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Our Essential Guide for Removing Stains from Your Leather Bag

Richard Taylor

Richard Taylor

Knowing how to remove stains from leather is essential if you own a number of leather accessories. This is especially true of leather bags. A leather carry-on is a mark of a sophisticated man or gal and exudes a vibe of sophistication and casual elegance.

Unfortunately, there is no universal solution for dealing with stains on leather. The type of stain determines the best cleaning method that won’t harm the fabric. We’ll outline the common stains and a DIY step-by-step process for dealing with each.

Why Is Cleaning Leather Tricky?

You can’t simply clean a leather bag by wiping it down with a baby wipe. Incorrect methods can lead to permanent staining or damage the surface texture. Leather, as with most natural material, can also be ruined from simple exposure to water.

Not all leather is created equal either. Is the leather treated with a finish? What type of leather are you dealing with? Is it aniline, semi-aniline, or full-grain leather?

People also often experiment with different methods, using cleaning solutions ranging from baking soda to Windex. Often times, the experiment ends in disaster with the expensive leather bag ruined.

This is why it’s recommended that you have your bag cleaned by a professional that knows how to remove stains from leather and restore the material to its original condition. However, if the DIYer in you insists on a home remedy, then here are the methods for dealing with each specific type of stain.

Treating Water Stains

Simple H2O is not compatible with leather. Once the water dries and settles on the leather, the outlines of the stain will stick out like a sore thumb.

  • Prevention is key. Get rid of the water before it has time to dry. Use a lint-free cloth and soak it in water.
  • Use the cloth to dab at the stain. “Dab” is the keyword here, and it’s important that you do so instead of using a wiping motion, which is the instinctual thing to do. Wiping only pushes the water deeper into the leather.
  • After dabbing, let the bag sit. Don’t attempt to expedite the drying process by setting the bag in the sun or using a dryer. Heat is known for shrinking leather. Heat also acts as a natural bleaching agent, causing the leather to dry, crack, and age prematurely. The UV rays also deal damage by drawing moisture and essential oils from the leather.

If you want to know how to remove stains from leather, keeping it out of the heat is a major first step.

For more substantial water spills, such as spilling an entire cup of water, then complement the above steps by using a leather conditioner after the bag dries. Alternatively, you can apply saddle soap. This is a compound containing ingredients like beeswax, lanolin, and mild soap and provides a protective layer shielding the leather from liquids.

remove stains from leather bags with towel
image source: wikihow.com


Treating Ink Stains

Perhaps you left a pen in the bag, and the ink leaked. Ink is often believed to be permanent; however, people only come to this conclusion because they use the wrong cleaning methods. Knowing how to remove ink stains from a leather bag is actually quite easy once you know the correct cleaner to use.

  • As with most stains, the sooner you treat it the better. To remove it, apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol on the stain and let it sit for 10 minutes. Don’t apply the alcohol over the entire stain. Just apply it over a small area to spot test to see if it causes any discolourations.
  • Once you determine the alcohol is safe for use, dip a cotton ball in the alcohol and wipe the stain in a circular motion until the stain disappears. Do this lightly; be sure not to press the cotton ball too tightly into the leather surface.
  • Once the leather is dry, apply a small amount of leather conditioner over the area to restore the moisture and shine.

In place of rubbing alcohol, some people have used hairspray since it also contains alcohol. This is not recommended as the spray also contains additional fillers that may not be good for the leather.

remove stains from leather bags with cotton ball
image source: wikihow.com

Treating Oil Stains

If you frequent dining establishments, then you should know how to remove grease stains from leather bags. Grease can show through leather just as it can show on a brown paper bag.

  • To remove grease, begin by removing as much of the oil as possible using a microfiber cloth.
  • Afterwards, apply your choice of talcum powder, wheat germ, or corn starch over the stain. The powder acts as an absorbent that soaks up the oil.
  • Let the powder sit overnight. When you check back in the morning, the stain should be gone.

It should be noted that grease stains can only be removed completely if you apply the above technique immediately after the grease gets on the leather. Once the stain dries, at best you’ll only be able to minimize the stain. Full removal will require a professional service.

Also, if the bag is made from suede leather, then you may try the following alternative method. Pour some vinegar onto a cloth, just enough to lightly damp it. Dab at the stain with the cloth and then brush over the leather using a suede brush.

In addition, you should also know how to remove oil stains from a leather bag that has a protective finish on it. In this instance, apply a water-based leather cleaner, following the instructions on the package.

remove stains from leather bags with hydrogen peroxide
image source: wikihow.com

Treating Red Wine Stains

A leather bag is a nice accessory for any upscale social gathering where red wine is served. However, once you had a few rounds and begin to feel a little tipsy, it’s not unusual to spill your drink and get some of that wine on your bag.

When you learn how to remove stains from leather, you should also learn the steps specific towards wine stain removal. Red wine is especially notorious for causing permanent staining due to the grapes’ skin and tannins.

  • First, determine whether the leather bag is made from finished or unfinished leather. If the latter, then you will need to have a professional clean the bag.
  • To determine the leather’s finish, add a few droplets of water onto the surface. If the water soaks into the leather, then it’s unfinished.
  • If the bag is made from finished leather, then you can clean it yourself following the subsequent steps.
  • Begin by absorbing as much of the wine as possible using a paper towel.
  • Use a light dabbing motion and avoid rubbing or pressing into the leather too hard.
  • Damp a clean paper towel with a small amount of hydrogen peroxide and place it over the stain.
  • Place a heavy object over the towel and bag, such as a hardcover book, and let it sit for half an hour.
  • If the stain is still visible in the morning, then repeat the process with a fresh sheet of paper towel.

It should be noted that the damp paper towel will leave a small stain on the leather. Do not confuse this with the wine stain.

If the stain persists after the second attempt, then you will need to take the bag to a professional. Restoration also requires a professional if the stain has already dried and left an imprint on the bag.

image source: wikihow.com

Did you find this guide useful? If you have your own experience with DIY leather stain removal, please share them. Knowing how to remove stains from a leather bag will protect your accessory from unsightly blemishes. Remember, though, that prevention is the best measure, so try to keep your bag at a minimum of an arm’s length from any liquid content.

If you want to add to your bag collection, Marlborough of England is your perfect choice. We carry the latest and trendy leather bags suitable for professional, casual, and social functions.