How to Restore a Faded Leather Bag
by Albert Varkki updated 01-05-2023
Part of what makes leather look so good, feel so good, and have a sense of individual character, is the patina it develops as it is worn and used. Too much exposure to the sun, however, or uneven exposure and wear, can be a problem. In such cases, you may need to restore color to your leather item. This takes some careful preparation, and some high-quality polish in the desired color. Here are the four steps – and a few bits supplies – that you’ll need to do this yourself.
- Clean, white cotton rags
- Leather cleaner
- Leather conditioner
- High-quality leather polish
Prepare Your Bag
- Gently clean the entire surface of the bag with a high-quality leather cleaner that is designed for the type of leather you are treating.
- Then treat the bag with leather conditioner. Apply a small amount of leather conditioner in an even layer. Massage it in, then buff away any excess once the bag has been completely treated.
Choose a Polish
- Match a high-quality leather polish to the desired color of your bag. If you can’t find the perfect match, choose one slightly darker than the original, as it will cover better. If available in your area, some companies will color match the polish to your bag, sometimes mixing the correct color from a near base.
- Test a small amount in in inconspicuous area of the bag. Remember that the wet product will appear slightly darker than it will once dry. If you’re happy with the color, go on to the next step.
- Put on protective gloves. Your skin is basically a kind of leather, and so it will be stained by these products. Some products are also damaging to human skin.
- Using a clean, cotton rag, apply the polish to the faded leather. This may require more than one application, so don’t be worried if this first one doesn’t result in the desired effect – a later one should. Sometimes this means three or four applications.
- Allow the polish to soak in for around 20 minutes after each complete application.
Buff the Bag
- Finally, use a clean rag to buff away the excess polish and shine up the bag. Do not reuse rags for more than one application – fresh each time is best. Make sure to buff away all of the excess, to avoid it getting on other items and furniture. Once completely dry, it should not transfer.
- Evaluate the result. This is the point at which you will decide if you need to apply another round of colored polish.
Apply leather conditioner every two to six months, depending on how much use your bag gets, and its new, restored look should last for years to come. It takes a little time, a little patience, a little preparation, and a little work to keep your favorite handbags looking their best. Moving forward, regular maintenance (every two to six months), should prevent the need for anything major.
Tip: Choose two or three major days in the year (like a summer birthday and Christmas, for example), and make them your “bag-conditioning” days too. This will help you remember to put in that little bit of care that will save your bag from life’s little disasters.
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