How To Care For Leather

Leather is one of the most durable and hard-wearing fabrics, but it does need a little TLC from time to time to preserve its amazing quality.

A popular material for core wardrobe items such as leather jackets, handbags and gloves, leather is loved for its long lifespan, which you can easily extend with some day-to-day care and maintenance.

At Jayley, we want to encourage you to love your core wardrobe staples and to help you do your utmost to keep them from heading to landfill. That’s why we’ve pulled together our top hints and tips to help you look after your leather so that you’ll wear it for years to come.

From notes on cleaning and drying to all important storage – it’s never been easier to love your leather!

Table of contents:

How to maintain leather bags

How to clean my leather bag

How do I keep my leather bag from cracking?

How can I make my leather gloves last longer?

How to care for and clean my leather jacket 

How to maintain leather bags 

a range of different coloured leather handbags lined up on some shelves

Probably one of the most used items in our wardrobe – leather bags are durable, hardwearing, and a core piece that transcends trends and seasons. But what is the best way to care for a leather bag to make it last a lifetime? 

The answer is maintenance, and the care and attention you give to your leather bag, will all come down to how often it’s worn and the type of leather it’s made from. 

Here are some easy everyday maintenance tips to keep your bag looking amazing:

  1. Leather is a skin which can stretch, so try to avoid overfilling your handbag, as this can cause it to become misshapen. Choose a bag that suits your daily needs and if it starts to feel full, sort through it to see if you can leave anything at home.
  2. If you’re taking your bag out, don’t wear clothes with embellishments and stay away from complicated bracelets and jewellery which may scratch and scuff its surface.
  3. After each use, dust or wipe your bag with a soft cloth to remove dust or dirt from its surface.
  4. If it’s going to rain, take an umbrella. Leather doesn’t like to be drenched, and raindrops can leave watermarks on its surface.
  5. Give your bag an occasional break and only wear it when necessary to prolong its lifespan.
  6. Once you’ve finished using your bag, empty it to prevent it from warping, wipe it down and store it away properly – preferably in the dust bag it came with (or a white cotton pillowcase makes a great substitute). Fill it with acid-free tissue paper to help it retain its shape, or, if you’re storing it away for a season, wrap tissue paper around its hardware to prevent indentations or damage to the leather.
  7. Never store your bag next to artificial heat, as this can dry the moisture from the leather. Keep out of direct sunlight to prevent your leather handbag from fading.
  8. Store your bag in a place big enough that its handles can stand upright without warping or bending, as this can permanently damage the shape of your bag. Never hang your bag up by its handles for long periods to prevent them from stretching.
  9. When you’re outside, invest in a handbag hook. These allow you to suspend your bag from the table so you don’t have to place it on a dirty floor where it could get damaged.
  10. Never store your handbag away in a plastic bag, as these lock in moisture. A cotton dust bag is breathable and will allow your bag to stay well ventilated.

Before we talk about cleaning your leather bags, you may want to consider that the maintenance choices you make for them will impact the future look of their leather.

For example, with casual bags, you may want them to have an aged, weathered look, so the only day-to-day maintenance they’d require, other than the steps above, is a quick wipe down with a damp cloth to remove any dust and dirt. Whereas, for formal, high-gloss bags, you may want to polish them with specialised leather polishes to help them retain their shine. 

How you clean your leather bag will depend on its leather type, which we’ll discuss in this next step.

How to clean my leather bag 

a woman wiping a pink leather handbag with a wipe

You can follow some basic cleaning tips to keep your leather bag looking pristine, irrespective of its leather type. Still, the most important thing to remember is to never fully immerse your leather bag in water, as this will permanently damage it. Here are our top cleaning tips for sprucing up your leather bag:

