How to Clean Leather Bags at Home

A premium looking clean leather bag

Table of Contents

Be it your wallets, hobos, totes or clutches, leather bags can be a timeless addition to your wardrobe if you treat them the right way. This blog will help you in cleaning leather bags at home and give them the care they need.

We will cover following aspects of cleaning leather bags in this blog:

So, let’s begin.

Things You Need for Cleaning Leather Bags at Home

You can clean leather bags at home by using the following things:

  1. Soft-bristled brush
  2. Lint roller
  3. 2-3 Clean Soft towels or microfiber cloths
  4. Nail Polish Remover
  5. Rubbing Alcohol
  6. Lemon Juice & Cream of Tartar
  7. Baking Soda or Corn Starch
  8. Vinegar
  9. Leather conditioner

NOTE: You will need any one from nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, baking soda, vinegar, cornstarch, lemon juice & cream of tartar mixture depending on the stain. We’ve explained which of these works on what type of stains later in this blog.

10 Steps of Cleaning Your Leather Bags at Home


You can follow these basic steps as per the explanation given below for spotless leather cleaning.

STEP 1: Wipe away dirt & debris

Use a clean cloth to wipe away dirt & debris from your bag. Do not use the same cloth further in leather cleaning before washing it.

CAUTION: Avoid using a magic sponge eraser to remove dirt, debris or stains from your leather bags. They are marketed as quick leather cleaners and are highly used for leather car seats. While they may give quick results, they cause irreparable damage to leather fibres as they are abrasive.

STEP 2: Clean the inner linings

  • Check all the pockets and make sure there is nothing inside the bag.
  • After that, turn the lining inside out.
  • Shake it vigorously to get rid of crumbs and debris.
  • If there is lint on the fabric of the inner lining, you can remove it using a lint roller.
  • Then, rinse a sponge in lukewarm soapy water and wipe the inner lining of your bag with this sponge.
  • Put the inner lining back and place a clean towel inside the bag. Let it be there for 30 minutes so that it can absorb any moisture.

CAUTION: If the inner lining of your bag is leather then be careful to not get it excessively wet as it could get brittle.

STEP 3: Get rid of mould & mildew

Leather Bag with mildew over it

Mould and mildew can grow when there is excessive moisture in the leather. They emanate a foul smell as well.

  • You can use ½ cup of white vinegar with 1 quart of water and 2 tablespoons of baking soda.
  • Mix these ingredients, fill the solution in a spray bottle and shake for about 30 seconds so that it fizzes up.
  • Sprinkle this solution on all areas with mould & mildew growth until they are soaked.
  • Let the leather rest for 2-3 minutes and then wipe away the leftover using a clean (preferably white) cloth.
  • Let the bag air-dry overnight.

By doing this you will get rid of mould, mildews and their odours as well. To avoid their growth you should keep the bags at room temperature.

STEP 4: Remove the stains

Before cleaning the whole bag at once, remove the stains (if any). You need to be careful to choose the right stain remover for different types of stains. We have mentioned some effective DIY leather stain removers and the common stains they can treat later in this blog in section – how to remove stains from leather bags.

Apply the stain remover to the stained area, rub it gently and wipe away the leftover using a clean cloth. To remove some tough stains you might have to repeat the process or you can also take help from professional dry cleaners.

STEP 5: Prepare a leather cleaning solution

Prepare a leather cleaner at home by mixing dish soap and warm water in equal quantities. For example, ½ cup of this solution can clean a mid-size tote bag.

If you want you can also purchase a leather cleaner online.

STEP 6: Apply the solution to your bag

Using sponge to apply leather cleaning solution

Use a clean cloth, dip it in the cleaning solution and apply it all over the exterior surface of your bag. Make sure you cover the whole bag. It is better to apply it in smaller sections instead of applying it to the whole bag at once.

STEP 7: Rub the solution on leather

Once the solution is applied, rub gently in a circular motion. Never apply force while leather cleaning. This may damage the leather fibres in the long run.

