How to Care for your Leather Bag

black leather bag on bench

Handbags have been the object of our fascination for more than 5,000 years, and that affinity continues today. One of your best wardrobe investments is a quality leather handbag it’s an expression of personality and style that also keeps you organized. Step up your carrying game with a fabulous leather bag that can pull together an entire look. To ensure your leather bag doesn’t let you down, we’ve put together a list of tips and best practices to help you care for your leather backpacks, totes, and handbags.

So, How Do I Protect My New Leather Bag?

Lucky you! You’ve found your perfect leather bag. With a little time and care, your investment will provide you with years of use and enjoyment. A leather bag is one of those rare purchases that gets better with time. Genuine leather ages beautifully, especially when well cared for.

Leather experts recommend that you protect your leather bag before using it. Properly guarding your leather backpack, tote, or handbag can protect it from accidental spills, water damage, and everyday ick like setting it down on dirty surfaces.

What is the Best Protectant for a Leather Bag?

The best way to keep your leather bag looking new is to apply a leather cream or wax sealant before use. This added layer of protection can help repel scratches and scuffs and keeps your new bag moisturized and looking its best. Natural waxes provide a rich patina and are an effective barrier to dirt and moisture on all your leather bags.

Common Damage to Leather Bags

  • Scratches
  • Water damage
  • Stains

How Often Should You Condition Leather Bags?

Ideally, you and your new leather bag are going to be partners for the long haul, and timely care will make all the difference in how it feels, looks, and wears. It’s best practice to condition your leather bags at least a couple of times a year or more often if you’re hard on your bags (that’s me!) or if you live in a very dry climate.

It’s inevitable that your leather backpack or handbag will get scratched or scuffed, but you’ll find treating those scuffs and scratches is much easier when the leather is moisturized. In fact, it can be as easy as buffing out the mark with conditioner.

What Oils are Safe for Leather Goods?

There are several oils that will keep your leather bag or backpack looking great. For regular moisturizing, try a dab of sunflower or vegetable oil. After brushing all dirt and debris from your bag, apply a small amount of oil on a clean, soft cloth and rub it over the leather evenly.

Oils to help maintain Leather Bags

  • Neatsfoot oil
  • Lanolin
  • Almond oil
  • Mink oil 

These oils can prevent your leather handbag from drying and cracking. The natural fats found in oils deeply moisturize the leather. Using these oils routinely, along with a wax conditioner, will keep your leather bag looking good for years to come. 

Two leather bags hanging on wall 

Home Remedies for Cleaning a Leather Backpack, Tote, or Handbag

Since your leather bag is bound to get a lot of use, it’s also going to take on a little dirt. No need to panic, though! Head over to your kitchen for a few simple ingredients you’ll need to do a quick cleaning of your leather bag.

In a small bowl, mix warm water and dish soap. Dip a soft cloth into the soap solution. If you have a microfiber cloth, it should be your first choice. Now, wring out the excess water (really wring it out!), and gently wipe the exterior of your bag. 

With a second clean, soft cloth, wipe the bag again, then dry with a towel. Your leather handbag will look good as new with this extra bit of TLC. 

DIY Steps to Clean, Condition, and Protect a Leather Handbag

There are several home remedies that will clean, condition, and protect your leather bags. You can make a cleaning solution for your leather accessories by mixing ½ cup olive oil with ¼ cup of white vinegar in a spray bottle. A great DIY conditioner is to mix one-part white vinegar with two parts linseed oil. Keep these solutions on hand to give your leather bag a little extra love from time to time.

Can I Waterproof My Leather Purse?

Inevitably, there will be occasions when your bag may get a little wet. Leather is not waterproof, but there are ways to make your leather bag more water resistant. Using a leather wax is the best way to increase your leather bag’s ability to let the water run right off.

Excessive water can soak into the leather and cause damage. When this happens, the natural oils in the leather can dry out as the bag dries, leaving the leather bag stiff, rough, and possibly stained. This is why it’s so important to keep your bag dry!

What Do I Do if My Leather Bag Gets Wet?

The good news is that you have been taking care of your leather bag. The time you spent waxing, cleaning, and conditioning your leather handbag is about to pay off big time! A well cared for leather handbag or backpack will likely show significantly less damage and take on less noticeable signs of water damage through the years.

