How To Clean A Leather Bag

You do not want to be walking into a business meeting or anywhere of importance with a stained leather bag or briefcase. It looks unprofessional and often gives the wrong impression about one’s character. It definitely helps to know how to clean a leather bag or briefcase, so here are some excellent maintenance tips by Katie Lain, the Curator of My Darling Vintage.

Please bear in mind that the tips expressed in this article can apply to any type of leather briefcase or bag, so don’t be put off by the fact that women’s handbags are used as demonstrations. If you want to watch the video instead, just scroll down to the bottom.


“Today I wanted to show you some of the tricks that I have for cleaning up vintage leather bags. Now you might have a quality leather bag that you’ve had for a while and it’s still constructually sound, but possibly it’s a little dirty and looks a little roughed up. So there’s definitely ways and tricks you can use to bring the item back to life.”

Removing White Paint Spots

how to clean a leather bag“So the first leather bag that I will be cleaning up is this bag here, and it’s made of a dark brown leather with a glossy finish and it’s in really nice condition, but what is wrong with it is it has these white paint spots on the flap right there. It’s not very noticeable but you can definitely see that it’s there, so a lot of people might not want to carry the purse for that reason.”

  1. “First what you do is take some soapy water and you just get the stain a little bit wet.”
  2. “Next you’ll use some leather cleaner. You can get this at your local leather repair store or your local shoe repair store, and it’s like $7-8 but it’s totally worth it because it’s an effective product. You just kind of rub it around on the spot here.”
  3. how to clean a leather bag“Take a regular household sponge but make sure that it’s a clean one, and what you do is you just very gently buff the surface with the backside of the sponge. You don’t want to do it too hard because you can definitely damage or distress the leather. Just put a little bit of pressure and make circular motions.”
  4. Wipe down the surface with a clean cloth and repeat the steps until the stain is completely removed.

Removing White Scuff Mark

how to clean a leather briefcase“This bag does have some surface distress on the leather but this is something that I personally really like because it shows the age and design of the bag, and the quality. But what it does have here is this white surface scuff. That’s a common problem on leather bags just because you’re carry it around with you all day long and you never know what’s going to scratch on it…We can use the same technique as we used before (for the brown leather bag).”

Removing Black Scuff Mark

how to clean a leather briefcase“This is a vintage Dooney & Bourke that people probably recognize this style of bag. It’s in really nice condition but the only thing wrong with this one is this right here. It’s a little black surface scuff and these kind of marks often show up on the bottom trim of a bag just for being sat down. It can definitely be removed using the same technique.”


how to clean a leather bag“Again, just be sure that you’re doing it really gently. Don’t do it too rough because if there’s paint on the bag or the bag is painted, it could take off the paint or distress the leather too much…and you also want to make sure that you’re doing this on quality leather. If it’s kind of lightweight or a leather that doesn’t look like very high quality, it might hurt it.”

Removing Stains On Bright Leather

“This bag is made of a cream leather so it’s really showing signs of age and use on the leather. It just has a lot of stains and spots on the surface”

  1. cream-bag-stains-cleaner“So what I’ll do first is spray it down with some soapy water.”
  2. “And then put some of the leather cleaner on it (rub over all areas that are stained), and this is just going to get the initial surface area cleaned.”
  3. Wipe it all down with a clean cloth.
  4. how to clean a leather bag“Then I’m going to use Windex, which is actually a really great trick for white leather. This bag is like a cream color, but it has a sort of darker surface coating from all the dirt that’s accumulated on it over time. So just a spray a little bit of Windex on the bag and rub it around.”
  5. “Take the backside of the sponge and you just gently go over the surface. By doing this, it just really brightens up the white color of the leather. This is something you can do a few times. I’m always really cautious when buffing with the sponge on a really light pressure…just to make sure I’m not damaging the bag.”

“It’s going to be really hard to tell the improvement of the bag initially because the leather gets a little bit wet so it gets a little bit darker, but as it dries, it lightens and brightens up.”

Other Tips On How To Clean A Leather Bag

  • You can also use a leather repair pen on any worn areas on the corners and edges of the bag or briefcase.
  • If your bag is still wet from the first clean, you can use a hairdryer to warm it up and dry it before using the leather repair pen, applying some more leather repair cream or gently scrubbing it down.

If you’re scared you might damage your leather bag, you can use a sponge without any rough surfaces (like a magic sponge). However, it probably won’t be as effective.

Written by Julian Walters

Head Editor of I'm obsessed over things that keep me organized, especially briefcases. My favorite movies are The Godfather I & II. I love Progressive House music, and my favorite food is steak.