  1. Regularly clean and air out your leather bag, removing all its contents so it doesn’t stretch or warp.
  2. Clean away spots and stains with natural soap flakes and lukewarm water applied to the areas with a damp cloth. 
  3. Once cleaned with a damp cloth, blot away any moisture with a towel and allow your bag to naturally dry away from artificial heat or direct sunlight.
  4. To keep the leather soft, supple and fully moisturised, treat your bag to a specialist leather conditioner every three to six months (more often if your bag is used regularly). Always test your conditioners, waxes and polishes in a small, unseen area of your bag to avoid damage.
  5. Don’t machine wash or tumble dry your leather handbags, as this will dry out all of its natural moisture and cause the leather to crack, causing irreparable damage.
  6. Suede and nubuck leather is delicate – always take these handbags to be professionally cleaned.
  7. With bright coloured bags, it’s relatively easy to buff out any scratches. Then, you can apply a colour restoration balm to give your bag a full facelift!

The type of leather your bag is will dictate the maintenance it requires. Although every bag is different, here are some tips for maintaining the most popular leather handbag materials.

Black leather 

Black leather bags are the most forgiving and the best choice if you’re someone that finds it difficult to keep your bag scuff-free. Luckily, these bags require very little maintenance and will only need an occasional clean-down with a damp cloth or a soft brush.

Cream leather 

Cream leather is more likely to suffer from wear and tear and is a surface that often takes on colour through colour transfer – like absorbing the blue dye from your favourite pair of jeans. 

To clean, start by wiping away dust and dirt with a damp cloth. Use natural soap flakes and lukewarm water to work away at small stains. Tougher stains, such as ink or colour transfer will require more work. Use rubbing alcohol to treat these stains and baking powder or cornstarch to remove oil or grease stains. When your bag is clean, protect it with specialist leather spray to prevent it from absorbing further stains.

Saffiano leather 

Saffiano leather has a durable, textured finish which is then treated to protect its surface. Because of this, it’s virtually stain-resistant and is a great choice for someone who finds it difficult to keep their bags pristine.

To clean, use only a damp cloth or a leather cleaning solution to protect the treated surface from damage.

Patent leather 

Patent leather is a high shine material and can be susceptible to scuffing. The good news is that most scuffs are relatively easy to remove from its surface by buffing with a soft leather cream. Start by wiping the surface with a damp cloth to remove dust and grime before applying soft cream to the scuff and buffing it out.

Vaseline is also good at removing scuffs from patent leather and can be applied and removed similarly. For deeper scuffs and scratches, patent leather cleaners are your best bet.

Smooth leather

Smooth leather probably requires the most care and attention to prevent it from becoming scuffed or damaged. You should only ever brush the surface of your bag with a soft-bristled brush or a microfibre cloth and avoid using abrasive cleaning methods that could damage the leather.

The best way to keep your smooth leather bag pristine is to nourish it regularly with a leather conditioner.

Textured leather 

For textured leathers, remove any dirt and grime with a cotton bud or damp cloth first to clean up the grooves, then use leather cleaning solutions to work with the grain and clean the leather. 

Textured leathers are incredibly durable but can be difficult to clean. Be sure to work on cleaning the grooves before doing a deeper clean. 

How do I keep my leather bag from cracking?

Leather cracks when it dries out, so it’s important to take care when looking after it.

The best way to avoid unsightly cracks appearing in your leather is to keep it away from artificial heat and direct sunlight and to refrain from submerging it in water. These factors can contribute to oil drying out from the leather’s skin, leaving it dry and brittle. 

Regularly using leather conditioners can help nourish your handbag’s skin, keeping it moist and supple to prevent any cracks from forming. 

If you carry perfume or hand sanitiser, it’s worth sealing these in an airtight bag inside your handbag to avoid any leaks or spills. Alcohol-based products can wreak havoc on your bag’s leather surface, causing irreparable damage and unwanted cracks.

Finally, if you accidentally spill food onto your bag, wipe it away immediately and then blot the stain to prevent it from setting permanently. For difficult stains, take your bag to a professional cleaner, who will be able to fix the stain without using any chemicals.

How can I make my leather gloves last longer?

a women putting on black leather gloves

Leather gloves add a touch of luxury to any cold weather outfit. They’re sophisticated, stylish, and incredibly durable; although often exposed to the elements, they’re quite easy to maintain. 

