How to Care for My Leather Bag

Posted by Lisa Ramos on


Black Crossbody Bag with Crystal Design - MONOLISA Bags Made in California

Bag #1 - Italian Leather Crossbody Bag

We all love our leather bags and want them to last. There are a variety of things you can do to preserve your leather bags, however the longevity of a leather bag comes down to three things:

  1. How well is the bag made?
  2. How often do you use your handbag?
  3. How do you care for your bag?

How well a bag is made narrows down to the leather type and the handbags construction. This blog article focuses on understanding the different leather types in terms of grades, how to properly clean a leather bag and 8 essential tips for preserving your handbag. Also, one trivia question at the end.


All the bag photos in this blog are handmade MONOLISA Bags


Embossed Italian Leather Croc Tote Bag - MONOLISA Bags Made in California
Bag #2 - Italian Leather Small Croc Tote Bag

What Leather type is my Bag?

The type of leather your bag is made of plays a significant role in how long it will last. Each type of leather material requires certain care and there are thousands of leather types produced in the world. Different leather types first start with leather grading. There are five leather grade categories which include - full grain, top grain, split grain, genuine, and bonded leathers. Each grade of a leather determines how durable the material is and its sensitivity towards everyday wear and tear. 


Italian Leather Black Crossbody Bag - MONOLISA Bags Made in California

Bag #3 - Italian Leather Crossbody Bag

Full Grain Leathers

Full grain leather is regarded as the highest quality leather and strongest. Full grain is the top layer of a hide including all of the natural grain. It is more expensive and difficult to work with. Full grain leathers are not sanded, buffed, or snuffed. This type of leather shows natural marks and imperfections on the surface. The leather grain remains, allowing fiber strength and durability. Photos of bags #1 and #3 are examples of full grain handmade Italian leather crossbody bags. 


Pink Leather Top Grain Leather Clutch


Bag #4 - Pink Leather Pouch Bag

Top Grain Leathers

Top grain leathers come in second place for the strongest leather. Top grain leather has a split layer with removal of imperfections, resulting in thinner and smoother leathers. Top grain leathers resist stains easier. This leather type is commonly used to produce premium leather bags and accessories. Photos of bags, #4, #7 and #9 are examples of a top grain leather handbags. 

Pink Leather Fine Grain Clutch Bag
Bag #5 - Italian Pink Ultra Soft Leather Clutch

Fine Grain Leathers

The softer leathers bag designs are made with finely grained leathers. Fine grained leathers are corrected - the imperfections are removed and an artificial grain is embossed into the surface and dressed with stain or dyes. The photograph of Bag 5 is an example of an Italian fine grained leather clutch. 

Bag #6 - European Suede Crossbody Bag

Bag #6 - European Suede Crossbody Bag

Split Grain Leather

Split grain leather doesn't contain any of the hide's grain such as suede. Split grain leathers are used for making products and lining such as bags, belts, and small leather accessories. This type of leather is thinner and porous. Photos of Bag #6 and #10 are examples of a split grain leather bags - these handmade suede bags have unique water proof properties added to the material, making it more durable and stain resistant than other types of suede bags.  

Genuine Leather

Genuine leather is the lowest quality leather. The name is deceiving and was developed strictly for marketing purposes. This type of leather is made from the bottom cut. Technically it is leather, although it doesn't have any of the grain and is heavily processed. 

Bonded Leather 

Bonded leather is a man-made material. It is very low quality. This leather is made by taking the scraps of leather and bonding them together. The bonding process includes polymers and fillers mimicking a leather material. Bonded leather is used to produce inexpensive accessories or home goods such as furniture. 


"There is nothing like a handmade bag"


Baby Blue Leather Tote Bag with Fringe Crystal Design - MONOLISA Bags Made in California
Bag #7 - Large Blue Leather Tote Bag 

What Should I Use to Clean My Leather Bag?

After establishing the leather material type of a handbag, that will guide how to treat it properly. Before using any leather care product on a handbag - first test it on a small area of the bag to see how it responds to the product, such as the bottom base of the bag.  To protect, clean and condition leather, use saddle soap, except on patent and suede leathers. Saddle soap provides just the right amount of moisture required to preserve leather goods. Before using saddle soap, take a lightly moist cloth and clean your leather product. After it dries, dab a little amount of saddle soap on your product and rub it around the leather. Make clockwise rubbing motions on the leather until it is dry. Repeat until you have cleaned the entire leather surface. Use a clean cloth to wipe off any excess residue. 

