This post was originally published in May of 2009, but I have had tons of emails and questions on how to clean a leather handbag soI decided to bring it back. If you have any tips on the best way to gently clean leather, please leave a comment!
Unfortunately, my current favorite handbag, a soft leather Linea Pelle creation, the Dylan Zipper Tote to be exact, met the misfortune of a spilled cocktail. It was Friday night, a good friend & I went out to dinner and drinks with our husbands. Someone reached for a drink while I was setting my handbag down on the bar. The drink and bag collided and the drink won. Ok, so it was mine. Specifically, a French 75, my favorite champagne cocktail. If you’ve never tried it, here’s the recipe. I highly suggest.
I digress…I was then left with dark stains over the front of the bag. Not cute at all. What to do? After a quick Google search on how to clean a leather handbag, and trudging through a multitude of non-eventful results, I decided to consult an expert. I took my beloved bag to the best leather cleaner in the city. To my dismay, he told me that handbags were cleaned at the owners own risk, he could not guarantee that the bag would not come back discolored or worn in. He also said that in his industry, handbags were considered ‘throw-away’ items to be used only for one season. WTF? I get it, but these bags aren’t cheap. I subscribe to the theory of purchasing a fabulous bag, using it for a season, putting it away for the next, and then busting it out some other season in the future – it’s vintage!
Leaving the store frustrated, with my screaming two-year old in tow, I decided I’d take matters into my own hands and figure out how to clean this bag. Once home, I put baby down for a nap and called Linea Pelle directly, asking them for advice. The very helpful customer service rep told me to try the following:
a) Wipe the bag with a clean, damp cloth
b) Mix 10 parts water with 1 part gentle dish soap and dap with wet cloth
She also suggested doing a search on The Purse Forum – have you been there? It’s awesome!
So I did all three things. After consulting the purse forum, many people suggested a specific leather cleaner. I decided I was going to buy it. But in the meantime, I tried mixing h2o with detergent and guess what? It worked! The washed lambskin of the Linea Pelle bag is I guess, washable. It took out the champagne and lemon like a charm. I am going to treat the bag with leather protector to hopefully avoid anything like this again, but I am just thrilled that it worked!
Doing It Right
After revisiting my post, I only mentioned how to clean a leather handbag but not really how to clean it properly. The following tips are handbag cleaning musts.
- First, when using water on leather, use it sparingly. Damp is better than wet. Dapping is better the soaking. You definitely don’t want discoloration that could be just as annoying as the stain itself.
Second, water and a gentle detergent is far superior to harsh chemicals that can dry out the leather or break down and damage the texture.
Third, wipe with the grain of the leather and no scrubbing. Scrub too hard and you can actually scrub the pigment right off the leather.
Lastly, spot test. Even your best intentions may not work out as planned when cleaning your bag. Try a small, inconspicuous area and let it dry. Don’t go after the stain until you know your not going to cause further damage.