How to look after a leather handbag according to an expert

15th May, 2021

A beautiful, quality leather handbag is often the pride and joy of many women’s wardrobes. And if you happen to have invested a fair bit of money on one then it’s only right that you would want to care for it to ensure its longevity. So what’s the best way to show your bag some TLC? As the owner of Melbourne’s The Royal Bag Spa Alex How specialises in the cleaning and restoration of top end designer bags. Here he shares his best tips for ensuring that your investment accessory remains in pristine condition.

What are some protective measures people can take from the moment they purchase a bag to ensure it stays in top condition? 

“Place a protection layer shield on your leather bag before using it. This can prevent a lot of problems in the long run.

Royal Bag Spa does a protection service which cannot be achieved with home use product, to prevent discolouration and liquid staining from use for up to a year.”

Does a commercial leather spray really work to protect a bag? 

“Not all of them work and for those that work, it will only work if it was sprayed appropriately. This is also part of the reason, we purchased and tried all of the sprays sold in the market and only stock and resell those that work (with appropriate instructions to use them).

Other than that, most leather handbags come with shiny metal hardware and these sprays will [cause] the metal hardware to become less shiny and tarnish faster over the time of use. When we use these sprays in-house, we tape up all the hardware on the bag so they don’t get affected.”

Where is the best place to store a leather bag?

“In an open air wardrobe on a shelf in a clean dust bag.”

What’s the best way to store a leather bag?

“Placing an appropriate amount of tissue paper stuffing [into the bag]. Not too much though as it can expand the bag too much. [Doing this will help] keep it in good shape all the time. This will allow airflow within the bag which prevents mould and at the same time act as a support for the leather so that the bag can last longer.

[Avoid] hanging [a bag] on its handle/strap on the wall or behind the door. [Don’t stack] anything on top of it and definitely [don’t store it] in a box or enclosed wardrobe as leather needs to ‘breathe’. Open up all the zips to allow airflow within the bag.”

What the best course of action for someone to take if they get a stain or a noticeable mark on their leather handbag? 

“Use a white eraser right away for ink stains. This method can be effective right after the point of incident but will need a professional leather technician if the ink stains for a long time. Look for leather handbag specialist, as most of the time when a stain gets onto the bag, cleaning itself will not get you anywhere. Just don’t do anything to make it worse which will make our job harder [later on].”

What’s one thing you wish people would stop doing when it comes to their handbags?

“Placing pets into their handbags while out shopping. Cats and dogs get excited sometimes (most of the time) and [they can urinate] when they are in the bag. The process to clean [it] can be a nightmare.”

Alex’s Dos and Don’ts for caring for a leather bag


  • Try to keep all leather handbags out of direct sunlight during storage. Sunlight will damage the leather and increase the chance of oxidation.
  • Place a protection layer shield on your leather bag before using them, this can prevent a lot of problems in the long run.
  • Clean your leather bag once a year or two depending on usage.


  • Use hand creams, body lotions on leather. These are great for your skin, but they contain mineral oils and waxes that are not compatible with leather. You may get a darkening effect that you desire, but it will attract dirt and soil. Other than sulphonate oil, other types of oil will cause leather to corrode and oxidise over time.
  • Use Saddle Soap under any circumstances! Saddle Soap contains compounds such as Neatsfoot Oil, Glycerin and Lanolin. It is a mild soap with softening ingredients and can be used on sofa leathers and car leathers but the compound is too harsh for handbag leathers. [It has a] pH over 10 which causes pH damage to leather over time in the long run.
  • Use baby wipes, or any other wipes on untreated leather as it may create stain which will darken the colour of the leather.
  • Use any leather cleaners created for car leather or furniture leather on your unfinished/untreated leather bags as they may stain. These cleaners are usually soap-based and contain high pH scale which is not suitable for delicate leather bags at all.
  • Dry clean your leather bags

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