It is important to care for your expensive leather handbag properly to ensure that it has a long life. Periodic cleaning, feeding and correct storage will keep your bag looking like new. A quality leather handbag will last for years and years, just as long as you take care of it properly.
If your leather handbag is really valuable, i.e. worth thousands, it is probably better not attempt to clean it yourself. The same goes for suede bags as suede can be very difficult to clean and it is best to leave it to the pros.
When cleaning your leather handbag:
- Check the tags for the manufacturer’s instructions with regard to cleaning. If the manufacturer’s advice contradicts anything contained in this article, ALWAYS follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- If you have any doubts as to the proper way to clean your leather handbag, do not attempt it yourself but take it to a professional specializing in leather cleaning.
- Empty the pockets of the bag and shake gently upside down to remove dust and debris.
- If you can, gently pull the lining out and invert it. Clean it using a lint roller. If you can't pull out the lining, use the fabric brush attachment on your vacuum on a gentle suction.
- Gently wipe the inside of the bag with a soft, lint free clothe ( no dye ), dampened (not too wet) with a solution of: 1 cup of warm water, a half a teaspoon of detergent and quarter a teaspoon of table salt - just use enough to make suds when mixed. This will remove any stains on the lining and freshen it. The salt helps to preserve the color. Pat it dry with a small clean towel and leave the purse open until dry.
- Clean the exterior of bag with alcohol free baby wipes, or the same solution as step 3.
Note - There are commercial leather handbag cleaners available. Check your local store for other products.
Tips to removing stubborn stains from a leather handbag
If there is a big stain, don't try to clean it yourself. Take it to a leather expert as soon as possible. You probably need to weigh up the cost of sending it to a cleaner against the value of the bag, and the likelihood the stain can be removed successfully.
However, if you want to have a go yourself, remember to test a small, inconspicuous area of the purse first before using any of the following methods.
- Ink stains: Dip a cotton swab in Isopropyl alcohol and rub gently over the ink stain. Dab up any fluid with the corner of a tissue or another cotton bud. Repeat until stain is gone. Dry with a blow dryer set on its lowest setting.
- Dark stains: (i.e. food, blood, etc.): Make a paste of one part cream of tartar to one part lemon juice. Rub paste on the stain and leave it on for 10 minutes. Remove the paste with a damp rag or cotton bud, moistened with the soap mixture, as described above for general cleaning. Buff the leather dry with a soft cloth or towel.
- Grease stains: Simply wipe stain from the leather using a dry cloth. Do not apply water to the grease stain.
- Chewing Gum: Use a soft cloth or cotton bud with a drop of Eucalyptus oil on it and gently rub until the gum comes off. Test an unseen part of the bag first to ensure that it is color fast.
Eucalyptus oil is a good alternative for removing stubborn marks and chewing gum off the outside of a bag both leather and faux bags. Use a soft cloth with a drop of the oil and gently rub. Test an unseen part of the bag first to ensure that it is colourfa
When dry, feed your leather handbag:
- Use a leather polish, restorer and conditioner to feed the leather and restore it to new and protect the leather from further damage. This is necessary because while the wash cleans the leather on the outside, the restorer and conditioner nourish and lubricate the leather from the inside.
- The restorer and conditioner work by replacing the natural lubricating oils so that the leather stays supple and strong. If leather is not regularly conditioned and new oils introduced to replace those that are lost with time, the leather will eventually dry out and crack. It is important to clean the outside of the leather first to remove embedded dirt and grime before applying any conditioner to prevent dragging in the dirt as well.
- Dry thoroughly with the towel, buffing it as you go to restore luster. Ensure that you wipe all the polish and conditioner off so it does not mark your clothes.
When dry, store your leather handbag correctly:
- When the bag is completely dry inside and out, put handbag in the storage bag (dust bag) it came with. If it didn't come with a roomy drawstring sack then make one out of cotton or use a pillow case. Make sure you use a use a breathable fabric like cotton and stay away from plastic.
- Store the bag in a temperature controlled environment (cool and dry). Storing in heat or damp areas can lead to cracking and mould.
- Ensure the bag is clean and has leather conditioner to protect it prior to long term storage. Never store a dirty bag for long periods.
Handbags can be hung on a hook for a few days, but any longer puts too much strain on the straps and the bag may become misshapen.
Fill handbags loosely with balls of tissue paper to help keep the shape; stiff bags don't need this.
Ideally, handbags would be stored in cubbies built into your closet, but you can also store them in baskets or bins made of plastic-coated wire.
Stand handbags upright or lay them down and don't crowd them. They need to breathe, so don't put a tight-fitting lid on.
Tips for extending the life of your handbag
- If there is a big stain, don't try to clean it yourself. Take it to a leather expert as soon as possible.
- If your handbag does not have "feet" on the bottom, you can have them added by a leather-care expert. Feet protect the bottom of the bag from scratches and dirt.
- Avoid placing leather purses in direct sunlight as this will dry the leather and cause it to fade and/or crack.
- Do not expose a leather purse to excess moisture or water as this may damage the leather.
- Generally, it is not good to use saddle soap, alcohol, varnish, or ammonia-based cleaners (i.e. Windex) or bleach on leather as they may be too harsh, causing serious damage or discoloration.
- Do not use any kind of oils (such as mink oil), polish, or any product containing waxes or silicone (including many car care products) on your leather purse as it may damage the leather and leave it feeling sticky.
- Avoid using any type of harsh cleaners or abrasive cleansers on your leather handbag as these will cause damage to the surface.
- NEVER use alcohol baby wipes or any alkaline cleaner on your leather handbag as it may damage the finish.
- Keep your leather handbag clean and feed
- A leather handbag need to be replenished and reconditioned from time to time
- Never put a pen in your purse without a cap on it –ink stains are very hard to shift
- Keep makeup in a separate makeup bag
- Don't overload your leather handbag or it could become misshappened