Steps to Take if Your Leather Bag Gets Wet

Should your shoulder bag or crossbody get wet, there are a few measures you can take to minimize damage:

  1. Blot the excess water then allow the leather dry naturally
  2. Condition the leather bag with oil
  3. Repeat the oil application in spots that still feel dry or brittle

Now, take me seriously on this one…it’s very important that you do not use heat to dry a wet leather bag. Of course, you want your bag to dry quickly, and your first instinct may be to run to the nearest dryer. We get it. However, the dry, hot air can cause additional damage to your leather bag. And leaving it out in the sun isn’t a good idea, either!

Instead, stuff your bag with dry towels to help the leather bag keep its shape as it helps absorb moisture. And give your leather backpack or bag plenty of time to completely dry on its own. 

Will a Leather Backpack or Handbag Stain?

With your constant use, you may find small stains at some point. Some stains are more likely than others (grease and oil? Maybe. Red wine – girl, please. Who spills wine?). Most commonly, we hear about water or ink stains. These can occur even with all the love and attention you give your leather bag or backpack.

Your diligent maintenance and conditioning will once again be rewarded when removing stains from your leather bag. If your bag has been waxed and conditioned regularly, the removal of stains should be easier. All the attention you give your leather bag also means you will discover the stain before it has been there too long, making it more likely to be removed with ease.

How Do I Remove a Stain From my Leather Purse?

There are several different types of stains that you can find on your leather bag, even when you are being oh-so-careful! The likelihood of each depends on your lifestyle but knowing how to get out each stain could come in handy. There are specific steps to removing water, grease and oil, ink, and red wine stains from a leather bag.

5 Steps to Getting a Water Stain Out of a Leather Bag

  1. Wipe excess water off the leather bag with a clean cloth immediately
  2. Do not use heat to dry leather surface
  3. Apply conditioner evenly with a soft cloth in a circular motion
  4. Leave the leather handbag to dry overnight
  5. Repeat conditioning if brittle spots remain

Removing Ink Stains from a Leather Bag

  1. Dip a cotton swab into a mixture of one part rubbing alcohol and one part lukewarm water
  2. Rub over the ink stain in a circular motion
  3. Let theleather handbag or backpack dry naturally
  4. Apply leather conditioner to remoisturize the affected area

5 Steps to Removing Grease and Oil Stains from a Leather Bag

  1. Do not apply water to grease stains
  2. Wipe grease off the surface of the leather bag with a clean, dry cloth
  3. Sprinkle cornstarch or baking soda on grease spot and pat in
  4. Leave overnight
  5. Gently brush off cornstarch or baking soda with a soft-bristled brush

How to Remove Red Wine Stains from a Leather Purse

  1. If the red wine has been absorbed into unfinished leather, unfortunately, this will require the services of a professional
  2. If your leather is finished, you can proceed to make a paste of one part cream of tartar to one part lemon juice
  3. Apply the paste to the stain and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the paste with a damp cloth
  5. If residue remains, use mild soap or leather cleaner to wipe the area again
  6. Allow the leather purse to dry naturally

Truth be told, red wine is one of the more common stains found on leather. It is important to note that before treating any stains on a leather bag, you should test a small, inconspicuous area to see how the leather reacts. Also, time is of the essence! Be sure you are whipping up those home remedies as soon as possible to have the best chance of removing these stains. 

Should You Invest in a Leather Bag?

Yes, immediately! It can last for a lifetime, and the more you use it, the better it looks. A wardrobe staple for many, a leather bag is a practical, stylish, and functional choice. With proper care, it could be the last bag you ever buy (but a girl always needs more than one, right?). A leather handbag from Embellish Asheville is a sustainable purchase that will serve you with beauty and function for a long time.

The Creative Influence of Independent Makers on Leather Bags

When choosing a new leather bag, consider shopping with an independent retailer who offers a selection from designers who are thoughtful about prioritizing ethical and sustainable practices. That’s exactly what you’ll find here at Embellish Asheville. 

Independent makers have elevated the profile of leather bags by creating unique designs with ethically  sourced materials and crafted by makers working in safe conditions while being fairly compensated. If you’re in the market for a quality leather bag with intentional design that seeks to change the fashion industry for good, we’ve got you covered. We are proud to support small, independent makers and designers who share our values.

Who knew you could improve lives simply by buying a leather bag? At Embellish Asheville, we believe materials matter, as does a living wage for skilled artisans. Combine your commitment to a positive work environment with your love for fashion by visiting us and finding your next leather handbag!

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