are made of wears very slowly and will only need to be replaced if there is noticeable damage or breaking of the nylon.  Metal bracelets should be replaced if they are broken and cannot be repaired or if you do not like the wear.  They can be scratched or damaged due to normal wear, adding to the story behind the watch.

Simple scratches can be polished out of the metal by a watch repair center.  A metal bracelet can also be changed for a leather strap easily to breathe new life into the style.  Rubber straps will not need to be replaced often due to their durability unless it gets dried out and cracks.  A leather strap will need to be replaced more often than other strap styles because they are susceptible to the elements and can damage easily.  The normal wear and shaping of the leather strap is part of the beauty of wearing it but when it starts to fade, crack or break is when it needs to be replaced.

Replacing a watch strap requires specific tools and a clean work station.  Taking your time is an important aspect of changing a strap and it should not be rushed.  If you don’t have the specific tools to change the strap, you can take your watch to a repair center or watch store to avoid damaging the to remove a watch strap

About Emily Smith
Newbie to watches but a quick learner. She loves the history of watches and loves learning how they work. She prefers Rolex and Omega watches but is learning the history behind other brands. Her watch of choice right now is her vintage Omega Ladymatic that is a mere 19mm. She has her eye on a few others including the Plum dial Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm and a Patek Twenty ~4 (4910/10 A011). While she enjoys the look of vintage watches, she is excited to learn about new models and build her collection.

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