How to Clean a Leather Purse: The Complete Guide

by Alice Shen / Apr 28, 2020

SENREVE Bags are durable and meant to be carried, so if you get it dirty (which is bound to happen), you should know how to care for it properly. SENREVE bags are made with high-quality leather, which is scratch and water-resistant. Additionally, the interiors are all lined with soft micro-suede which can be wiped down with a damp cloth and air-dried.

Handbags are part of our everyday lives because we appreciate the convenience of having our necessities easily at hand. Many of us also have handbags made from high quality materials, like suede or white leather, an investment we'll maintain for years to come. However, the leather in leather handbags are generally a porous material, which can easily absorb grime, grease stains, and even ink stains, so here's some advice on giving that leather bag new life. Don't worry if you have the suede or vegan type of leather, we'll talk about cleaning them too!

Read on to learn about how to care for your leather purse to ensure it stays with you for years to come.

The Basics of Cleaning a Leather Bag

Always follow a leather bag's care labels, but the easiest method of cleaning a leather bag is taking it to a professional leather cleaner, who often have cleaning products specific to each different type of leather. For thrifty, do-it-yourselfers, here's how we clean our leather purses.

  • - For spills and general grime, remove the dirt or spilled liquid as soon as possible
  • - For liquids on natural, suede and vegan leather, use a clean, damp cloth. Be careful not to smear the liquid onto other parts of the purse or rub it deeper into the leather. Instead of doing a wipe-down motion, try patting the leather surface to remove the initial spill. A light, dabbing or patting motion going with the grain of the leather works best.
  • - To remove grime and smudges on natural and vegan leather, stick tape over the spot that needs cleaned and remove it. A lot of the dirt will come away with the tape, then repeat the step with clean tape as needed. Ensure you are gentle and avoid using harsh adhesives like duct tape to avoid damaging the leather. 
  • - Removing dirt from suede leather is trickier and requires allowing the dirt to completely dry before lightly removing it with a soft bristled brush, moving in circular motions. (A toothbrush or manicure brush works in a pinch.)
  • - For suede leather purses that need general refreshing, you can hang the purse in the bathroom while you take a hot shower. The moist air will loosen residues in the suede fibers, and when the bag is completely dry, brush in circular motions with a soft brush.
  • - In sticky situations, like candle wax and gum, empty your purse and place it inside the freezer for a couple of hours. Once the material hardens, use a fingernail to peel off the dirt, again practicing caution to make sure you don't damage the leather. 

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Serious Leather Purse Stains

Leather cleaning solutions are available and recommended, but for most stains, a clean towel with mild soap and warm water will be sufficient. Remember to dab and pat the surface without saturating the leather, and to wipe away the soap with a clean dry cloth afterward. For suede leather, a damp "magic" eraser sponge works well, too. While leather cleaning solutions can be a great way to revive stained areas, we highly recommend doing a test on an inconspicuous area first as some products like saddle soaps are too harsh for leather handbags and are more so designed for more intense leather cleaning such as horse saddles and cowboy boots. 

Oily stains require more attention, and if the liquid is still damp, you can apply baking soda, baby powder, or cornstarch onto the stain to absorb it. Allow it to dry, then brush away the caked powder with a soft bristled brush in a circular motion. If the stain is already dry, mix the baking soda, baby powder, or cornstarch with enough warm water to form a paste before covering the stained area and allowing the paste to dry. Clean away the residue with a soft brush and repeat as needed.

For difficult stains, mix equal parts of lemon juice and cream of tartar into a paste and apply it to the stained area. Lemon juice and cream of tartar cause a bleaching effect if left on too long, so after five to ten minutes, remove the paste with a damp cloth and repeat as needed.

On especially persistent stains like ink stains, dip a cotton swab or ball into isopropyl alcohol (also known as rubbing alcohol). Dab and rub in gentle circular motions, while carefully keeping the alcohol confined to the stained area, until it's drawn into the cotton. As the stain begins discoloring the cotton, rotate it to a clean area of the cotton swab so as not to accidentally spread the stain and to more readily absorb it. Remember, isopropyl alcohol is a powerful solvent, and prolonged or repeated exposure may damage the leather's finish. Be very careful. Again, you may want to test this first on an inconspicuous area of the bag. 

As with natural leather, there are professional suede cleaning solutions as well, but no matter what we use to clean suede leather purses, the leather fibers will need brushed after they dry. Some fibers may fall away or "shed," which is normal, and others may lengthen. This is easily remedied with a quick snip from a pair of scissors or an electric razor.