How Do I Clean My Patent Leather Bag?

The easiest way to clean patent leather is with a soft cloth, soap and water. Dap the cloth with a little soap and warm water, then wipe clean to avoid streaking. Then gently wipe the area on the bag you want clean. Let it dry for 24 hours. Never submerse the bag under water. 

Silk Suede Leather Tote Bag with Fringe Crystal Design - MONOLISA Bags Made in California
Bag #8 - European Suede Tote Bag with Patent Leather Handles and Fringe Design

How Do I Clean My Suede Leather Bag?

If you have suede leather goods the best way to clean them is with Fiebing’s Suede Nubuck Cleaner -  this non-toxic product removes marks, spots and soil from suede. It also and refreshes suede without changing the color or texture. The cleaner can be purchased online at Tandy Leather. The photograph of bag 8 is a sample of a European suede tote bag with patent leather handles and fringe design.

Pink Leather Tote Bag with Fringe Crystal Design - MONOLISA Bags Made in California

Bag #9 - Large Pink Leather Tote Bag

How Often Should I Clean My Leather Bag?

You want to enjoy your bag, but also maintain its beautiful craftsmanship. It is important to clean leather on a regular basis. If you use your bag all of the time clean it ever 2-3 months. If you don't use it much then every 6-9 months. Cleaning your handbag will help protect the leather, keep it moist and looking beautiful. Avoid cleaning your leather pieces too often. Over cleaning leather can damage the leather. It can cause leather to be too moist, creating mildew and damage the leather item.   

 Leather Bag Storage DustbagNon-bleached Muslin Cotton Dustbag for Storing Leather Bags

8 Tips on Preserving Your Leather Handbags

Below are 8 tips to help preserve your beautiful leather bag. 

  1. Storing your bag properly will help maintain the longevity of your piece and its appearance. Leather materials need to breath. Store a bag in its original dustbag or box. Non-bleached muslin cotton dustbags are preferred. Don't store bags with other bags or ever store in a plastic bag.
  2. Extended direct sunlight can damage leather, so keep your bag out of the sunlight when possible. Some bags such as patent leather bags can easily melt if they are in extreme temperates with direct sun. 
  3. Don't submerge your bag in water and when possible cover if from rain. A handbag raincoat is a great accessory for temporarily covering your bag during the rain. If your bag gets wet, wipe it clean with a soft cloth and air dry it naturally.
  4. When setting your handbag down place it on a clean surface such as a counter, desk or chair - avoid putting it on the floor which can be dirty. 
  5. Clean your leather bag with the proper leather care products (tips above)
  6. Don't overstuff your bag. Too much weight can put pressure on the leather causing it to tear or possibly distort its appearance.
  7. Keep your leather goods away from lacquer, perfume or anything containing alcohol. Avoid harsh cleaner or solvents. 
  8. To avoid unnecessary stains on your bag store cosmetics in a sealed makeup bag. Who wants lipstick stains all over the inside of a bag?

 Trivia Question - What type of leather is Bag #2 and #10?

Italian Leather Brown Croc Tote Bag - MONOLISA Bags Made in California

Bag #10 - Italian Leather Croc Bag

What type of Material is this Brown Croc Bag?

One last note I wanted to include in this blog, because it is a question I get from customers all of the time. What type of leather is that croc tote bag (bag pictures #2 and #10). People often mistake the bag for real alligator or croc leather material. So, what is is? It is an embossed leather. Leather goods designed with stamped patterns on leather are called embossing. The emboss leather process includes staining, stamping the leather under extreme heat and polishing it. Each embossing process can vary. Bag pictures #2 and #10 embossing techniques includes a hand rubbed color, very classical high shine top finish, firm temper from vegetable tanning. 


California Handbag Designer, Lisa Ramos
This blog post is written by California handbag and jewelry designer, Lisa Ramos who has featured her handmade collection at fine juried shows throughout California. The brand's mission is to design beautifully handmade limited edition pieces that add a touch of elegance to any personal style. 

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