Much like leather handbags, the best leather gloves care starts with some simple day-to-day maintenance. 

Starting with weather changes, if your gloves get wet, allow them to dry naturally, away from artificial heat and direct sunlight. 

If you invest in high-quality leather, your leather gloves will give without stretching and stay a comfortable fit, even after they’ve been wet. 

How to clean leather gloves

Your leather gloves should be cleaned with care and attention and never fully submerged in water as this will unnecessarily damage the leather. 

If they need to be cleaned, a simple wipe-down with a soft cloth, lukewarm water and natural soap flakes should be enough to clean the area. When cleaning, avoid over-wetting the leather and as they’re drying, place your hand inside each glove from time to time to help them retain their shape.

Don’t wash your leather gloves with chemicals, as this could remove the natural tanning agents and discolour your gloves beyond repair. 

How to waterproof your leather gloves 

Even though leather has a natural resistance to the elements, it’s worth protecting your leather gloves ahead of the cold weather to protect them from damage. 

Add a weatherproofing spray to your gloves to enhance their resistance to rain, allow them to dry out naturally when wet, and then rub in some leather cream to re-soften the leather. 

How to care for and clean my leather jacket 

many different coloured leather jackets on brown hangers, hanging on a rack

If you’ve got a leather jacket that you love, the good news is that it should be relatively easy to care for.

Following many of the same tips as you would when caring for your leather gloves or leather bags, don’t machine wash, tumble dry or dry with artificial heat, as all of these things will cause your jacket to dry out or crack, causing irreparable damage.

If your leather jacket is dull from the sun, invest in some specialist leather products to restore its shine, then follow with some leather conditioner to soften. 

Full grain real leather jackets should never peel, but if they do, this may be down to the sealant used on the jacket. Baby wipes or harsh chemicals can cause jackets to peel, but a good leather conditioner can reverse this. 

If your jacket has wrinkles, you should never iron or steam it. The best way to remove these is to hang your jacket in a shower room, where the steam from the shower can help to remove the creases without the jacket getting wet. Dry with a paper towel afterwards, and let your jacket hang and air off.

How to clean a leather jacket

When cleaning your leather jacket, start by checking its care label to determine what material the lining is made from. If made from silk or rayon, your jacket’s lining must be dry-cleaned to prevent it from shrinking, whereas you can easily wipe down other materials with a damp cloth.

For light care, you should only clean your leather jacket with a damp cloth to remove dirt and light staining and condition it every three months to keep its leather soft, moisturised and supple. 

It’s important not to soak your leather jacket, so never submerge it in water. Use your damp cloth to blot your jacket clean rather than over-wetting the leather, allowing it to fully drynaturally. 

If your jacket is heavily soiled, you can take it to be professionally cleaned, but it’s best to take it to someone who is a specialist in leather cleaning, as traditional dry cleaning will dry out the leather. The cleaner must condition the leather to add back some natural moisture at the end of the cleaning process.

Looking after leather: The highlights

Leather will last a lifetime if properly cared for, giving you years of wear. A perfect choice for staple wardrobe pieces, whether you’re looking after a handbag or gloves or wanting to care for your favourite leather jacket, your pieces will usually only require simple day-to-day maintenance.

The main things to remember are to avoid submerging your leather goods in water, never drying them in artificial heat, and keep them away from direct sunlight. All of these things can dry, damage and crack the leather.

By regularly cleaning with a damp cloth, allowing them to dry naturally and storing them away where they have plenty of space to hang or sit comfortably, you’ll be wearing your leather garments for a lifetime.

Shop our stylish leather pieces at Jayley 

Now that you’re a leather care expert, why not treat yourself to new leather pieces for your wardrobe? From stunning leather handbags to eye-catching leather jackets and gloves, find stunning pieces to enhance your wardrobe and look. 

Related posts:

How To Care For Silk

How To Care For Faux Fur

How To Care For Suede

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