The high price tag of leather bags, be it a Chanel 2.55 or a Hermès Birkin, does not exempt it from dirt or smudge. Leather bags may be sturdier but they are not invincible, and it’s important you learn to care for your priced possession. Here’s how you can condition and clean your leather bags. 

The cliched adage “prevention is better than cure” will also not have your eyes rolling when your conditioned bag can laugh off a stubborn stain. Proper maintenance of a leather bag will do more wonders for its longevity than rushing off to a professional bag restorer. Unless you already have a custom-built wardrobe with the optimum temperature and humidity to store (and display) your collection of arm candy, you might find this guide on caring for leather bags handy.

Understanding the different types of leather

clean leather bags
Leather refers to all the types of tanned animal hides. Image: Courtesy Clay Banks/Unsplash

Knowing the type of leather used to craft your bag is one of the most important steps. There are your grades of leather including full-grain, top-grain, faux, and suede. Then there are your types of leather like calfskin, lambskin, and exotics like crocodile skin. Other brands have their own specialty leather like the Saffiano made uniquely by Prada. This guide will primarily focus on full grain genuine leather.

Treating your bag right

Regular care and maintenance should be performed on your leather bags from the moment you take it out of its box.

First step: Clean the bag

Put away the baby wipes and wet tissue – leather bags should not be cleaned with water. It could create additional stains if it dries and settles on the surface, leading to more problems. You need to invest in a quality leather cleaner.

clean leather bags
Image: Courtesy Bottega Veneta

Coach’s leather cleaner isn’t limited exclusively to just Coach bags and can work wonders. Another brand-neutral cleaner is the Cadillac Select Premium Leather Cleaner that’s designed to remove dirt, sweat, and salt stains. But, before you hurriedly apply the solution to the stain, you should do a spot test on an inconspicuous area of the bag, just in case things go south.

You will also need a soft cleaning cloth along with the cleaner. Gently apply the cleaner onto the stain in a circular motion before wiping it off with another damp cloth. For Saffiano leather, a leather-cleaning brush is advised instead rather than a cloth to really get into the grooves of the grain pattern.

Second step: condition your bag

Like how you moisturise your skin every night, your leather bag needs to be moisturised and conditioned too. Without a good conditioner, the material might dry out over time and crack. The conditioner would also have repellent properties to mitigate any chances of stains on your bags. The Protect and Preserve from Guardsman is one of our recommendations that can also be used for your other leather products.

Ideally, you should clean and condition your bags twice a year, with your favourite pieces receiving more occasional maintenance than the others (once a month for your daily drivers is a good number).

Storing your bags

If you have custom-built transparent shelves for your bags, move along, you already know where and how to store your bags. For the rest of us without an envy-inducing wardrobe, our best option would be in the original dust bag near the middle shelves.

We wonder if Kylie Jenner maintains her own vault of bags. Image: Courtesy Kylie Jenner/Instagram

Keeping our leather bags in a sheer dust bag when they’re not in use shelters them from most of the natural elements that can harm them. Sun is no friend to leather (unless you want a beautiful patina, but that’s another conversation). You would also want to fill them up with bubble wrap or parchment paper so they can maintain a regular shape. Tip: Do not use newspaper to shape your precious designer bags, as the ink might transfer over and you wouldn’t want that.

Living in the tropics also requires a bit more care than usual. We recommend storing your bags around the middle to lower parts of your closet, as the top is warmer which can dry out the leather quicker. You would also want to get some dehumidifiers or silica gel packets to prevent any moisture from accumulating on the bags.

This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore. 

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