Natural leather bags, vintage leather handbag purses and real leather wallets are not just material things. For most people, they are prized possessions. They can be an expensive investment, no doubt, but they have value beyond their dollar amount. If your leather women's bag was a gift from someone, there are sentiments attached to it. As you use it, it grows on you and takes on your own character making it priceless.
Whether you chanced upon a Prime deal on Amazon for a leather camera bag or paid your entire month’s salary to own a Louis Vuitton handbag, a real leather bag is a piece of luxury you want to hold on to and care for, for long. So, how do you know if your leather bag is in need of care, how to care for leather bags, what are leather handbag care instructions (do's and dont's) and what leather care products should you use? Read on for a complete DIY leather care guide...
Real leather or genuine leather (as it is more commonly but technically incorrectly known) is animal hide that can come from a variety of animals ranging from goat and cow to ostrich and crocodile.
The most popular type of leather in the market, though, is cow leather. And, that is for two main reasons. First, it is readily available in bulk as a byproduct of the food industry, making it affordable. Second, it has a large appeal due to its soft texture which makes it easy to work with.
Regardless of the type of leather used for making your handbag, purse or wallet, it will require some DIY leather care, at least occasionally. But, why do leather bags need special care?
It’s simple. Natural leather, like any living thing, needs to breathe, be cleaned and moisturized or it will wrinkle, dry out and crack when exposed to the elements or even when it is packed away in a closet.
There are three main actions that constitute leather care for handbags and leather care for wallets viz., maintenance, waterproofing and storage. Let’s get into the details.
The purpose of leather handbag cleaning and conditioning is to turn a dull looking bag into a cheerful one.
It is recommended that you condition the leather surface of your handbag, purse or wallet every six months using either a home-made leather conditioner or a commercial leather conditioner from market. This not only stimulates the natural oils of the leather to keep it soft and supple but also adds a layer of protection to the surface of the leather.
Theoretically, genuine leather bags are meant to be used in dry conditions. Practically, that is not always possible. There will undoubtedly be occasions when you are caught in the rain with your leather bag in tow and you forgot the umbrella at home. Or, there will be times when you accidentally spilled water on your leather purse.
So, if you live in a humid environment or the rainy season is round the corner, it is a good idea to waterproof your leather handbag. This adds a layer of protection to the leather by making it non-porous though you should keep in mind that it is impossible to completely waterproof the leather surface.
Equipped with the knowledge of how to clean leather handbags, how to condition and care for them, it is now time to look at care products.
There are a variety of purpose-made care products out there for leather bags and wallets. Here is a common glossary of terms as they pertain to leather care products that you may have come across: leather shampoo, leather conditioner, leather moisturizer, leather care with beeswax, leather honey, leather care oil, leather care mink oil, leather care linseed oil, leather care olive oil, leather care cream for handbags, leather care balm, leather care gel and leather care with UV protection among others.
There are leather care kits (leather handbag care kit) readily available in the store from several leather care brands that have a set of commonly needed leather care essentials. Leather care supply of products is also available for buying individually based on need. Or, if you are feeling creative, you can even make some DIY leather products at home, especially leather cleaner (using a mild soap) and conditioner (using olive oil).
Remember that the at-home leather care guide outlined above is for basic maintenance and care of your leather item. If your bag is in need of leather care and repair beyond the basic DIY leather care instructions and tips listed above, you should take it to a leather care specialist. You should also go to a leather specialist for leather care and color of your bag for a professional job. Handbag restoration involving worn and cracked leathers, loss of shape, stubborn stain removal and repair of broken handbag also call for professional repair services.
Leather care and cleaning can be likened to cleansing using a soap or shampoo and is meant to clean the surface of the leather of dirt, grime and light stains.
Commercial leather cleaners go by the name of leather shampoo and 3-in-1 leather cleaner.
Make a mild solution of warm water and dish soap. To clean the leather, dip a soft cloth into it, wring it out and wipe the exterior leather surfaces of the purse. Use a second clean for stains and scuff. Wipe off the soap with a damp cloth. Dry with a towel. Let the bag sit in a dry and well-ventilated corner for 24-48 hours after treatment before using it. Remember to do a spot test first to ensure the cleaner doesn’t have damaging effects on the leather.
Leather conditioner is a moisturizing agent that helps to restore lost oils of the leather and adds a protective layer to its surface.
Commercial leather conditioners go by leather honey, deep leather conditioner, leather cleaner and conditioner, and mink oil, among others. They can take the form of a cream, oil, thick viscous mix of honey and oil, or spray. Always do a spot test before using any leather conditioner on the whole product.
Homemade leather conditioners are really simple and there’s not much to it. You can basically use non-fragrant coconut oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil or linseed oil in their natural state for the purpose. Just remember to do a spot test before being too experimentative as different leathers may respond differently to the same treatment.
Leather waterproofing cream or spray coats the surface of the leather with a protectant or water resistant material to keep moisture from permeating the leather.
They come in cream form or spray form. Some examples are beeswax cream. Do keep in mind that beeswax tends to darken the leather so do a patch test first. Leather waterproof sprays are less known to darken the leather.
Using a double boiler, mix 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil with 2 oz of beeswax until melted. Remove from heat and continue stirring the mixture until it cools completely and sets. Use the mixture as needed after a spot test.
The leather handbag care tips above are for real leather purses and bags. Faux leather handbags and purses do not require as much care owing to the fact that they are made from polyurethane which is a non-porous material and doesn’t need to breathe.
However, it's still a good idea to give it an occasional cleaning using a mild leather soap solution to remove dirt and grease and then conditioning it with a small amount of leather moisturizer to restore its sheen.
Leather goods are meant to withstand the test of time. When taken care of, they can last and be passed from generation to generation. Thankfully, caring for leather goods is not complicated and in most cases you can look to your kitchen for help.
Caring for leather handbags, messenger bags, duffels, travel bags, briefcases, purses and wallets is a rewarding exercise which prolongs the life of your family heirloom. The above DIY leather care instructions will keep your Hermes, YSL, LV, Prada, Coach, Chanel and Dior bags smiling back at you year after year!