How to Restore a Leather Bag

Leather purses are expensive items that, when properly cared for, last a long time. However, with a lack of maintenance, purses lose their original lustre quickly. Quality leather should be cleaned with products approved for taking care of leather. Household cleaners, hairspray, saddle soap and mink oil all carry the potential of staining your bag.

For high-quality bags, it's best to use a quality leather cleaner and conditioner. Find these at purse dealers or online. After restoring the leather, condition your handbag weekly to protect it from future abuse and to keep the leather soft.

Empty bag of contents. Place the hand-held attachment onto your vacuum and clean the inside of your purse ridding it of crumbs and dirt.

Slightly dampen a cloth and apply just a drop or two of mild fabric detergent. Rub fabric in a gentle circular motion. Avoid soaking fabric which might wet the leather behind it.

Open bag to air dry. Allow bag to fully dry before using.

Wipe off excess dirt with a moist cloth.

Test leather cleaning product on a hidden area for colour fastness. If the cleaner leaves a mark, use a different product.

Apply a cap full of leather cleanser to a moist cloth. Massage leather with the cloth in gentle, circular motions over the entire purse. Do not spot clean or scrub leather, which might damage the purse. Replace soiled cloths with clean cloths. Repeat the process two or three times until clean. The cleanser may darken the purse temporarily. If this happens, do not worry, the purse will lighten to the original colour as it dries.

Wipe off excess cleaner and air dry.

Apply a pea-sized amount of restoration colour to a sponge. Blot the sponge across the faded area once, making a base coat.

Allow surface to dry.

Repeat, applying additional coats as needed. Apply small amounts of colour at a time and allow surface to dry between coats.

Apply leather conditioner onto a clean cloth. Conditioning your purse will reduce the look of cracks, scuffs and worn areas. Regular conditioning also protects against water damage.

Massage conditioner on leather in a circular motion.

Wipe excess conditioner off with an additional cloth and allow purse to air dry.


When buying a purse, ask the salesperson to recommend cleaning products. Research online for cleaning products your handbag designer recommends. Many designers sell their own cleaners. Keep purses out of direct sunlight. Store purses in the original dust bag in a cool, dark, dry place. Rest a purse on its side, not hung up by the handles.


For aniline leather purses (made with leather that absorbs water), only use a water-based foam cleanser designed for aniline leather such as Lazy Leather. Leather cleaners meant for finished leather may stain aniline leather.

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum
  • Water
  • Clean cloths
  • Mild fabric detergent
  • Leather cleaner
  • Matching leather colour (If needed)
  • Leather conditioner
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About the Author

Heather Martin, a practicing journalist, has covered news in her Northern California community since 2008. Martin has written articles for "The North Coast Journal," "Community Wheel," "Econews," "The Lumberjack" and "The Osprey." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Humboldt State University.