STEP 8: Remove the leftover solution

Next, you should use a clean damp cloth for wiping off the leather cleaning solution. Don’t let the excess solution stay on your bag for too long as the wet surface will attract dust.

STEP 9: Dry your leather bag

At last, dry the bag by wiping it with a clean towel or microfiber cloth. Don’t use a coloured cloth as it may bleed colour on damp leather. After this, leave your leather bag to air-dry overnight before you use it.

STEP 10: Condition your leather bag

Conditioning is as important as leather cleaning because leather being a natural fibre is prone to stiffness or brittleness without proper nourishment. Apply leather conditioner all over the outer skin of your bag including the straps and keep it in its best form.

How to Remove Stains From Leather Bags

A leather bag before and after stain removal

Here is how you can treat some of the most common stains on your leather bag:

  • Oil: Baking soda or Corn starch: Oil stains are not restricted to only pure forms of oils such as cooking oil, grease etc. Stains that come from food and make-up products may also contain oil and you can remove them using baking soda or corn starch.
  • Wine: Baking Soda or Vinegar: Wine stains are the hardest to get rid of. You might have to repeat the process listed later in this section 2-3 times.

PRO TIP: If the inner lining of your bag is leather then be careful to not get it excessively wet as it could get brittle.

  • Dust or blackishness: Cream of tartar & Lemon juice: This is applicable to any dark stain. Most of them occur due to long-settled dust or dirt.
  • Nail polish: Baby wipes or Nail paint remover: Baby wipes work only on fresh nail polish stains.
  • Water marks: Distilled Water: Spilled water on your bag? It could leave a white ring behind when it evaporates. Thus, you should wipe away water right after it spills. Later on, you can just dip a clean white cloth in distilled water and wipe the stain in a circular motion until it goes.
  • Ink: Rubbing alcohol: You might have to treat the ink stain 2-3 times to completely get rid of it as ink stains are tough.

Now, let’s see how to remove stains from a leather bag using the above-mentioned stain removers at home.

  • Nail Polish Remover – Dip a cotton swab in remover and blot the stain. Rubbing always has a risk of delving the stain deeper, so, don’t rub it. Once the stain is gone wipe the area with a damp cloth. Leave it to air-dry.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol is excellent when it comes to stain removal but it is also a drying and oxidising agent. So, you need to be extremely careful or else it can damage your bag. The quantity of alcohol should be adequate to cover the stain only. Always use a lower concentration such as 50% alcohol and mix it with water. For example, for making 10 ml solution, add 5 ml of both water and alcohol.
    You can use cotton to apply alcohol to the stain and blot it. Keep blotting until the stain vanishes. Then clean with a damp cloth. To dry the bag wipe it with a clean microfiber cloth or towel.
  • Baking Soda or Corn starch: Both of these absorb the oil which helps in deep stain removal. You can take 1 tbsp. of baking soda or corn starch. If the stain is spread across a large area you can use more baking soda or corn starch. The purpose is to sprinkle the ingredient all over the stain. Sprinkle any of them on the stain and rub it gently using a damp cloth. Once the stain is removed wipe off the solution with a microfiber cloth.
  • Lemon Juice & Cream of Tartar: Mix 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon cream of tartar. You can increase the quantity of the solution if is not enough to cover the stained area. Make sure you keep the proportion of both ingredients equal. Apply the paste to the stain and leave it for 30 minutes. Then wipe away the paste with a damp cloth. Let the bag air-dry.

CAUTION: Try this DIY only on light-coloured leather bags. Both lemon juice and tartar have a bleaching effect which can cause discolouration in dark colours.

Sometimes, it takes way too much effort to remove stains that are dried or settled on bags for too long. In such cases, you can rely on leather dry cleaning service providers.

Now that you’ve reached the end of this article, you are all set for cleaning your leather bags at home. Just be a little careful while following the guidelines we’ve curated and you’ll never go wrong. 

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not necessarily purport to reflect the values or views of Tumbledry.

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