How to Clean Your Leather Bag Safely
by Albert Varkki updated 01-05-2023
From removing stains, scuffs and odors to how to correctly store your bag
Cleaning a leather handbag – safely – is a skill that every high-end handbag owner should know. A few pieces of the right kind of knowledge will not only save your precious leather bag, but it will keep it looking great, even after a mishap or two would otherwise have ruined the original look of it.
Below we will share the secrets of how to keep your prized possession looking great, smelling great, and lasting as long as it should.
How to clean a leather handbag
Even if you are able to take your bag to a high-end leather specialist to have stains treated, you may not be able to do so soon enough to prevent permanent damage. To solve your stain danger quickly – or to save the high fees those specialists charge – just follow these steps to protect and repair you bag from the accidents that sometimes happen. Ensure that you have the right cleaning and protective products on hand. You will also need sponges, cloths, and a brush.
- It starts with a thorough cleaning. Create a foam with the cleaning solution and massage it into all leather surfaces of the bag, inside and out.
- Let the bag dry for a couple of minutes.
- Apply the protection cream (like this one), taking special care and time to cover the handles, bottom, corners, and other areas that get touched frequently.
- Leave to dry for ten minutes.
- Buff off any excess cream.
- For light-colored bags, you may want to repeat the process one or two times.
Related article: What is Full Grain Leather?
How to remove a liquid stain from your leather bag
One of the most common stains suffered by handbags is dye splash from the salon. An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure in this case. A treated bag will stand up better to these stains – and then of course being careful to place your bag away from splash zones will be the best prevention of all.
In the case that an accident does happen, though, a few quick steps can reduce or remove the stain.
- Do not apply water or regular soap – these will make it worse.
- Blot the stained area with a dry tissue or cloth, immediately after the spill. The goal is to absorb as much of the fluid as possible, WITHOUT rubbing or smearing it.
- Once the excess fluid is removed, gently blot the stained area with a tissue of cloth, dampened by warm water only. Start at the outside of the stain and work inward to prevent the stain from spreading. Better yet, use the cleaner one of our Handbag Care Kits.
- Next, dab the stained area gently, using a dry cloth or tissue, but DO NOT rub it or the stain may spread.
- Finally, place the bag in a dry, warm room, away from direct sunlight. Do not place it next to a heater or blower – slower drying is better.
Read next: Leather Patina, what is it?
Extra Tipes & Things to Avoid
Always use a cleaner that is designed for leather care. Do not use baby wipes, vinegar, or other so-called “home remedies,” as these often do more harm than good. Such products can leach color, set stains, dry out the leather, cause grease build-up, and/or other problems.
Whenever possible, first test your cleaner (even specialized leather cleaners) on a part of the bag that does not show (such as the bottom corner, or somewhere inside the bag) before cleaning a very visible spot.
Quicker treatment is always more effective. This might mean taking it to a professional right away, or it might mean using specialized products yourself… in either case, do it as quickly as you can.
Always use a professional to have old ink stains removed – these are too difficult for non-specialists.
Never add water, especially to grease stains. Grease stains should, in most cases, simply wipe away from the leather.
Do not use saddle soap. It is, as the name indicates, for saddles and other heavy-duty items, and is likely too strong for handbags, resulting in discoloring.
Never leave your handbag in direct sunlight. The UV rays will damage the leather and leach away the color on the exposed side(s).
Do not hold your handbag just after applying hand cream. Hand cream is a common culprit of grease stains on bag handles and bodies.
Related article: Leather Care Tips
Use Protective Products
Regular cleaning and application of protective products is very important for handbag care and longevity. Start right away, even when it looks brand new, and it should stay that way longer.
Gently stuffing a properly sized pillow into bags when not in use will help them to maintain shape, will avoid creases and random folds, and will look great in your closet, too. This method also allows you to hang the bags on hooks without damaging the shape – make that blank wall look great, and display your handbags with pride.
Check out a good protective leather cream here.
Benefits of Protecting Your Bag
If you’re interested in keeping your bag looking new inside, as well as out, make sure to invest in a makeup bag and a pen lid. Makeup and ink are the two most common causes of staining on the interior of handbags.
How often you should clean your leather bag?
This depends on the conditions your bag is in when you use, how often you use it, the type of bag it is, and how you treat it when you’re out – even how you store it is a factor.
As a guideline, clean every-day-use bags every two to three months. Bags only used on the weekend, or bags that are used in rotation with other ones, may only need cleaning every six to nine months.
What about bag hardware damage?
Hardware damage on handbags is usually in one (or both) of two forms: scratches, and/or stress damage.
Scratches happen, and the best way to avoid them is to be mindful of the metallic portions of your bag when handling keys and other hard objects. Metal polish will keep the hardware looking new, but be careful not to get any on the non-metallic components (like the leather). Take special care of logos and brand badges, as these are more difficult (but usually not impossible) to replace. Repair on plated items can be difficult, due to the thinness of the plating making conduction difficult.
Stress damage tends to occur when bags are overfilled with items that are too large, or too heavy, for the construction of the bag. Zippers should close easily, without pulling on the seams either side of the opening, and straps should not curl up or deform under the weight of carried items. If you need to carry big or heavy items, use a backpack or messenger bag.
Read next: Top Leather Backpack Brands
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