How To Clean A Leather Bag, Tips From Leatherworker

How To Clean A Leather Bag, Tips From Leatherworker

The best way to clean a leather bag

Hey there, fellow leather bag enthusiasts! If you have ever spent a decent amount on a leather bag, you should know how important it is that you know to clean a leather bag.

I make a lot of leather bags, and if they are out in the open, they can pick up dust. Over time, this can dull the color of your bag or worse cause blemishes, so I have cause to clean leather bags quite regularly. Or for a more extreme example, I have had popped ketchup sachets, spilled drinks, and even oil stains, so knowing how to clean a leather bag is important. Good leather bags are not cheap, so you want to take care and keep it in as good a condition for as long as possible.

A good quality Veg tanned leather will develop a patina over time. Leather is supposed to change over time, it will mold itself to your lifestyle. This gives it the character and the quality will be the same if you take care of the leather. So, let's dive in and unlock the secrets to maintaining your cherished leather companion!

Understanding Your Leather Bag

Before you go ahead and start spraying and scrubbing, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with the type of leather your bag is made from. You can’t just clean a leather bag like any other material. Different types of leather require specific cleaning techniques and products. Common leather types include full-grain, top-grain, suede, and patent leather. It may be a little difficult to identify the type of leather if you are not used to it, but you can always check the place you brought it from, and it should be listed in the details.

Oh, just because you paid a lot of money for a well-known brand, do not think this means it is made of the best leather. Some of the most expensive bag brands out there use a lot of low-quality leather and fillers like paper. I won’t mention the brand by name but check out this video to get an understanding that the brand doesn’t always mean quality.

When you but a leather bag or a wallet from an artisan, you will notice it is made up of solid panels of leather. You can’t tear it apart to find any filler, it’s a single piece. This is the better-quality leather you want to look for. It will generally be Veg tanned or Chrome tanned. Chrome tanned leather has a more uniform look and is lighter, whereas Veg Tanned leather is much denser, isn’t completely uniform and has that grainy look we like from leather.

Chrome or Veg tanned leather you make a choice. I like the feel of a dense oily leather, you might like a shiny one, just make sure its good leather. You only need to buy a leather bag once if you choose the right one, just be sure to look after it.

Essential Tools and Supplies: Gather Your Cleaning Arsenal

Most of this stuff you will have lying around the house in some form, so don’t worry about having to splash out on loads of cleaning products. A specific leather cleaner is something you need to have though and there are many great options out there.

-Soft, lint-free cloths.

If you use a rough material, you can end up burnishing the leather and changing the texture of the surface.

-Mild leather cleaner (preferably pH-neutral)

Leather is skin after all, so any product I put on my leather I want to be safe enough for me to put on my skin.

-Leather conditioner or moisturizer

Keeping your leather conditioned is very important. It only needs to be done say 2-3 times a year depending on use, but it stops the leather from drying out and cracking.

-Soft-bristled brush or toothbrush

If you use a toothbrush to clean a leather bag, make sure the bristles are very fine and soft. Go for the softest brush you can find, unless you care cleaning a saddle, in which case have at it.

-Leather protectant spray (optional)

I personally don’t add this to bags or wallets, but I will add protectant spray to all my boots. It keeps them from getting water damaged and staining so easily.

Precautions to Take Before Cleaning a Leather Bag

You always want to use products made for cleaning leather, but even with this some leathers react differently to certain products. You don’t want to lather on a cleaner only to find out it changes the color of the whole bag; we want to clean a leather bag not dye it.

If you have a nice leather bag, it probably came with a little patch of leather, this is exactly for this reason. Test out any products you are going to use on this first. Or you can test it on an inconspicuous area first before you go and clean the whole bag.

  1. Test in an inconspicuous area:

Before cleaning the entire bag, test the cleaner and conditioner on a small, inconspicuous area. This ensures it doesn't cause any discoloration or damage. Although the product may say it won’t stain, you want to be sure.

  1. Empty your bag.

While you are at it, you might as well empty your bag and give it a thorough check. Remove all items from your bag and check for any loose threads, stains, or damages that may require professional attention.

  1. Remove the dust.

You might not see it, but quality veg tanned leather has pores, and they can collect a bit of dust. Gently remove dust and dirt from the bag's surface using a soft-bristled brush or a dry, lint-free cloth.

Restoring Your Bag's Radiance

Pay close attention to not use a wet cloth. I wont even dunk the cloth; I spray it with a fine mist. Veg tanned leather with no protective coating will darken when water touches it, and it can leave a water mark. Most leather won’t react badly to water, but no need to risk it.

We want the cloth barely damp, just enough to get a good adhesion when you apply the cleaner. Don’t use a rough cloth, or a dirty cloth. To clean a leather bag, you want a new, soft, clean white cloth every time.

Dampen a cloth:

Moisten a soft cloth with water and wring out excess moisture. Avoid using excessive water, as it can damage the leather.

