Learning how to clean leather bags properly ensures they last as long as expected or helps increase their lifespan. Using the correct technique will also assure you don’t damage your precious bag. After all, anything made of leather is quite expensive.
How to Clean Leather Bags - Important Reminders
Before you even attempt to clean your leather bags, there are things that you need to consider, especially since leather is one of the most delicate materials. With that said, below are some pieces of advice from experts.
- Not all leather bags are the same
- Don’t treat ink and denim stains
- Always perform a blot test
Not All Leather Bags Are the Same
You’ll find that different types of leather exist, so expect that there are also minor or major differences in how to clean leather bags. Some leather bags are best left in the hands of cleaning professionals. Nubuck and suede leather are great examples.
On the other hand, you should bring your luxury leather bags to the brand’s certified or authorized cleaning companies or experts. Doing so ensures you don’t put your investment to waste, as these people have special training.
Never Treat Ink and Denim Stains
As you read through our guide on how to clean leather bags, you’ll find several methods to treat different stains. For ink and denim dye stains, though, it’s best not to attempt to remove them, even though some guides you’ll find on the internet will provide a solution to this issue.
These stains will seep through the material, especially when exposed to any liquid, including cleaning products. Bring your bag to leather-specialized cleaning professionals when your jeans or pens accidentally leave blots. Do this as soon as possible since they might remain permanent when you leave them for an extended period.
Always Perform a Blot Test
For any technique of how to clean leather bags, you must always test the cleaning solution in the bag’s inconspicuous area. This way, you’ll know whether or not the product is safe to use on that specific bag.
All you have to do is apply a small amount of the cleaning solution on a clean white cloth or cotton. Then, dab it gently on the area. One sign that you shouldn’t use it on the bag is when the cotton or cloth gets stained with the bag’s color.
You can try another solution until you find the perfect one, but it's best to bring your bag to an expert to save time and money. That’s because your leather bag might have coating or components that require special treatments, and only trained individuals on how to clean leather bags can identify them.
Refrain From Using Wipes
Cleaning or baby wipes have become one of the staples in one’s bag, as you can use them to clean your hands, a surface, and many other items. That said, never use wipes, even the most hypoallergenic types, to wipe your leather bag. They will always have a component, such as lotion, that can discolor the material.
How to Clean Leather Bags - The Recommended Method
Your bag gets exposed to a lot of elements. Thus, the leather bags you use frequently require regular cleaning, at least once a week.
Doing this will prevent dirt and other elements from clinging to them. These elements might cause unpleasant orders, stains, and hard-to-remove dirt and smudges when left unattended.
What You’ll Need
For the routine method of how to clean leather bags, you would need the following basic materials:
- Three clean, small, white cotton cloth (for smooth, natural grain leather)
- Soft-bristled, leather brush (for grained or embossed leather)
- Appropriate stain remover (discussed in the steps)
- Cleaning agent, any of the following:
- Leather cleaner compatible with the specific leather material
- Olive oil-vinegar solution: Mix equal parts in a spray bottle
- Mild baby shampoo: Mix equal parts of baby shampoo and distilled water
- Leather conditioner
How to Clean Leather Bags
The steps you need to take for the routine method of how to clean leather bags are as follows:
- Empty Bag’s Content
- Remove Stain
- Apply Conditioner
1. Empty Bag’s Content
Remove all the content of your bag, from the largest compartment to the tiniest pocket. Once done, slightly pull the compartment’s lining out of the bag. Then, turn your bag upside down and give it a little shake. This step will help remove any dust or tiny dirt clinging to the bag’s crevices.
Slowly put the lining back inside of your bag. Take your portable vacuum cleaner and attach its long nozzle. Using the lowest speed level, gently vacuum the inside of your bag.
3. Remove Stains
The type of stain-removing agent that you’ll use on this procedure on how to clean leather bags will depend on the stain you’re trying to get rid of. You can use these methods both on the lining and exterior surface stains.
DISCLAIMER - Proceed with cleaning at your own risk as you cannot predict what leather will do. Sadly some stains can look worse when you apply products. Always test a small section first in an inconspicuous spot on the bag for example on the bottom or inside of the bag.
