Wearing a real leather bag feels fantastic. At the same time, if you’re not careful, you’ll start to notice a change in your bag over time. The leather will lose its colour. It’ll start to dry out and crack. Seams will eventually pull apart. Holes might develop. After a couple of years, without proper care, your leather bag will look like it’s been through some kind of zombie apocalypse. Character in leather is a good thing – that patina that builds up over time is one of the joys of owning a leather bag. But there’s definitely a limit. Character, good. Zombie survival kit, bad.
It’s a funny thing, but we sometimes forget that leather bags need the same love, care and attention as leather shoes. So how do you actually clean a leather bag? Can you wash a leather bag? And what are some things you can do to extend the life of your favourite satchel? Let’s dive right in.
Things you’ll need
Before you start
Remember, leather is a tough, rugged material, but its greatest enemies are moisture, grease and dirt. All of these things will work their way into the grain over time, compromising the integrity of your bag. So the first step, when you get your brand new MONTORO briefcase home, is to give it a light spray with a water-repellent leather protector. Repeat this process about once a year. This will give your bag an extra layer of defence against rain, hail, dirt and random noodle stains.
How to clean your leather bag
You should give your leather bag or backpack a quick wipe down every few wears. All this needs is a soft, damp, clean (emphasis on the clean) cloth. Cotton or any sort of natural fibre is fine. You can also use shoe cleaning wipes for this step, if your bag is building up dirt and grime more quickly. If you’re going down the cloth route, make sure it’s damp, not wet. You don’t want to soak your leather bag.
Every six months or so, treat your leather bag to a deeper clean. For this, you’ll need a proper leather cleaner or leather shampoo, which you can find pretty much anywhere. Apply this in a gentle, circular motion and wipe off the excess, to avoid clogging the leather’s pores. Remember: go gentle on your bag. It’s a bit like tooth-brushing: you don’t need to scrub it down to within an inch of its life. Too much can be just as bad as not enough.
How to condition your leather bag
About twice a year, depending on your climate, you should also condition your leather bag. This is sort of like a moisturiser for your leather, and it’ll help prevent your bag flaking and drying out. Again, you can apply leather conditioner with a soft cloth. Work it gently into your bag, then wipe away the excess. Always follow the instructions on the bottle, and pay attention to colour, too. Some leather creams and conditioners are specifically designed for black leather or brown leather.
How to store your leather bag
We know this bit’s a pain, but try not to just chuck your beautiful leather bag in the bottom of the cupboard, or hang it on a doorknob, or store it under your bed, along with forgotten chip packets and mysterious mould. Leather needs a bit of TLC when it comes to storage. The best place to store your leather bag is in its original box or dust bag, with a couple of silica gel packets to prevent moisture build-up. It should be stored flat, without anything resting on top of it. This will help your bag keep its shape over time. If you’re not using your bag for an extended period, remember to give it an airing once every few weeks, to keep the mould away.
What not to do
This probably goes without saying, but don’t throw your expensive leather bag in the washing machine. That will properly ruin it. Also, don’t use any regular household cleaners or fabric shampoos on your leather: any products that contains alcohol, or even worse, bleach, will destroy and discolour the material.
This isn’t always possible, but try to keep your leather bag dry, too. Water and leather are not best friends. If you do get rained on, and your bag gets soaked, don’t panic. Wipe off the excess moisture with a clean, dry cloth as soon as you can, then let you bag air-dry in a warm room. Do not use a hairdryer/direct sunlight/oven grill to dry your leather, for obvious reasons. When your bag is fully dry, give it another dose of leather conditioner, to prevent cracking and flaking.