All genuine leather possess one common trait: regardless of the treatment methods, they are natural products which preserve their natural characteristics. Natural signs the leather surface such as differences in grain, scars, insect bites and other imperfections projects the natural origin of leather. These only serve to further highlight the authenticity and unique beauty of leather.
Leather fades naturally over time. Periodical cleaning and maintenance will protect your leather products from stains and extend its life. A general rule of thumb is to moisturize your bag and avoid excessive cleaning using chemicals as it can speed up the fading process.
How to clean and maintain your leather bags
- Simple cleaning
Using a damp cloth is the old reliable method when it comes to leather care. Use cold water without soap as its chemical residue can damage the leather over time. Wipe your bag once every two weeks to get rid of the dirt and dust. Leave it dry in a well-ventilated area before keeping it in storage. Do not use direct heat to dry the leather and avoid direct sunlight.
- Using leather cleaning products
Leather cleaning products may be used to clean your handbags. However, avoid excessive cleaning with chemicals as it may do more harm than good. Follow the usage instructions given in the leather cleaning product for better results.
Different leather reacts differently to the chemicals in leather care products. To make sure your cleaning products and method are suitable for your leather bag, do a test on a hidden spot first. Any chemical is likely to change the color of the leather, even if only slightly. Let it dry for 24 hours and see the effects before treating the entire bag.
Clean your bag with a dry cloth before treating it with leather cleaners or creams. To prevent stains, do not pour leather creams directly on the bag. Spray or pour the cream on a microfiber cloth and gently rub your bag with the cloth.
- Moisturizing your leather
Leather does not respond well to overly dry environment. Moisturize your bag every 5 months, or 3 months if you live in a dry climate. Try using mink oil or beeswax to moisturize your bag. Leather conditioner or cream moisturizes the leather so that it doesn't dry out and shrink or crack.
Always do a spot-test on a small area and wipe your bag with a dry cloth before applying any leather creams. Leave it to dry in a sufficiently ventilated area, away from direct sources of heat.
- Waterproofing your leather
Leather is sensitive towards water. It is a good idea to protect your leather bags from heavy rainfall or snow. Once leather gets wet, the natural oils in the material seep to the surface, and when the temperature rises, the oils can evaporate, making the leather dry and brittle. Generally, most leather products nowadays have been treated with waterproofing agent to some extent. However, leather can never be entirely waterproof thus it is advisable to not bring out your leather bag in heavy snow.
Depending on how you use the bag, you may need to waterproof your bag once a year if your environment calls for it. Waterproofing sprays or waxes provide a coating to repel water spillage, snow, etc. Treatment with waterproofing agents should be carried out while sticking strictly to the given instructions to prevent discoloration.
A spray protectant is more breathable and does not visibly show on your bags. However, it tends to be less effective and it may coat over the hardware thus unnecessarily exposing them to chemicals.
Waterproofing waxes or creams offer a better barrier against water spillage, but remember that excessive usage may lead to some changes in the color of your leather.
How to store your leather products
- Keep in a cool and well-ventilated room
Just like skin, leather needs some ventilation to prevent mildew and rot. Leather bags should be kept out of direct sunlight and in a room with good air flow and low humidity. High humidity can lead to mildew on leather luggage. Air out your bags once in a few weeks to prevent mold from growing.
If necessary, store your leather bag with silica gel so it does not get damp.
- Do not store your leather bags inside a plastic bag
As leather needs to breathe, storage of leather handbags in plastic containers is not advisable because this may lead to moisture buidup, mildew, or discoloration. Keep your bag in its original dust bag or travel bag made from breathable fabric. An alternative is to use pillow cases or acid-free tissue paper to wrap around your bag before stashing it inside your closet.
Fill your bag with stuffing like butter paper or airbags to retain its shape. Avoid using newspaper as it may smear and stain your bag.
- Keep away from direct sources of heat (radiators, sunlight)
Sunlight may fade and dry out leather. Just like our skin, leather will crack when dried out.
In the event of water spillage, it’s best to allow your bag to dry naturally. High-heat measures like a heater or hairdryer will cause the leather to crinkle and shrink..
- Pack your leather bags carefully
Do not over-fill your leather bags as it may distort the shape of your bag. Once misshapen, it is difficult for leather to return to its original form. Similarly, putting heavy items inside a leather bag may cause the straps or handles to stretch or break.
Keep caps on pens and other sharp items, as these may indent or tear the lining of leather bags. Put lipstick and other potentially staining items in protective cases and avoid putting water bottle inside the bag as it may risk water spillage.