Ordinary or common stains are those caused by mud, dust, and dirt. You have several options when spot treating these stains, including:
- Distilled White Vinegar Solution
Combine equal amounts of distilled white vinegar and water in a bottle or bowl, and do the following:
- Put a small amount on a clean piece of cotton ball.
- Slightly dab the damp cotton onto the stain. You need to brush the area gently using a circular motion if your bag is made of embossed leather. Doing so will help loosen the stain inside the pores.
- Dab clean, dry cotton onto it to absorb the stain and solution
Repeat the steps a few times until the stain lightens or disappears. You’ll know this since the cotton no longer absorbs any stain or only shows a light stain. Make sure you use a new piece of cotton ball each time.
- Lemon Juice and Cream of Tartar
Create a paste by combining equal amounts of lemon juice and cream of tartar, and then do the following steps on how to clean leather bags with common stains:
- Take a little amount of the paste and cover the stain with it. You need to brush the area gently using a circular motion if your bag is made of embossed leather to loosen the stain inside the pores.
- Leave for seven to ten minutes.
- Gently wipe off the paste using a damp, white cotton cloth.
- Dry it by dabbing a clean white cloth or cotton ball on the area.
Repeat the steps if necessary.
Greasy stains can come from dropped food or your makeup, hand cream, and lotion. You can remove these successfully using baking soda or cornstarch. You can also combine equal amounts of cornstarch and baking soda.
All you have to do is sprinkle a good amount of the product on the stain. Leave it for at least two hours to allow absorption of oil. Then, slowly wipe it off using a clean, dry white cloth.
For bags made of embossed leather, you need to brush the area gently using a circular motion before wiping it with a dry cloth. Doing so will help loosen the stain inside the pores.
When it comes to how to clean leather bags with stains that have set in, like ketchup, chocolate, grass, and red wine, you can use 70% rubbing alcohol. Then, follow these steps:
- Put a small amount of alcohol on a piece of clean white cloth or cotton ball.
- Dab it into the stain.
- Gently brush the area.
- Wipe with a clean piece of dry cotton ball
Repeat the steps until the stain lightens.
Zip up your leather bag and then wipe its surface or exterior, handle/s, and strap/s using a clean, white cloth. The next step on how to clean leather bags is to wipe or brush them using your chosen cleaning product.
For spray-type cleaning products, lightly mist one part of your leather bag with it, and then:
- Smooth Leather Bag: Wipe the wet surface with an unused white cloth.
- Embossed Leather Bag: Gently brush the wet surface and then wipe with a new white cloth.
Repeat on the other parts of your bag until you’ve cleaned it from top to bottom, left to right.
On the other hand, damp your clean white cloth or brush with the cleaning solution if you’re not using a mister or sprayer. Then, just wipe or brush the surfaces gently.
Take another clean, dry white cloth and simply wipe the bag from top to bottom, left to right, to ensure no solution remains on your bag. Next, let the bag air dry by leaving it in a shaded area with proper ventilation, such as near the window. Avoid exposing your leather bag to sunlight.
The drying step on this method of how to clean leather bags is very crucial. That’s because any moisture or liquid left on the bag can become a breeding ground for mold or mildew.
6. Apply Conditioner
One essential step often ignored by most people who clean their leather bags is applying a leather conditioner. This product helps protect the leather, preventing cracks and peels. It also helps restore its natural shine or moisture that often gets affected by the cleaning agent used.
Simply mist the surface of your bag with the conditioner and wipe using a clean white cloth. If you have a balm-type or liquid conditioner, place a small amount of the product on a clean white cloth and then wipe your bag’s surface.
How to Clean Leather Bags - In Conclusion
Although they require special care and attention, the DIY method of how to clean leather bags isn’t as complicated as you might have expected. Just always ensure that you don’t use any homemade cleaning solutions and stain removers without a blot test.
Nonetheless, buying products made explicitly for leather is the best way to go. Also, familiarize yourself with the types of leather so that you can quickly identify whether or not you can clean your bag at home.
You must also treat the stains as soon as possible to prevent setting in. Lastly, make sure that you bring your leather bag to a cleaning professional at least once every two months for deep cleaning.