Caution: Never use ammonia or bleach based cleaners on a leather purse as they will definitely bleach the leather.

Caring for a Clean Leather Purse

Once the leather purse is clean and completely dry (letting it dry overnight is best), a leather conditioner will keep it soft and supple as well as offer some protection against future stains.

  1. For an easy DIY leather purse conditioner, mix one part of white vinegar with two parts linseed oil.
  2. After a light, even coat of conditioner is applied, allow it to soak in for 15 minutes before buffing your leather purse with soft cloth until it shines.
  3. Continue applying leather conditioner every couple months to maintain its soft texture and add a new layer of protection, especially against scuffs and grime--think of it like a lotion to keep your leather bag moisturized.
  4. When the leather is cleaned and conditioned, a quick polish of the purse's zippers and clasps with a metal or brass polish will restore their shine. Use a cotton ball or swab, and be careful not to get polish on the clean leather, or it could stain. Then, buff away the tarnished residue with a soft, clean cloth until it shines like new. Some hardware may be plated with other metals so polishing too aggressively may cause the plating to flake, so use caution.

Cleaning the Inside of a Leather Purse

Now that the exterior or our leather purse looks great, we will turn our attention toward the interior. 

  1. Remove all of the purse's contents and set them aside.
  2. Open the leather purse wide, turn it over above a trash can or a spread towel, and shake out any remaining contents.
  3. If the purse's lining is removable, do so and follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning the material.
  4. Some leather purse linings are permanently attached. In this case, we can gently vacuum the purse with a furniture or fabric brush nozzle, so as not to damage the lining. A lint roller or brush works well, too, and a piece of sticky tape also works in a pinch. Again, avoid using harsh tapes like duct tape.
  5. For stains on the purse's lining, a clean cloth dampened with soapy water will remove most problems. Be sure to avoid over-saturating the lining as the water may soak through to the leather and leave a stain.

Tougher stains might require drawing a mixture, like a paste made from combining a small amount of water with baking powder, corn starch, or baby powder. Smear the paste onto the lining's stain and allow to dry before vacuuming or brushing away. Repeat if needed.

Major stains like ink stains will require a better solvent such as isopropyl alcohol. Dip a cotton ball or cotton swab into rubbing alcohol and blot at the stain to absorb it into the cotton. Do not saturate the material as it may run through to the leather and stain.

Sometimes leather purse liners can retain unpleasant odors even after a good cleaning. With the purse empty, put an opened box of baking soda inside, close the purse and leave it overnight. The odors will be absorbed by the baking soda and leave your lining smelling fresh. If your leather purse is too small for a box of baking soda, pour some into a short cup or saucer then place the container inside overnight.

Organizing a Leather Purse to Keep it Clean

Most internal spills and stains on our leather purse liners are caused by allowing our purses to become too full. So, let's get organized.

Once our purses are clean, we try to keep them clean by regularly emptying out accumulated items that we don't need. Here are a few tips on how to keep it clean:

  1. Make a schedule. A good habit of a weekly purse cleaning can prevent clutter. Throw out old coupons, transfer receipts to their appropriate files, add loose coins to a piggy bank, and toss half eaten snacks or empty wrappers in the trash.
  2. Compartmentalize a purse's items, especially makeup and pens, to prevent unexpected accidents. Store risky materials inside a sealable plastic pouch or sandwich bag.
  3. Minimize the purse's carrying capacity. By carrying only the essentials, we lower the risk of spills and make important items easier to find.

Leather Purse Storage

Since we all own multiple purses to fit our needs and outfits, there may be times when we don't use a purse often and only bring it out on special occasions. For those purses, here are some tips to keep your cleaned leather purse in tiptop shape during storage:

  • - Never store leather purses in plastic bags. The plastic can stick to the leather and peel away the outer layer when removed. Plastic also holds moisture and may cause mildew.
  • - Use a dust bag, pillowcase, or cotton tote for storage. They protect the leather from dust while allowing it to breathe. Keep it out of direct sunlight if possible.
  • - Stuff the purse's interior with paper to hold its shape, and store it on a flat surface to avoid stressing the handles.

Do you have any other questions about leather care? Feel free to contact us!

Our Octopi community represents diverse women who are taking their Maestra’s and Aria’s with them on different adventures. Each adventure brings about different challenges in keeping our purses in tip-top shape. 


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