unfinished leather bag

Cleaning and maintaining unfinished leather bag

How do you know if your bag leather is unfinished?

Usually unfinished leather handbags have a natural color – such as the following Coach bag. These bags are notorious for getting water stains just to name the most common!

Unfinished leathers can be difficult to clean and maintain, mostly because staining agents rarely remain on the surface of the leather, where they can be removed. Instead, they penetrate into the leather in much the same way as the dye color did, carried into the fiber structure while in a water- or oil-based solution.

Resist the temptation to use soaps or other cleansers, as leather is tanned at an acidic pH (4.5 on the pH scale), and most soaps are very alkaline (at the other end of the pH scale). Because these hides are porous, inappropriate soaps and detergents soak into the leather, altering the pH of your leather. This results in premature deterioration of the fibers.

Remember that most stains in the unfinished leather category are not on the surface where cleaning will be an effective solution. Rather the stain is in the leather, essentially altering the color of the leather. So, no matter what cleaner is used, do not expect miracles. The best cleaning strategy for unfinished leather is to regularly wipe it down with a lightly-dampened white cotton cloth to remove topical dust.

To summarize the DO NOT as follow:

  • Do NOT use hand creams or lotions on your leather. Even though these are great for your skin, 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. Oils except for sulfanated oils will cause leather to rot over time.
  • Do NOT use lanoline leather creams/conditioners – the lanolin oil rots leather and makes restoration virtually impossible.
  • Do not use Saddle Soap under any circumstance!! Too harsh for handbag leathers – pH over 10 which causes pH damage to leather over time.
  • Do NOT use baby wipes, or any other wipes on this type of leather as it may stain.
  • If you get oil on your handbag, put corn starch on it immediately. Rub it in to absorb the oil. Use a light source to create heat for faster absorption of the oil into the cornstarch. Brush off with a soft toothbrush or cloth.
  • For ink stains and other dirt, use a white eraser and erase the spot (do not use too much pressure – and check to see if the color is coming off). Usually if you get the ink right away you can remove all of it. Ink migrates into the leather fibers so once it is set, you need professional care.