Apply cleaner:

Apply a small amount of mild leather cleaner to the damp cloth and lather it gently.

Clean in circular motions:

Wipe the bag's surface in gentle circular motions, paying extra attention to stained or soiled areas. Avoid rubbing too vigorously to prevent scratching.

Remove excess cleaner:

Use a clean, damp cloth to wipe away any residue from the cleaning process.

Dry naturally:

Allow your bag to air dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Nourishing and Protecting Your Leather Bag: Post-Cleaning Care

  1. Apply leather conditioner: Once your bag is dry, apply a small amount of leather conditioner or moisturizer to a clean cloth. Gently rub the conditioner onto the leather in circular motions, covering the entire surface.
  2. Buff the leather: Use a fresh cloth to buff the leather gently, removing any excess conditioner and restoring its natural luster.
  3. Protect with a leather spray (optional): For additional protection against stains and moisture, consider using a leather protectant spray. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and apply it evenly to the bag's surface.


Additional Tips and Tricks: Preserving the Beauty of Your Leather Bag

It is important for longevity to clean a leather bag, but precautions are always better than looking for a cure right.

If you leave your bag for years and it dries out and crack, it can be beyond repair sometimes. It happens to me with bracelets I have from years ago and I have forgotten to look after them. They snap as soon as you apply pressure.

A bag won’t dry out that quick, but it will start to crack and lose its shape if you are not taking care of it. You want to focus on regular upkeep, especially if you paid good money for it.  Here are a few tips I use to keep all my leather in the best condition.

I make a lot of leather goods, and they must be stored. I have left leather bags in direct sunlight before, and the result was pretty cool. It was a veg tanned light brown leather, and the bag literally got a tan, so one side was a lot darker than the other. But you don’t want to do this to your bag, so keep it away from too much light when storing.

How to store your leather bag

It doesn’t need to be anything too extra, just take care of your bag like you would any other quality product you have. A good leather bag can last a lifetime and more, so just practicing good storage is enough to keep it looking good as new for longer.

-Store your leather bag in a dust bag or pillowcase to protect it from dust and direct sunlight.

-Avoid exposing your bag to extreme temperatures or humidity, as it can cause the leather to crack or fade.

-Handle your bag with clean hands to prevent oil and dirt transfer.

-Regularly clean the bag's hardware (buckles, zippers, etc.) using a mild metal cleaner and a soft cloth.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Your Leather Bag Cleaning Queries Answered

  1. How often should I clean my leather bag?

How often you clean a leather bag will depend on how much you use it, where you use it, the environment it is used in etc. You should give it a light clean every three months, so just a light brush and maybe a damp cloth will do the trick.

A deep clean on a leather bag should be done every 6 months. So, this would be brushing off the dust, a thorough clean with a leather cleaner, check for any damage, and a protective coating if this is something you are using.

  1. Can I use household cleaning products on my leather bag?

I would stay away from any household products you are not sure of. Most of these products have chemicals designed to kill germs and dissolve grease. These cleaners are not made with leather in mind, so don’t go raiding the cupboard under the sink just yet.

  1. How do I remove ink stains from my leather bag?

So, removing ink from leather can be a tricky situation. The most common is a pen going off in a bag or a briefcase, and you don’t realize until you get home. Even if you catch a stain right in the moment, you probably won’t have the necessary supplies to do anything. The least you can do is get a tissue and blot the ink stain applying pressure, but not so much to spread the ink.

If you are at home, you want to do the same. Blot the ink as soon as you can, then do the same with a damp cloth and as long as you see transfer keep doing it until you don’t see any more ink on the cloth. Depending on the leather, a bit of rubbing alcohol can dissolve the ink and you keep blotting away as it dissolves.

But don’t pour the alcohol on the leather, do it with a small earbud blotting at the stain little by little. There are also leather cleaners that can do a good job removing ink, but in all honesty, just take it to the dry cleaners.

  1. Is it safe to use baby wipes on leather?

You can use baby wipes to clean a small stain off a bag in a hurry, but make sure they are perfume and alcohol-free baby wipes.

  1. How can I remove odors from my leather bag?

I use many ways to get smells in and out of leather. The simplest way is to hang it in a cool and airy place, away from sunlight, and after a day or two most odors will be gone. If you always carry make up or cigarettes in your bag though, that will be in the leather.

Not that you can get rid of it though. I will hang a leather bag, and light an incense stick close to it. So not directly in line of the smoke, but close enough that the smell will transfer. Again, when in doubt, take your bag to a professional cleaner.

Congratulations! You're now armed with the knowledge and techniques to clean your leather bag like a pro. Remember, regular maintenance and care will not only preserve the beauty of your bag but also extend its lifespan.

So, show your leather bag some love, follow these steps, and watch it shine, exuding timeless elegance wherever you go. Happy cleaning, and here's to many more adventures with your cherished leather companion!


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