How to Care for Leather Bag? (From Expert Tips)

blog cover clean care for leather bags

As the owner of a quality leather handbag, tote, or shoulder bag, you want to keep it looking its best for years to come. Proper care and maintenance is key to preserving the natural beauty and durability of your leather bag.

In this in-depth guide, drawing on my decades of experience handcrafting and restoring fine leather goods, I’ll walk you through the process of cleaning, conditioning, and protecting leather bags.

Why Caring for Your Leather Bag Matters?

Before we dive into the specifics of leather care, let’s talk about why it’s so important.

A well-made leather bag is an investment piece that can last a lifetime – if you treat it right. Exposure to the elements, dirt and oils from handling, and general wear and tear can all take their toll on leather over time.

Without regular upkeep, the leather can dry out, fade, crack, and lose its luster.

Caring for your leather bag is all about maintaining the integrity of the material by preserving its natural oils. By periodically cleaning and conditioning the leather, you replenish those vital oils to keep the fibers strong and supple.

The result is a bag that not only looks great, but is more resilient against scuffs, stains, and other damage. Plus, the rich patina that quality leather develops with age is only enhanced by proper care.

So while it takes a bit of effort, consistently caring for your leather bag pays off in keeping it beautiful and functional for decades.

What You’ll Need?

In my experience, you really only need a few simple tools and supplies to effectively care for your leather bag at home:

  • Two clean, lint-free cloths (like a cotton rag or old t-shirt)
  • A quality leather conditioner (I recommend one made with natural ingredients like beeswax, fat, and neatsfoot oil)
  • A soft-bristled brush (optional)

You don’t need a ton of different products or specialty equipment. Don’t using things like harsh detergents, furniture polish, or pure neatsfoot oil, which can actually damage the leather.

Stick to a gentle, nourishing leather care cream from a reputable source.

How Often to Condition Leather Bags?

One of the most common questions people have about leather bag maintenance is how frequently to do it.

My advice?

It’s really up to you and the unique needs of your bag.

I recommend handling your leather bag regularly and taking note of its condition. If it’s starting to feel dry, stiff, or look faded, it likely needs some conditioning. Bags that are used daily or exposed to moisture/heat/sun will need more frequent care than those used occasionally and stored properly.

At minimum, aim to clean and condition your leather bags every few months. But if it’s looking thirsty, don’t hesitate to give it a drink!

How to Take Care of Your Leather Bags? (Step-by-Step)

Now, let’s get into his step-by-step process for conditioning leather bags.

Step 1: Prep Your Bag

Start with a clean, dry leather bag. If it’s dirty, gently brush off any dust or debris with a soft cloth or brush. Be careful not to scrub too vigorously, as this can damage the leather’s surface.

If there are any major stains or scuffs, you may need to do a more thorough cleaning before conditioning – consult a leather care specialist if you’re unsure how to treat specific issues.

Step 2: Apply the Leather Conditioner

Take one of your clean cloths and apply a small amount of leather conditioner. There’s no need to put too much on at once – a little goes a long way, but you can always add more as needed.

Using light pressure and circular motions, rub the conditioner into the leather. Give extra attention to high-wear areas like handles, straps, and corners. Take your time and let the product absorb into the leather slowly.

If your bag was excessively dry or faded, you may notice the color start to return right away. This is a sign the leather was thirsty and is readily soaking up the nourishing oils in the conditioner.

Allow the conditioner to soak in for at least a few hours, or ideally overnight.

Step 3: Wipe Off Excess & Buff

After the conditioner has had ample time to penetrate the leather, take your second clean cloth and wipe down the entire bag to remove any residual product sitting on the surface. Then, using the same cloth, buff the leather in circular motions.

Circular movements bring a nice even buff. You can spend a few minutes, a minute, ten minutes – spend as little or as much as you like in order to get the desired sheen. This buffing process helps work the conditioner into the leather even more and leaves it with a soft glow.

And that’s it!

Your leather bag should now be clean, soft, supple, and lustrous. Repeat this process regularly and your bag will stay in fantastic shape.

Tips for Longer-Lasting Leather Bags

In addition to a good conditioning routine, Here are some helpful tips for extending the life and beauty of leather bags:

Proper Storage is Key

While cleaning and conditioning will go a long way towards keeping your leather bags in great shape, how you store them is just as important. Remember, leather’s biggest enemies are water, heat, light, and dust. Throwing your handbag onto the floor or in a jumbled drawer will quickly lead to unnecessary damage.

When not in use for longer periods, stow leather bags in a cool, dry place like a closet shelf or hanging from a hook. Avoid spots near radiators, vents, windows, or anywhere it will be exposed to direct sunlight or moisture. Basements, garages, and non-climate-controlled spaces are also a no-go, as excessive cold, heat and humidity can ruin leather.

Before putting a bag away, empty it out completely and wipe out the lining to remove any debris. For best results, stuff your bag with acid-free tissue paper or a bag shaper to help it keep its silhouette and prevent sagging. Never stack heavy items on top of your leather bag, which can distort the shape and cause permanent creasing.

Ideally, place your filled bag inside a soft, breathable dust bag to protect the leather from dust and scratches. A cotton pillowcase works well in a pinch! Don’t have a dust bag? Wrapping the bag loosely in a clean, white sheet or cloth is better than nothing.

