How to Refurbish & Treat an Old Leather Bag

Allowing wet leather to air dry and rubbing with leather oil or conditioner will help to restore it.
Allowing wet leather to air dry and rubbing with leather oil or conditioner will help to restore it. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Leather bags are well worth the investment for their durability and style. They need to be properly cared for or they will dry, crack, lose their luster or become moldy. When not in use, leather bags should be stuffed with bubble wrap to maintain shape and stored in an airy place. Tissue attracts moths. Dry conditions will lead to cracking while wet conditions will result in moldy, musty leather. Neglected leather items can be restored to something resembling their former glory.

Things You'll Need

  • Clean damp cloth
  • Leather cleaner or mild soap
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Cotton swab

Remove dust, mold and dirt by wiping the leather down with a damp cloth. For stubborn dirt, use a leather cleaner or mild soap. First test the cleaner or soap on a small, inconspicuous patch of leather to ensure that it has no adverse effects on your leather bag. Apply the soap or cleaner with a soft cloth in a circular motion and wipe off with a clean, damp cloth.

Use isopropyl alcohol to remove ink stains. First, test a patch of leather to ensure that the isopropyl alcohol will not damage or discolor the leather. Apply some isopropyl alcohol in an inconspicuous area with a cotton swab. Check it after 15 minutes. If there is no discoloration or damage, swab the affected area with isopropyl alcohol. The ink should come off fairly quickly. Allow the bag to dry and apply oil or conditioner as outlined in step 3.

Restore luster and shine to dull or scuffed leather by applying a leather oil or conditioner. These products are widely available from supermarkets, home stores, hardware stores and on the Internet. Pour the product onto a soft, dry cloth and apply to the leather surface. Buff with a clean, soft cloth.

Tips & Warnings

  • Apply leather conditioner or leather oil two or three times a year to keep leather goods moisturized.
  • Spray on leather is available in various colors for the treatment of leather bags. These products provide only a superficial fix and quickly crack or peel. If you want to use them, simply pick the right color, shake and spray.
  • Saddle soap is a great mild soap for washing leather.

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