How to Care for Leather Handbags

Leather Handbag

Beautiful and durable at the same time, leather handbags can last for decades when cared for properly. From cleaning and conditioning the leather to storing the handbag in ideal conditions, there's a lot you can do to preserve the beauty and prolong the life of your investment.

Daily Care for Your Leather Bag

During regular use, your leather handbag is subjected to a variety of different stressors and damaging conditions. From overstuffing to oil stains, a little care can go a long way in preventing permanent damage.

Keep Your Hands Clean

Leather naturally absorbs oils and other substances that touch it, so it's very important to keep your hands clean when using your leather bag. The oil from you skin can darken the leather over time, leading to stained spots. Additionally, oil can attract dirt, leaving your handbag looking dingy.

Store Makeup in a Separate Pouch

Because leather is prone to staining, it's smart to keep potentially damaging items isolated in your bag. Invest in a cosmetic pouch to carry your essential makeup, as well as a pencil case for writing implements that could leak.

Don't Overstuff Your Bag

Leather Handbag

It's always tempting to add one more item to your handbag, but routinely overstuffing your leather bag can permanently alter its shape. Limit yourself to the essentials to help preserve your handbag's lovely contours. Additionally, avoid carrying too many heavy objects, since strain on the handles of your back can eventually lead to stretching or tearing of the leather.

Avoid Getting Beauty Products on Your Bag

Hairspray, gel, and other hair products are damaging to leather, so be sure your bag is not nearby when you're refreshing your hairstyle. Also keep your handbag far away from the chair at the salon, since hair dyes and styling solutions can cause irreparable damage. Other beauty products, like perfume, spray deodorant, and lotion can also harm your bag.

Keep It Dry

Moisture can quickly damage your leather handbag, leading to swelling and loss of shape. If possible, avoid using your leather bag on rainy or snowy days. If you get caught in the rain or accidently splash water on your bag in the ladies' room, you can blot it dry with towels. Allow it to air dry the rest of the way on its own; do not use a hair dryer or clothes dryer.

How to Clean Your Leather Handbag

Even with proper care, you handbag will get dirty with regular use. Cleaning and conditioning your bag can prevent permanent damage.

Treat Stains Immediately

If you notice that your handbag has a food stain or other small mark, it's a good idea to treat the spot as soon as you can. For many stains, you can grind ordinary white chalk into a powder and apply the powder to the spot. Allow the powder to sit on the mark overnight, and then brush it off.

Clean Your Handbag with Leather Cleaner

Leather Handbag cleaning

Always use a dedicated leather care product like Coach Leather Cleaner or Lovin' My Bags. Follow the manufacturer's directions for the specific product you choose to use. In general, you'll rub the leather cleaner into the bag in a circular motion, allow it to sit for a period of time, and then carefully wipe it off with a clean, damp cloth. Never use any cleaning product that contains mineral oil or alcohol or one that is not designed for leather.

Use Leather Conditioner

Over time, leather can dry out and crack. You can prevent this from happening by moisturizing or conditioning your handbag from time to time. According to, under normal conditions a handbag should be conditioned once or twice a year. Keep in mind, however, that how often you condition will depend on how often you use the bag and the conditions that it is exposed to. Use a product like Pecard Leather Dressing that is designed for use on fine items like handbags. Conditioning products can darken the color of your leather, so be sure to test them in a hidden spot.

Consider a Protective Spray

If you find that you use your bag a great deal and it is frequently exposed to water, it may be a good idea to pre-treat it with a protective spray like Nikwax. These products can change the color and texture of your handbag, however, so it's important to test them before use.

How to Store Leather Bags and Purses

Even when you're not using your handbag, it's still important to take care of it. Proper storage can extend your bag's life and ensure that it's just as lovely when you decide to use it again.

Make Sure the Handbag Is Dry

Leather Handbag

Storing a wet leather bag can cause mildew and other serious damage. If your bag is damp from cleaning or from use, wait to store it until it's completely dry.

Stuff the Bag Before Storing

Before you store your bag, stuff the compartments with tissue paper or bubble wrap. Make sure the stuffing is firm but that is does not stretch the seams of the bag. This process will help the bag retain its shape.

Wrap Buckles and Chains

If you bag has metal buckles, tags, or chains, be sure to wrap those pieces in tissue paper before you store the bag. This will keep the metal from pressing against the leather and leaving a mark.

Store the Bag Where It Can Breathe

Don't store your handbag in a plastic bin or bag, since these materials can trap damaging moisture in with the leather. Instead, wrap the bag in protective paper, and store it on a shelf or in a box with holes.

Make It Last for Years

If you've ever purchased a vintage leather bag, you know that proper care and handling can make quality leather last for decades. Your bag is an investment, and if you take care of it, you'll be using it for years to come.

How to Care for Leather Handbags