Ask Allie: How to Clean a White or Light Leather Bag

I just splurged for a gorgeous cream and beige leather bag. But now I'm wondering, how do I best care for it? I'm almost afraid to take it outside for fear that it would get dirty. Is there a way to treat it so that it lasts longer? And what if I do get a spot on it? Are there any products that I should avoid using on leather?

 

how to clean white leather purse

I have a gorgeous off-white leather bag from Banana Republic, got it for an insanely low price on eBay. A year later I was embarrassed to carry it because it was so dingy and stained, mainly from propping a newspaper on it during my Metro work commute, but also denim dye transfer and a few splashes of coffee. I researched ways to clean it, and if I can offer any advice from my experience, try spot test cleaning the bag now in an inconspicuous spot to see how it reacts so you’re prepared when dirt happens. Below are processes I tried that didn’t ruin the finish of my leather bag:

  • Dish soap diluted in water, gently applied with a soft cloth and quickly blotted dry. This is a good method for occasional cleaning to prevent set-in stains since it’s gentle, easy, and you likely own all you need to do it. Err on the side of too little soap, and the cloth should be slightly damp, not soaking.
  • Spray hair spray and wipe off with a cloth – the hairspray often grabs the stain but not the dye; be sure to wipe off while it’s still damp
  • White Wizard Stain Remover – this stuff is amazing and good to have on hand for all sorts of stains in the closet and around the home
  • Ink stains can come out with a bit of plain white toothpaste and a soft toothbrush (I have a child’s toothbrush just for this); be gentle and try to scrub only the spot because it could affect the finish
  • Equal parts Cream of Tartar and lemon juice (fresh lemon juice seems to be gentler and doesn’t smear as much as bottled) gently rubbed into the stain, left for 10 minutes. Use a rag damp with diluted soap to remove and buff dry with a soft cloth
  • Chamberlain's Leather Milk – This stuff is gentle and conditions as well as cleans. It’s another great product to have on hand, I’ve used it on our couches, vintage leather coats, boots, and more.

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