If you must hang your bag, use a sturdy, padded hanger designed for bags to avoid straining the handles and hardware. Zip or hook closed any openings to ensure the bag keeps its structure. Take care that the bag isn’t rubbing against a wall or any other items as this can discolor or abrade the leather.

Even with proper storage, it’s important to take your bags out and give them some love on occasion! Leaving a bag untouched for too long can cause the leather to dry out and crack. Every few weeks, remove your stored bags, change out the stuffing, and give them a quick conditioning if needed.

When to Seek Professional Help

While the leather care routine Simon describes is a great at-home practice for maintaining bags, there may come a time when your leather needs a bit more TLC. More serious issues like deep scratches, stains, fading, rips, broken hardware, or mold/mildew should be addressed by a professional leather repair and restoration specialist.

A trained craftsperson will have the tools and expertise to handle delicate repairs without further damaging the leather. They can do spot cleaning, color redyeing, polishing, hole patching, edge repair, zipper/snap replacement, strap replacement, lining fixes, and more to get a bag looking like new again.

Even if your bag isn’t damaged, periodic professional cleaning and conditioning can be very beneficial, especially for older bags or those that see heavy use. A leather care expert can strip away years of dirt, sweat, and product buildup to reveal brighter, suppler leather. They’ll also catch and correct minor problems before they grow into bigger, harder-to-repair issues.

Check if the original vendor of your bag offers repair services – they may even have a warranty program you can utilize. You can also look for local leather goods specialists and cobblers, many of whom work on bags as well as shoes. Read online reviews and don’t hesitate to ask for photos of their previous work to get an idea of their capabilities.

Protecting Your Investment

With the average price of a designer leather handbag hovering around $2,000 these days, properly caring for that investment is crucial. Fine leather bags from heritage brands like Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Delvaux, and Saint Laurent are true works of craftsmanship built to last for generations when treated properly.

Even if you don’t own a $10,000+ bag, implementing good leather care practices will help keep your beloved everyday bag looking its best for years to come.

By cleaning and conditioning your leather bags at home and bringing them to a professional periodically for maintenance, you ensure you get the most life out of your purchase as possible.

Plus, well-maintained luxury bags in classic styles tend to hold their value extremely well over time. Vintage bags from top brands often appreciate as collectible items.

Protecting and preserving your leather bags today could pay dividends if you ever decide to resell them on the secondhand market later.

Final Thoughts

Thank you for reading my in-depth guide to caring for leather handbags, totes, and shoulder bags. I hope you found these expert tips helpful and feel empowered to keep your own bags in gorgeous shape.

While it may seem a bit daunting at first, a consistent leather cleaning and conditioning routine will soon become second nature.

If there’s one key takeaway here, it’s that leather bags need to be nourished regularly to look and perform their best.

Quickly wiping off stains is not enough – go ahead and give your bag a full conditioning whenever it’s looking dry or lackluster. But you cannot overdo it.

I’d love to hear about your experiences caring for leather bags. Do you have a favorite leather conditioner? How often do you clean and moisturize your bags? Did you learn any new tips from this guide?

Let us know in the comments below.


How do I remove odors from leather?

To deodorize leather, start by airing out the item in a cool, dry place for 24 hours. If the smell persists, sprinkle the leather with baking soda or dry coffee grounds and let sit overnight in a sealed plastic bag or covered container.

The baking soda or coffee will absorb odors. Remove the powder with a vacuum and soft brush attachment and wipe down with a damp cloth. Let air dry completely before using.

What should I do if my leather gets wet?

If your leather shoes, bag or jacket get wet, gently blot away as much moisture as possible with a clean towel. Stuff handbags and shoes with newspaper to absorb excess moisture and help them hold their shape.

Let the item air dry slowly away from direct heat or sunlight which can cause cracking and discoloration. Once dry, apply conditioner to restore moisture.

Can I use coconut oil or baby oil to condition my leather?

No, products like coconut oil, baby oil and olive oil are not formulated for use on leather and can do more harm than good. They may leave an oily residue, go rancid over time, and fail to deeply hydrate the leather.

Always use a product specifically made for conditioning leather, like mink oil, beeswax, or neatsfoot oil.

How often should I clean and condition my leather goods?

For most people, cleaning and conditioning leather items once or twice per year is sufficient, unless they are frequently exposed to rain, heat, or heavy use.

Wipe away dirt and oils after each use with a dry cloth to extend time between deep cleanings. Let items like leather furniture air out regularly to reduce buildup.

Can I clean and condition suede?

Suede is trickier to clean than smooth leather because it has a napped finish that can be damaged by water and heavy brushing. To clean suede, brush it gently with a special suede brush to loosen dirt and bring up the nap.

Use a white pencil eraser to remove small stains. For tougher grime, take the item to a professional leather cleaner. Protect clean suede with a non-silicone based suede protector spray.


About Rey Givens

My name is Rey Givens and I'm the CEO and founder of a women's handbag company. I'm passionate about delivering high-quality, genuine leather bags to customers all around the world at prices that won't break the bank. With over a decade of experience in the fashion industry, I've poured my heart and soul into building a brand that empowers women to express their unique style and personality through their accessories. When I'm not designing the latest handbag collections or overseeing production, you can find me exploring new cities, practicing yoga, or spending quality time with my loved ones. My mission is to make every woman feel confident and beautiful, one handbag at a time.